Op-ed: Armenia-Iran route was closed after the incident on border with Azerbaijan
On the evening of August 25, Azerbaijan announced an offense carried out by Armenian soldiers on the Azerbaijani border guard. It was reported that the incident took place on the border of the two countries.
The Azerbaijani side claims that the serviceman was wounded in the chest after being attacked by two Armenian servicemen. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan denied this information.
After the Kapan-Goris road was blocked, the ombudsmen of Armenia and Azerbaijan made statements in which they accused the other side of provocations.
Part of the road connecting the Armenian cities of Kapan and Goris passes through the territory of the Gubadli region, which came under the control of Azerbaijan as a result of the second Karabakh war.
The issue of the state border between the two countries remains unresolved.
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Reports from Baku
The press service of the Azerbaijan State Border Troops stated that:
“On August 25, at about 15:45, two Armenian servicemen attacked the Azerbaijani border guard Ruslan Shiraliyev who was serving at the border-combat point of the Gubadli border division, located in the direction of the Gerus-Kafan road section near the Ashagi Jibikli village of the Gubadli region.
During the hand-to-hand fight, the Azerbaijani border guard was wounded with a bayonet knife in the chest area.
The press service informs that, having seen his colleagues heading to the Azerbaijani border guard, the Armenian servicemen fled into the forest:
“Private R. Shiraliyev was immediately evacuated to the military hospital of the State Border Service and nothing threatens his life at the moment.
All responsibility for what happened lies with the Armenian side, an adequate response will be given to this provocation”.
The office of the Ombudsman of Azerbaijan also reacted to the incident:
“We strongly condemn such provocations of the Armenian side, which are aimed at creating new hotbeds of conflict by killing people and aggravating the situation on the border, we remind them to understand and fulfill their obligations under international law and the tripartite statement”.
Reports from Yerevan
“There was no attack on the Azerbaijani military”
The information that an attack was committed against an Azerbaijani soldier does not correspond to reality, said Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, during his address to parliament on August 26.
The head of government noted that the Armenian side expects evidence from Baku to confirm this information:
“If there is any, let them hand it over to us and we will investigate it”.
Earlier, the Ministry of Defense of Armenia also made a refutation. The ministry’s report says that the reports of the Azerbaijani border service about two Armenian servicemen allegedly attacking and wounding an Azerbaijani soldier in the southeastern section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border does not correspond to reality:
“This information is an absolute falsification and another misinformation of the Azerbaijani side. There was no such incident with the participation of the military personnel of the Armenian Armed Forces”.
Azerbaijani Armed Forces block roads
The National Security Service of Armenia reported that on August 25, at about 23:00, the Azerbaijani side blocked the Karmrakar-Shurnukh section of the Kapan-Goris interstate road, which connects Armenia with Iran. According to the SNB, work is underway to restore traffic on the highway.
The Ombudsman of Armenia said that Russian border guards were also involved in the negotiations. Thanks to them, according to Arman Tatoyan, it was possible to evacuate civilian vehicles.
The Ombudsman also said that the highway was blocked by about 50 Azerbaijani servicemen ․ He considers the actions of the Azerbaijani side to be criminal:
“These are criminal actions: the free movement of people, the entire civilian population, including children, women, and the elderly is limited. We receive numerous messages from citizens, all of them have been verified”.
According to the human rights defender, it is impossible to consider issues related to the state border only from a military-political point of view. It is necessary to assess such provocations from the point of view of protecting the rights of civilians and Arman Tatoyan regards this incident as a planned crime against the civilian population.
Hours later, the Ombudsman said that the Azerbaijani military also blocked the Goris-Vorotan highway, an interstate road that ensures the movement of civilians:
“The criminal actions of the Azerbaijani military violate the right to free movement of people. Their very presence on these roads is a violation of people’s right to life and other internationally guaranteed vital rights”.
Commentary of the Prime Minister of Armenia
Nikol Pashinyan stated that the blocking of the Goris-Kapan road section by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces contradicts the agreements with Armenia and Russia.
He stressed that Syunik is not cut off from Armenia and regardless of the situation, the work of the government is aimed at regulating and guaranteeing transport links.
“Strategically, this issue will be resolved by the construction of the North-South road. But not completely. Work has also begun to improve roads in Shurnukh and Vorotan communities and it will be accelerated”.
With the construction of the North-South route, Armenia can become a transit country. From the north, it will connect Armenia with Georgia and provide it access to the Black Sea and European countries. From the south, the highway will connect the country with Iran. The construction of the highway began in Armenia in 2012. In 2019, the road was to be fully completed and commissioned, but so far about 20% of the highway has been built. The European Union will provide financial assistance of 600 million euros for the construction of the most difficult sections of this road.
Turkologist Varuzhan Geghamyan commented on the actions of Azerbaijan. In his opinion, Baku thus carries out “transport unblocking of the region”.
According to him, the Armenian government presents the agreement on the opening of transport communications as an achievement, as a “long-term guarantee of peace”, as well as a mutually beneficial economic opportunity.
“Meanwhile, Azerbaijan is not interested in unblocking transport. They have no problem opening roads. They have all the roads necessary for the normal development of Azerbaijan (except for the “Turkish corridor”). There is not and cannot be any kind of transport hub with Armenia of military and economic importance for Azerbaijan. In Azerbaijan, the word “unblocking” means two things:
- Opening a road to Nakhichevan / Turkey with a special status through Syunik (to which the Armenian authorities agreed on November 9 [within the framework of the trilateral statement of the heads of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia on the cessation of hostilities in Karabakh, signed in the fall of 2020] but which so far we have been resisting successfully.
- Turkish control over all interstate external roads in Armenia.
At the moment, we have only two roads connecting us with the outside world, which are not yet nominally under Turkish control. One through Tavush to Georgia, the other through Syunik to Iran. The latter has been completely controlled by Azerbaijan since last night. After the surrender of the enclaves of Tavush, our road with Georgia will also be under their control. As a result, we will not have an unblocking, but a complete blockade.
Now imagine that Armenia fulfills the requirements of Azerbaijan: it gives a corridor, enclaves, in exchange for which Azerbaijan allows Armenian cars to go to Iran or Russia (in fact, this has almost no positive economic benefit, but let’s imagine it happening for a moment). Azerbaijan is blocking the road at any moment in order to extort new concessions from Armenia […], at any moment, as it was last night. “Armenian unblocking” in Azerbaijan means “complete blockade of Armenia”, because of which Armenia will lose the opportunity to develop independently”.