Armenian-Azerbaijani escalation: reports from both sides
Armenian-Azerbaijani escalation in Karabakh
Armenia has announced another escalation of the situation on the part of Azerbaijan, namely its “gross violations of the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh“. It is reported that the Azerbaijani Armed Forces used “small arms of various calibers and mortars”. The aggravation began on March 9 and continued on the night of March 10, civilian settlements were shelled, a resident of the Khramort village of the Askeran region was wounded. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that work is underway with international partners to reduce the escalation.
On March 9, Azerbaijani telegram channels also reported on “movement at the front”, after which the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan issued a refutation of “rumours spread by the Armenian side about alleged tension in the territory of Azerbaijan”.
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- “Peace treaty is a priority” – statements of Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministries
Reports from Yerevan
It has been reported from the unrecognized NKR that throughout the day of March 9 and on the night of March 10, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces fired intensively in the direction of peaceful settlements. A resident of Khramort village, 51-year-old Suren Baghdasaryan, was wounded by a mortar shell.
The villages of Khramort and Nakhichevanik of the Askeran region, the settlements of Khnushinak and Karmir Shuka of the Martuni region, as well as adjacent roads were shelled.
The Armenian side informed Russian peacekeepers, who have been there since the fall of 2020 (after the signing of a document on the cessation of hostilities in Karabakh), of the violations of ceasefire.
The situation has been aggravated by the fact that since the night of March 8 the entire territory of the NKR has been deprived of gas. The gas pipeline, through which gas is supplied from Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh, was damaged. The damaged section of the gas pipeline is located in the territory, which, after the Karabakh war in 2020, has been under the control of Azerbaijan. For the third day now, the Azerbaijani side has not allowed access to the accident site to carry out restoration work.
According to official information, the accident occurred on a section of the gas pipeline located not far from the Azerbaijani positions. The National Security Service of the NKR reports that they are considering a sabotage by Azerbaijan as a possible explanation.
In connection with the cessation of the gas supply to NK, humanitarian problems arose, in particular, bakeries cannot work without gas, most of the population has problems with heating.
“Azerbaijani Armed Forces are trying to exert psychological pressure”
Armenian Ombudsman Kristine Grigoryan and NK Human Rights Defender Gegham Stepanyan issued a joint statement. They assess “another escalation as an attempt to psychologically pressure the population”. As a justification for this idea, they recall the recording that has recently been heard from the Azerbaijani side from loudspeakers near Armenian villages. Their inhabitants are told in Armenian to leave their homes in order to save their lives.
In addition, the two ombudsmen say that the Azerbaijani side “defiantly accumulated heavy military equipment” next to peaceful settlements.
Due to the aggravation of the situation, women and children were evacuated on the night of March 10, but, according to the ombudsmen, “in the morning they returned to their homes”.
The statement emphasizes that “the criminal policy of Armenophobia, implemented by the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan, endangers the life and security of people living in their homeland”.
The ombudsmen believe that the goal of Azerbaijan is to devastate the settlements and “to expel the Armenian population from their ancestral lands”.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of NK adheres to the same opinion. The department also issued a statement noting the following:
“The policy of Baku, as always, is highly destructive, grossly violating the principles of international law, the principles of humanity, and in its essence is a combination of Armenophobia, Nazism and terrorism.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly condemns the provocative actions of Azerbaijan, which are a threat to regional peace and stability, a blow to the [Russian] peacekeeping mission, a challenge to the civilised world and should not go unanswered”.
PM Pashinyan: “Let’s focus on solving problems”
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan assessed the situation in NK as tense, but stressed that he intends to refrain from “any additional assessments”:
“We are working with the authorities of Artsakh and international partners to stabilize the situation and resolve it. We will not give estimates for now, we simply state that such a situation has developed, and we will try to focus on solving problems”.
Meanwhile, the day before, during his visit to France, he discussed the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh with the President of France. Pashinyan stated that any attempts to escalate the situation were unacceptable, while Azerbaijan continued to carry out provocative actions both in Nagorno-Karabakh and on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. In particular, on March 7, on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, as a result of targeted fire from the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, one soldier was killed, another was wounded.
“The Armenian Prime Minister and French President noted the importance of a comprehensive settlement of the Karabakh conflict within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmanship [France, the United States and Russia are the co-chairing countries of the format of peace negotiations that took place before the 2020 war] and the implementation of the clauses of the tripartite statements signed after the end of the 44-day war”, the press service of the Armenian government reports.
In France, during an informal meeting with the President of the European Council Charles Michel, Pashinyan also spoke about the incidents in NK and on the Armenian border.
The Prime Minister of Armenia visited Paris at the invitation of President Emmanuel Macron amid the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between France and Armenia.
