MOSCOW — Renewed fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan on Sunday threatened to reignite a three-decade-old conflict over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
It was the worst outbreak of fighting in the region since 2016, when four days of clashes left 200 dead. Each side blamed each other for the crisis Sunday; both declared martial law as tensions escalated.
At least one Azerbaijani helicopter was shot down Sunday. Armenia announced the full mobilization of its military as the situation threatened to spiral out of control.
Armenia claimed to have destroyed two helicopters, three drones and three tanks, saying it was in response to Azerbaijani aggression.
Azerbaijani officials said only one helicopter was shot down, with no loss of life. Azerbaijan said it was mounting a counteroffensive and claimed it had destroyed 12 Armenian air defense systems.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was on the phone with both sides Sunday urging and end to fighting, according to a spokeswoman. Moscow has close ties with both sides.
“In view of the escalating situation around the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Lavrov is conducting intensive contacts in a bid to encourage the sides to cease fire and begin negotiations to stabilize the situation,” spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters on Sunday.
Josep Borrell, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs, said the escalation threatened regional security. He called for an “immediate cessation of hostilities, de-escalation and strict adherence to the cease-fire.”
The conflict between the two countries dates to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nagorno-Karabakh, a region in Azerbaijan with a majority-Armenian population, broke away and declared independence, triggering a war that killed at least 20,000 and drove 1 million from their homes.
A cease-fire was declared in 1994, but the region remains volatile, with regular clashes along the border. Decades of peace talks mediated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have failed to resolve the conflict.
Firing and skirmishes on the border are common: The International Crisis Group has reported close to 300 incidents since 2015.
Tensions flared again in July when at least 16 soldiers were killed in clashes on the front line between Armenia and Azerbaijan, known as the Line of Contact.
At the time, Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry accused Armenia of shelling its positions at the Tovuz section of the border near Georgia. Armenia countered that Azerbaijan was conducting cross-border attacks.
Authorities in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh region said Sunday that Azerbaijan had shelled the capital, Stepanakert, and nearby settlements. Baku, which sees the region as its territory, accused Armenia of doing the shelling.
Artur Sargsyan, a defense official in the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region, said 16 of the region’s soldiers were killed in the fighting Sunday and more than 100 were wounded, Interfax news agency reported.
Vahram Poghosyan, a spokesman for the region, said the situation on the border with Azerbaijan was now “under control,” the agency reported.
Earlier, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry claimed to have taken control of several villages in Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenian officials rejected the claim.
Turkey, which has cultural and economic ties with Azerbaijan, has voiced strong support for the country since the July clashes and offered to upgrade its defense capabilities. Turkey held military exercises with Azerbaijan last month.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar was quick to blame Armenia for the crisis Sunday. He warned that Armenia’s actions would “set the region on fire.”
Turkey and Armenia have no diplomatic ties.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called on the global community to prevent Turkey from intervening in the crisis. He warned it would have “catastrophic consequences” for the region.
Dangerous clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan pose a threat to regional security
27 September 2020 — 10:28
By Esmira Jafarova
The early morning hours of 27 September 2020 marked another provocation launched against Azerbaijan by the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia, writes Esmira Jafarova.
The Armed Forces of Armenia by using large-caliber weaponry, mortars and all sorts of artillery initiated intensive shelling of the positions of Azerbaijani Armed Forces along the frontline as well as of the populated areas in Qapanli village of Terter, Chragli and Orta Garvend villages of Aghdam, Alkhanli and Shukurbeyli villages of Fizuli, and Jojuq Merjanli village of Jabrayil districts.
As a result of this intense shelling the Azerbaijani side reported dead and injured among civilians and military servicemen.
The OSCE Minsk Group issued a statement on 27 September, which strongly condemns “the use of force and regret the senseless loss of life, including civilians” and appeals “to the sides to cease hostilities immediately and to resume negotiations to find a sustainable resolution of the conflict”.
Armenia has declared martial law and full military mobilization. Azerbaijan reacted immediately to this onslaught by the Armed Forces of Armenia through counter-offensive measures, and as of this writing the Defense Ministry of Azerbaijan announced the liberation of six villages in the direction of Fizuli and Jabrayil districts.
The September provocation became next in line after the 12-14 July attacks against Azerbaijan along the international border in the direction of Tovuz district. In July Azerbaijan retorted Armenia’s attack having lost over dozens of military servicemen, including one major-general and a 76-year-old civilian. However, since the attack took place not along the Line of Contact, but along the international border in the direction of Tovuz district that hosts numerous energy and infrastructure projects nearby, it was already clear then that Armenia is already set to pursue the materialization of its Defense Minister David Tonoyan’s vow in early 2019 to wage “new wars for new territories”.
Since the July clashes, Azerbaijan expressed warnings that it expects provocations by Armenia at any time along the border. Despite the transient respite over the couple of months the situation nevertheless remained tense with sporadic violations of the ceasefire. As a result, on 22 September Azerbaijan reported the killing of its another servicemen by Armenian Armed Forces.
Moreover, this period was also fraught with purposeful provocations by Armenia. This country intensified its reconnaissance and sabotage activities along the front line and on 23 August Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense reported capturing First Lieutenant Gurgin Alberyan, the commander of the Armenian sabotage group. Over the last months Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense also reported destroying Armenia’s several tactical UAVs that attempted to carry out flights over the positions of the units of the Azerbaijani Army.
The above events in fact became the continuation of previous provocations. This also holds true because the provocations on the frontline were also accompanied by political provocations, nationalistic statements and cultural revanchism that the current leadership of Armenia has opted for as its foreign policy course vis-a-vis Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict.
The list of provocations include Nikol Pashinyan’s infamous ‘Karabakh is Armenia and period’ statement that was also coupled with the rejuvenation of a revanchist miatsum(unification) ideology in regard to the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan; the organization of the so-called ‘parliamentary and presidential elections’ in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan; and Pashinyan’s visit to the historical Azerbaijani city of Shusha in May 2020 to participate in celebrations.
Shusha carries a deeply emotional, close to sacred cultural importance for Azerbaijan and throughout centuries was seen as the “cradle” of Azerbaijani culture. However, Pashinyan Government seems to care less about the repercussions of its actions. Apart from paying regular visits to Shusha and conducting celebrations, Armenia’s leadership decided to illegally settle about 100-150 Armenian families from Lebanon in the occupied Azerbaijani territories, including in Shusha, in contravention to the norms and principles of international law, and the Fourth Geneva Convention. Moreover, the recent announcement by the leaders of the illegal regime in the Nagorno-Karabakh region to move the so-called parliament to Shusha is highly provocative and stands out as a vivid example of cultural revanchism employed by Pashinyan Government.
Furthermore, at the end of August, Anna Hakobyan, the wife of Nikol Pashinyan, participated in publicized military training in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan; her posturing, picturing Azerbaijani subjects, went viral on social media. This occurred only one year after her famous call for peace. Unfortunately, this military posture of Anna Hakobyan is nothing new as previously, in 2018, Pashinyan and his wife sent their son to serve in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.
The list of provocations staged by the current leadership of Armenia is quite long and is not exhausted in this writing. Recently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan issued a statement citing the list of purposeful provocations by the Pashinyan Government since his ascension to power. Undoubtedly, the chain of purposeful provocations in regard to the Armenia–Azerbaijan conflict, instrumentalized by Armenia’s leadership have already dealt a serious blow to the peace negotiations.
This is even more so, since in early 2020 Armenia also rejected the existence of any document at the negotiation table, despite both sides, under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chaired by France, Russia and the US, working on the so-called Madrid Principles for the resolution of the conflict for over a decade.
Unfortunately, the September clashes is a notorious sequel to the 12–14 July clashes as well as preceding and accompanying provocations by Armenia’s incumbent leadership. Despite the occupation of its territories for over three decades Azerbaijan remained committed to peace process and finding a negotiated solution based on the norms and principles of international law, and the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council (822, 853, 874, 884). Armenia has been openly flouting those resolutions for about three decades and the militaristic-revanchist stance rigorously pursued and demonstrated by incumbent Armenian leadership leaves no hopes for optimism that Armenia might commit to meaningful peace negotiations from now on.
