Democracy summit or transit corridor: what led to clashes at Armenian-Azerbaijani border?
What caused recent escalation at the Armenian-Azerbaijani border?
The United States invited Armenia to take participate in the Democracy Summit and did not invite Azerbaijan, Russia and Turkey – could this have caused a military escalation at the Armenian-Azerbaijani border on November 16?
Experts in Baku and in Yerevan are also actively discussing another possible reason for the recent escalation – Azerbaijan’s desire to get a transit route through the territory of Armenia, the so-called “Zangezur Corridor”.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated: “Talking about border disputes is absurd and senseless. There is no border dispute, there is aggression against the sovereign territory of Armenia. The borders between Armenia and Azerbaijan are clearly defined in the agreements adopted during the Soviet era and have a binding force”.
President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev assessed the events of the day in the following way: “Today, another provocation by Armenia was committed at the border, to which an adequate response was given. There are wounded from the Azerbaijani side. All responsibility for the situation on the border rests with the military-political leadership of Armenia”.
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Expert commentary from Yerevan
Expert circles in Armenia believe that the escalation on November 16 was another attempt by Azerbaijan to force the country to provide the so-called “Zangezur Corridor”. This is a road that will connect Azerbaijan with its exclave Nakhichevan. President Aliyev openly said that if Armenia does not provide a “corridor”, Azerbaijan will open it by force.
The Armenian side, immediately after the signing of the document on the cessation of hostilities in Karabakh, declares that it is fully in solidarity with Aliyev’s position on unblocking communications in the region. However, the Armenian authorities firmly declare that they do not intend to provide a “corridor”, that is, to lose sovereign control over any road provided to neighboring countries.
Therefore, many associate the hostilities in the eastern direction of the borders of Armenia with this.
Moreover, Armenian experts believe this factor is not the only reason for Azerbaijan to use force and and trap Armenia into making concessions.
Armenia also recalls the rumors that have been circulating lately about the impending signing of documents on the demarcation and delimitation of borders with Azerbaijan, as well as a peace agreement on the anniversary of the signing of a statement on the cessation of hostilities in Karabakh. However, the Armenian side refuted the rumours, and the signing did not take place.
The third possible version of why Azerbaijan began hostilities, is associated with the United States’ invitation of Armenia to the online democracy summit on December 9-10.
This version is being discussed in Armenian expert circles, since military actions began, one might say, hours after the Armenian side announced that the country would be represented at the forum by the Prime Minister. On top that, this event is considered openly anti-Russian, as Biden stated:
“America is once again ready to take a leading role in the world, and from now on, it will not hesitate to take a tougher stance against authoritarian countries, including Russia and China”.
Georgia is the only other South Caucasian country invited to the forum. The list, published in the American Politico magazine, does not include Azerbaijan, Turkey, Iran and Russia.
The Armenian side guessed about the negative reaction of the Russian side and did not react to this invitation for a long time. It was not announced whether someone will attend the event and who will represent the country if the invitation is accepted.
After the start of active hostilities from the Azerbaijani side, there was an opinion that Azerbaijan “got the go-ahead” for escalation after Armenia’s announcement of Armenia’s participation in a conference in the United States.
Expert commentary from Baku
According to political observer Agshin Kerimov, Azerbaijan is trying to cut off the land connection between Karabakh and Armenia.
“This can be judged by the information spread in the Armenian press. According to this report, if Azerbaijan takes the height above the M2 highway, thereby gaining control over the road connecting Zangezur and Karabakh with Armenia.
Confidence in the army’s ability to do this is growing with each passing hour; at present, the operational advantage is on the side of Azerbaijan.
The psychological stress in the Armenian Armed Forces, which is caused by the strength of the Azerbaijani army, makes them leave their positions. The Armenian Defense Ministry has already announced the loss of two positions.
Azerbaijan achieved this result by using only a small force of its military balance. The Armenian side understands that if at least an average force is mobilised, it can lead to completely different results.
Based on all this, two conclusions can be made:
- The superiority of Azerbaijan over the Armenian forces in the territories of Karabakh, where the Russian peacekeepers are stationed, moves to a new level;
- The opening of the Zangezur corridor becomes inevitable, because having seized the dominant heights on the road from Zangezur to Yerevan, Azerbaijan is forcing Armenia to comply with this condition of the trilateral statement”.