Commentary from Yerevan
Political analyst Tigran Grigoryan believes that “Azerbaijan is now trying to take advantage of the fact that Russia is currently at war with Ukraine, and it has other priorities at the moment”.
In his opinion, the actions of the Azerbaijani side are a test of Moscow’s reaction:
“On the other hand, I think Azerbaijan will try to achieve some local success at the tactical level”.
The expert recalls that earlier Azerbaijani media reported on a new stage of aggravation expected in the spring on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border:
“The purpose of this aggravation on the border will be to once again push Armenia, through military diplomacy, to become more active in various processes taking place in the Armenian-Azerbaijani context, in particular, in the process of delimitation and demarcation of borders.
In recent weeks, Azerbaijanis have expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that the process has become passive, Armenia is not so active. Meanwhile, Armenia states that in order to launch the next process, it is necessary to create a favourable environment at the border”.
Reports from Baku
On March 9, in the morning, the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan reported violations of the ceasefire in the part of Karabakh, where Russian peacekeeping forces are temporarily stationed.
“The Azerbaijani army does not strike at civilian infrastructure, only at the positions of illegal Armenian armed formations”, the report said.
By the evening of the same day, messages about the start of a counter-terrorist operation in Karabakh began to appear in the Azerbaijani segment of social media.
But around midnight, the Ministry of Defense denied these reports.
“The rumours spread on Armenian social media about alleged escalation in the territory of Azerbaijan, where Russian peacekeepers are temporarily deployed, are groundless and provocative.
We state that the situation in all directions is stable and is under the control of the units of the Azerbaijani army”, the ministry said in a statement.
On the morning of March 10, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported that at night the ceasefire was violated by the Armenian armed forces in Karabakh 20 times. Violations, according to the source, were recorded in the direction of the Agdam region, which returned under the control of Azerbaijan as a result of the second Karabakh war.
Commentary from Baku
JAMnews turned to political observer Agshin Karimov for a commentary on what is happening in Karabakh.
“In recent days, exciting news has been coming from the Azerbaijani territories where Russian peacekeepers are temporarily stationed”, Karimov said.
– What does the statement of the Ministry of Defense indicate, which indicates strikes on the Armenian armed forces in Karabakh?
– The message of the Ministry of Defense notes that from the territories controlled by peacekeepers, shots are being fired at the positions of the Azerbaijani army, and as an adequate response, targeted strikes are being delivered on the separatists.
Since the signing of the tripartite statement on November 10, 2020, this is the first heavy blow against the separatists from the Azerbaijani side. It should be borne in mind that we are not talking about large-caliber weapons. It specifically refers to high-precision strikes.
– Recently, videos have been appearing on social networks in which it is clear how the Azerbaijani side sends loudspeakers to the territory inhabited by Armenians in Karabakh, and in the early morning the azan, the national anthem of Azerbaijan and other things sound there. What was that? And is there a way for the peaceful withdrawal of Armenians from these territories, or is there some other message in this?
– At present, these actions, parallel to the sounds of exploding shells, can be called elements of Azerbaijan’s hybrid war tactics.
Naturally, Azerbaijan is trying to achieve the withdrawal of the separatists from Karabakh, and for this, along with soft military power, it uses the instruments of psychological pressure.
All these sounds of the azan, the national anthem, the overture through the loudspeakers, directed towards Khankendi, are undoubtedly elements of a hybrid war.
Azerbaijan is trying as much as possible to ensure its sovereignty on a fully-fledged basis in the territories where Russian peacekeepers are temporarily stationed, without the use of a military operation.
But it is difficult to change the mindset of the Armenian separatists, and therefore at times Azerbaijan resorts to military force in an adequate amount.
– Sufficiently informed sources reported last night about the start of a counter-terrorist operation in Karabakh. But a little later, this information was officially refuted. What is really going on?
– The Azerbaijani side did not respond to the messages spread on the evening of March 9, preferring to stay silent. In fact, this is an indicator of Baku’s strategic, unhurried actions. It should be taken into account that the same sources close to the Azerbaijani government disseminated information about the withdrawal of part of the peacekeeping contingent from Karabakh. Apparently, all this corresponds to the strategic line of official Baku.
Let’s just say that Azerbaijan silently started or is preparing to start some operations and prefers not to talk about their details.
As for counter-terrorist operations, naturally, if this happens, these will be actions coordinated with Russia.
Let me remind you that during his last visit to Moscow, President Ilham Aliyev, for the first time in a conversation with Vladimir Putin, pointed out the need to implement the 4th article of the tripartite statement of November 10, 2020, which provides for the withdrawal of all Armenian armed formations from the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan.