Renewed tension in Nagorno-Karabakh: Yerevan and Baku report
Renewed tension in Nagorno-Karabakh
Nagorno-Karabakh is seeing renewed tension with events unfolding since August 1. Today, August 3, Armenia reported the use of grenade launchers and drones by the Azerbaijani armed forces. Two soldiers have been killed and others wounded. Late today, it also became known that the authorities of the unrecognized republic announced a partial military mobilization.
On August 2 the Russian peacekeeping mission, responsible for ensuring security in NK, confirmed that Azerbaijan had violated the ceasefire three times.
The authorities of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic report that Baku, through Russian peacekeepers, demanded that the transport route between NK and Armenia be changed in the near future. As of now, the Lachin corridor is the only road between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. In other words, Baku is seeking an alternative to the Lachin corridor.
Secretary of the Security Council of Armenia, Armen Grigoryan, has stated that “Azerbaijan‘s demand is illegitimate.”
All details known at this time, as well as the opinions of analysts about the possible causes of the aggravation.
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Information from Yerevan
Thus far the Armenian Defense Ministry has not made any statements. Information is being provided only by the Ministry of Defense of the unrecognized NKR. The use of attack drones by the Azerbaijani armed forces has been reported. As of 18:00, two Armenian soldiers have been killed and fourteen wounded.
Rumors of tough battles in NK until August 3 were denied. The situation is said to be “tense but stable”.
On the third day of the escalation, the Foreign Ministry of the unrecognized NKR issued a statement condemning recent events.
In the statement, Azerbaijan’s actions are called “another manifestation of hatred of Armenia, a rude attempt to violate peace and stability in the region, and to discredit the peacekeeping mission.”
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Artsakh calls on the international community to make a targeted assessment of the actions of Azerbaijan and take appropriate steps to curb the destructive policy of official Baku. The Armenians of Artsakh are unshakable and determined to live freely and independently on their land and overcome all difficulties with dignity,” the statement reads.
Meanwhile, local opposition in Nagorno-Karabakh is demanding a meeting with the command of the Russian peacekeeping contingent.
“We see that peacekeepers either cannot or do not want to fulfill their obligations. We need to demand a meeting with command, ask them specific questions and get answers to them. The people of Artsakh should know what to expect in order to draw the appropriate conclusions and take the necessary next steps.
“If the leadership refuse to meet, there will be public pressure to achieve this meeting,” the opposition said in a statement.
Negotiations with the Russian side
On August 2, telephone conversations between the Armenian prime minister and the Russian president, as well as between the foreign ministers, were reported. Pashinyan and Putin discussed issues related to the tripartite statements signed by the leaders of Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan.
Foreign Ministers Mirzoyan and Lavrov, according to an official statement:
- discussed security in the region,
- exchanged views on humanitarian problems caused by the 44-day war in Karabakh in 2020, in particular the release and repatriation of Armenian prisoners of war and other detainees,
- touched upon other issues of the regional and international agenda of mutual interest.
‘Turn the page on decades of conflict’ – EU Special Representative
EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus Toivo Klaar expressed his concern about the latest Armenian-Azerbaijani military escalation.
“The European Union is committed to deepening its involvement in the peace process. We work at this on several levels. It is important to reduce tensions and seize an historic opportunity to turn the page on decades of conflict,” Klaar tweeted.
“Azerbaijan’s demand is illegitimate” – Secretary of the Armenian Security Council
Azerbaijan conveyed its demand to the authorities of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic through Russian peacekeepers. Baku wants a new route between Armenia and NK. Exact terms have not been disclosed.
Azerbaijan has announced the final stage of construction of a road bypassing Lachin on its side. For Armenia the alternative road is still only at the design stage. The beginning of construction is scheduled for this month.
As yet the only reaction comes from the Secretary of the Security Council of Armenia, Armen Grigoryan, who stated that Azerbaijan’s demand is groundless.
He referred to the sixth paragraph of the tripartite statement, dated November 9, 2020, according to which the plan for the construction of a new highway should be decided “by agreement of the parties (Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan) in the next three years.”
“Of course, some work has been done in this direction, but there is no agreed upon plan yet. In any case, Armenia did not agree to any plan, so Azerbaijan’s demand is illegitimate,” Armen Grigoryan said.
Grigoryan said that Armenia proposed to agree and sign a plan for the construction of a new highway in a trilateral format, and then move on according to the schedule and roadmap.
Comments from Yerevan
Though the official report does not indicate the direction in which the attack drones were deployed by Azerbaijan, political observer Hakob Badalyan believes it was toward the Lachin sector.
The fact that Azerbaijan “concentrated” on Lachin is shown by the statement demanding a new road between NK and Armenia.
Badalyan says that Azerbaijan has been building an alternative road in recent months, since Baku thus hopes to take Lachin under its control:
“Why is Baku now putting forward such demands when the agreement of November 9 clearly defines a three-year period? Because the question is not at all about the road, but a pretext for aggravating the situation, which Baku is after for other purposes.”
According to the observer, Baku is just adding fuel to the fire, most likely because a telephone conversation between the defense ministers of Russia and Azerbaijan did not lead to an agreement.
The day before, Shoigu and Gasanov had a telephone conversation in which they discussed security issues.
“After this conversation, the Russian peacekeeping contingent touched upon the August 1 provocation and stated that Azerbaijan had violated the ceasefire three times, and the Russian peacekeepers did not allow the line of contact to be changed,” Hakob Badalyan observes.