During his address at the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, President Ilham Aliyev called for the preparation of the updated timetable for withdrawal of armed forces of Armenia from the occupied Azerbaijani territories. He also noted that “the UN Security Council resolutions are not time-specific. These resolutions are valid until they are implemented. Misinterpretation of UN Security Council resolutions is unacceptable”.
Unfortunately, what we are witnessing today on the frontline is a direct consequence of misinterpretation and non-implementation of the above resolutions. Instead of abiding by the legally binding resolutions of the UN Security Council and heeding to the numerous calls and relevant documents of the international community, Armenia’s leaders, both previous and unfortunately, also the incumbent, chose to exploit sensitivities through heightened nationalism, militarism, populism, and revanchism. This road unfortunately leads to an impasse, increased instability, warmongering and deadly military hostilities, the kind of which we have already seen in July and also at present.
New flare up of violence breaks out between Azerbaijan and Armenia
By Lauren Chadwick with AP • Updated: 28/09/2020
Fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan broke out on Sunday over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
At least 32 separatist soldiers from the Armenia-backed region had been killed in the flare-up of violence since it started on Sunday morning, AFP on Monday cited defence ministry officials in Nagorno-Karabakh as saying.
The President of Azerbaijan said in a televised address that there have been «casualties among the civilian population and our servicemen» but did not announce any number for military losses.
However, the loss of life could be high, with both sides claiming to have inflicted hundreds of casualties on the other.
What has the international reaction been?
European Council President Charles Michel tweeted that the fighting was of «serious concern.»
«Military action must stop, as a matter of urgency, to prevent a further escalation,» Michel said.
Turkey’s ruling party spokesman Omer Celik tweeted: “We vehemently condemn Armenia’s attack on Azerbaijan. Armenia has once against committed a provocation, ignoring law.”
He said Turkey, which has close ties with the predominantly Turkic Azerbaijanis, would stand by Azerbaijan, adding: “Armenia is playing with fire and endangering regional peace.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone with Armenia’s prime minister and expressed «grave concern» over the hostilities, the Kremlin said in a statement.
Russia has long been seen as an ally of Armenia.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, who is chairperson of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), called for a de-escalation of the situation.
“I urge all involved to immediately return to the ceasefire before the human toll of this conflict increases any further,” Rama said.
The OSCE has historically worked to broker peaceful negotiation between the countries.
A history of conflict
The former Soviet states of Azerbaijan and Armenia fought a bloody war over the mountainous region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s.
Thousands were killed on both sides. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced.
Armenia kills Azerbaijani civilians, initiates another military escalation
September 28, 2020
WASHINGTON, Sept. 28, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the United States — On September 27, 2020 the armed forces of Armenia illegally stationed on Azerbaijan’s occupied territories once again blatantly violated the ceasefire regime and launched a massive artillery attack targeting residential areas, as well as the armed forces of Azerbaijan along the line of contact.
As a result of the shelling of Azerbaijani villages, a number of civilians were killed and many more injured. Extensive damage has been inflicted on houses and civilian infrastructure. So far, 19 civilians have been wounded and hospitalized. Regretfully, just in one shelling of a house in Naftalan region of Azerbaijan five members of the same family, including children, were killed by Armenian forces.
The latest provocation by Armenia follows the 12-14 July attacks against Azerbaijan across the international border in the Tovuz region, when Azerbaijan lost over a dozen of military servicemen, including one major-general, and a 76-year-old civilian.
Speaking at the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev warned the international community that Armenia has been prepares for war. The ongoing large-scale deliveries of weapons from Russia have intensified over the last several months indicating at a clear preparation for war. Similarly, bellicose statements of Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan and Defense Minister Tonoyan, who clearly rejected current peace process and called for occupation of more territories, have dealt a significant blow to the negotiations cochaired by France, Russia and the United States. Against the background of Armenia’s constant reckless military provocations, President Aliyev’s warning at the United Nations turned out to be accurate with Armenia attacking Azerbaijani civilians shortly afterwards.
It is critically important to understand that all the fighting is taking place within the internationally recognized sovereign territories of Azerbaijan illegally occupied by Armenia’s armed forces in violation of the relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions. As stated by President Aliyev, unlike Armenia, which launched cross-border attacks in July, Azerbaijan has no military objectives on the territory of the Republic of Armenia. Azerbaijan has always supported substantive and result-oriented negotiations to ensure prosperous future for both Azerbaijan and Armenia.