Badalyan still has questions: what is actually happening at the line of contact in NK and what is the motive of the attacks? According to him, one thing is clear – it all comes as diplomatic efforts are intensifying. He believes it no coincidence that this is happening before a meeting between Putin and Erdogan on August 5 in Sochi.
Political scientist Tigran Grigoryan believes that by creating tension, Azerbaijan is trying to force Armenia to make painful concessions:
“Azerbaijan has been preparing for this escalation for a long time. Baku constantly has accused Armenia of violating the ceasefire in the area from the south of the Kelbajar region to the north of the Lachin region. That is, a certain information background was being prepared for these operations.”
He does not believe, however, that it will escalate into a full-scale war.
“But it is obvious that Azerbaijan will try to achieve positional success in the coming hours and days,” the political scientist said.
Information from Baku
Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan
On the morning of August 3, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan issued a statement.
“According to the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Azerbaijan, on August 3, 2022, Azerbaijani army positions in the direction of the Lachin region were subjected to intense shelling by members of illegal Armenian armed formations on the territory of Azerbaijan, where the peacekeeping contingent of the Russian Federation is temporarily stationed, as a result of which soldier Kazimov Anar Rustam oglu was killed,” the document says.
The Foreign Ministry reported that Azerbaijan has repeatedly stated “that Armenia has not fulfilled the obligations assumed under the tripartite statement of November 10, 2020, and that the illegal Armenian armed groups have not yet been withdrawn from the territory of Azerbaijan.”
“The August 3 provocation once again shows that Armenia has grossly violated the trilateral agreement, and at the same time damaged the efforts to normalize relations between the two states. This is also an indicator of Armenia’s disrespect for the efforts of international mediators.
“All responsibility for the incident that occurred on the territory of Azerbaijan lies with the political and military leadership of Armenia, which has not yet withdrawn its illegal armed formations from the territory of a neighboring state.
“We will continue to take all necessary measures to ensure the security of the territories of Azerbaijan and the inviolability of its borders,” the Foreign Ministry said in its statement.
Statement of the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan
On the evening of August 3, the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan issued a statement on the events of that day in Karabakh.
“Members of illegal Armenian armed gangs located on the territory of Azerbaijan, in the zone of temporary responsibility of the RMC, grossly violated the provisions of the statement of November 10, 2020, and on August 3 carried out a terrorist-sabotage operation against units of the Azerbaijani army. During the terrorist attack, soldier Kazimov Anar Rustam oglu was killed,” the press service of the Ministry of Defense reports.
“In addition, members of the illegal Armenian armed groups attempted to capture the Gyrkhgyz heights, located on a mountain range covering the territory of the Kelbajar and Lachin regions, and establish new combat positions there.
“As a result of the retaliatory operation “Retribution” carried out by units of the Azerbaijani army, the heights of Girkhgyz, Sarybaba and a number of other important strategic areas along the Karabakh ridge of the Lesser Caucasus, were taken under control. Currently, our divisions are carrying out engineering work to create new positions and lay out communications and support routes.
“As part of the operation, several combat positions of illegal Armenian armed formations were destroyed, and an air strike was carried out on a military unit in the village of Yukhara Oratagh of the former Agdara region. Members of illegal Armenian gangs were killed and wounded, and several D-30 howitzers, military vehicles and a large amount of ammunition were destroyed.
“The Republic of Azerbaijan has repeatedly stated that, contrary to the tripartite statement, the existence of the armed forces of Armenia and illegal Armenian gangs on the territory of Azerbaijan, in the zone of temporary responsibility of the RCC, is a threat. The demilitarization of these territories, the complete withdrawal of Armenian troops therefrom and the disarmament of illegal Armenian gangs, is the absolute responsibility of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces.
“The Ministry of Defense declares that, guided by the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan, from now on any terror or provocation committed on the sovereign territory of our country will be resolutely suppressed, and response measures will be even more definitive,” the defense ministry declared.
Comment from Baku
“If you notice, another escalation took place after the meeting of the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia in Tbilisi,” Azerbaijani political observer Shahin Jafarli comments on the latest developments in Karabakh.
According to Jafarli, Russia is not interested in discussing the problems of Azerbaijan and Armenia on its own, preparing a peace treaty, and sees no need to put an end to this confrontation.
“Moscow advises acting only within the terms of the tripartite statement of November 10, 2020,” he states.
Jafarli argues that a peace treaty between the countries will call into question the existence of the Russian peacekeeping contingent in the region, and therefore it is important for Moscow to manage tension, sometimes allowing the parties some provocations.
“The continuation of the conflict situation makes the presence of peacekeepers necessary and, as it were, legitimizes their presence. Russia conveys a message to the world that the Azerbaijanis and Armenians are ready to eat each other alive, and if Russian troops are not there, just imagine what would happen. In this view of the state of affairs in the region, the West is forced to agree that the Russian soldier is the guarantor of the security of Armenians in the region.
“And therefore, if the parties really want a solution to the problem, they should avoid provoking each other as much as possible, not leave the negotiating table, and be obliged to continue dialogue.
“But the situation is complicated by the fact that illegal armed groups in Karabakh do not obey the Pashinyan government. Even if tomorrow the Armenian Armed Forces withdrew from Karabakh, Russia will continue its provocations through the “NKR army”, as is being done now.
“On the other hand, the support of the Pashinyan government is not strong, and there is plenty of pro-Russian opposition with considerable resources inside the country. Russia is still able to destabilize the situation in Armenia and create chaos there. For this reason, the Pashinyan government has to be very cautious in its dialogue with Azerbaijan.
“To summarize everything very briefly, we cannot get out of this vicious cycle,” Shahin Jafarli concluded.
Renewed tension in Nagorno-Karabakh