We urge the international community to make clear to Armenia that its illegal occupation of Azerbaijan’s territories is neither sustainable, nor acceptable.
We hope that a just, lasting peace prevails in our region.
Armenia and Azerbaijan fight over disputed Nagorno-Karabakh
28 September 2020
One of the world’s oldest conflicts, a territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan, has re-erupted with the heaviest clashes in years.
At least 23 people were reported to have been killed on Sunday as the two ex-Soviet republics battled over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The region is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but controlled by ethnic Armenians.
When it broke away in the early 1990s, tens of thousands died in fighting.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said on Sunday he was confident of regaining control over the region.
Martial law has been declared amid the violence in some parts of Azerbaijan, as well as in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
The conflict in the Caucasus Mountains has remained unresolved for more than three decades, with periodic bouts of fighting.
Border clashes in July killed at least 16 people, prompting the largest demonstration in yearsin the Azerbaijani capital Baku, where there were calls for the region’s recapture.
Any upsurge in violence could unsettle markets as the South Caucasus is a corridor for pipelines carrying oil and natural gas from the Caspian Sea to world markets.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged support for Azerbaijan, urging the world to stand with the country in its «battle against invasion and cruelty». Azerbaijanis are a predominantly Turkic people with whom Turkey has close ties.
Russia, traditionally seen as an ally of Armenia, called for an immediate ceasefire and talks to stabilise the situation.
In other reaction:
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was «extremely concerned» over and called for both sides to stop fighting
France, which has a large Armenian community, called for an immediate ceasefire and dialogue
Iran, which borders both Azerbaijan and Armenia, offered to broker peace talks
President Donald Trump said the US was seeking to stop the violence.
Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict Ignites Again in Karabakh
29 September 2020 — 09:56
By Vasif Huseynov
The decades-long conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan escalated again, on September 27, with the second intense military confrontation in three months. According to the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan, at about six o’clock in the morning, the Armenian Armed Forces commenced a large-scale provocation and fired on positions of the Azerbaijani Army as well as civilian settlements in the Karabakh frontline zone. The attack utilized large-caliber weapons, mortars and artillery of various calibers (APA, September 27).
Unlike the previous large-scale clashes in mid-July of this year, which started along the state border between Armenia and Azerbaijan and was mostly limited to the Tovuz/Tavush regions of the sides (see EDM, July 14), the military exchanges that erupted this time around occurred in Azerbaijan’s occupied Karabakh region and covered a wider area. The Azerbaijani defense ministry reported that the first shelling began in areas surrounding Tartar, Aghdam, Fuzuli and Cabrayil (APA, September 27). In its “counter-offensive operation along the entire front,” Azerbaijan mobilized personnel and tank units with the support of missile and artillery troops, front-line aviation and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), the ministry’s press release read (Azertag, September 27).
The recent confrontation followed warnings by the Azerbaijani side about Armenia’s preparation for a large-scale conflict. In a September 19 interview with local television channels, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev stated that Armenia was “preparing for a new war. They are concentrating their forces near the line of contact [in Karabakh]… We follow their actions. Of course, we will defend ourselves” (APA, September 19). Both sides had been on alert for a new escalation since the July clashes, conducting intensive military exercises with their external allies (see EDM, August 14; Asbarez, July 24).
In turn, blaming Azerbaijan for the start of the hostilities, the Armenian authorities announced on the morning of September 27 that “the Azerbaijani army attacked the entire length of the line of contact with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and missile strikes” (Panorama.am, September 27). At this stage, it is not clear which side’s version of the latest outbreak of violence is more plausible. Yet a certain level of preparation on the Armenian side—namely, multiple Russian arms shipments to the country via heavy transport flights (see EDM, September 11)—could conspicuously be observed for weeks leading up to the clashes.
Shortly after the outbreak of the fighting on Sunday, Armenia declared martial law and general mobilization (TASS, September 27). Although the State Service for Mobilization and Conscription of Azerbaijan first announced that there was no need for general mobilization at the moment, an extraordinary session of the Azerbaijani parliament later decided to impose martial law in some cities and regions of the country (Azertag, APA, September 27).
A few hours after the launch of the hostilities, Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense declared the liberation of seven villages in Fuzuli and Jabrail districts as well as the recapture of multiple important heights (Azertag, September 27). Most of the captured territories are of crucial strategic importance. In particular, Azerbaijani forces secured visual control over the Vardenis–Aghdara highway, which connects occupied Karabakh with Armenia (Azvision.az, September 27). The highway, completed by Armenia in 2017, adds an alternative to the previously established road connecting Karabakh with the Republic of Armenia, thus facilitating speedier transfers of Armenian military cargo into the occupied Azerbaijani territories. The successful Azerbaijani military operations have now undermined the continued safety of using this path for Armenian forces. At the same time, the recaptured locations will provide Azerbaijan with new strategic positions from which to potentially continue deeper into the occupied territories. The loss of those positions was confirmed by Yerevan, following initial denials (Panorama.am, September 27).
Toward the end of the day, on September 27, Shushan Stepanyan, the press secretary of the Armenian minister of defense, announced that casualties on the Armenian side totaled 16 killed and more than a hundred wounded (Twitter.com/ShStepanyan, September 27). Azerbaijan offered no official information on numbers of its killed or wounded troops, but the defense ministry did note it was verifying reports of civilian casualties (Azeridefence.com, September 27).
As soon as news emerged of the latest Azerbaijani-Armenian escalation, multiple states and international organizations called on the conflicting forces to return to an immediate ceasefire. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in a telephone conversation with his Armenian counterpart, Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, called for an end to the fighting and declared that Moscow would continue its mediation efforts (Mid.ru, September 27). Meanwhile, just as it did following the July clashes, Turkey again expressed strong support to Azerbaijan through multiple channels. The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs assured that Ankara is ready to assist Baku in any way the latter might request (TRT, September 27).
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group, the main international mission tasked with the mediation of peace negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan and co-chaired by Russia, France and the United States, called for a “return to the ceasefire and resumption of substantive negotiations” (Osce.org, September 27). Earlier this year, the Armenian government rejected the so-called Madrid Principles, the major conflict resolution mechanism proposed by the Minsk Group (Aysor, September 27). In 2019, the efforts of the institution were further complicated by the Armenian defense ministry’s adoption of the “new war for new territories” concept as well as Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s call for the unification of Armenia and Karabakh (Asbarez, April 1, 2019; EurasiaNet, August 6, 2019).
Against this backdrop, the languorous approach of the Minsk Group to the conflict has come under extensive and increasing criticism in Azerbaijan, both by the government and the general public. Most recently, Azerbaijanis were outraged by the relatively passive reaction of the institution to what they considered incendiary moves on the part of the Armenians. These provocations included an announced plan to move the “capital” of the occupying regime in Karabakh to the historical town of Shusha, which holds profound cultural importance for Azerbaijanis, as well as the illegal settlement of Lebanese-Armenians in the occupied Azerbaijani territories (EurasiaNet, September 21; see EDM, September 23). The last three decades of failed negotiations have discredited the peace process for many inside Azerbaijan and Armenia alike, leading to growing warnings that the status quo will lead to the further intensification of the conflict.
On September 27, the armed forces of Armenia again committed large-scale provocations against the positions of the Azerbaijan Army along the entire length of the front. Azerbaijani positions have been subjected to the intensive shelling from large-caliber weapons, mortars, and artillery mounts of various calibers.
As a result of these provocations some civilians were killed and wounded and serious damage was caused to civilian infrastructure in Gapanly village of Terter region, the Chiragli and Orta Gervend villages of Aghdam region, the Alkhanli and Shukurbeyli villages of Fizuli region, and the Jojug Marjanli village of Jabrayil region.
In order to suppress the military strikes of the armed forces of Armenia and to ensure the safety of the civilian population Azerbaijani Army launched counter-offensive operation. As a result of successful implementation of this operation a number of occupied villages, strategic heights and advantageous areas were liberated.
In the Fizuli and Jabrayil regions seven villages which have been under the enemy occupation for many years, were also liberated. Also, Armenian posts located in the direction of occupied Aghdara region and on the heights of Murov Mount range were destroyed and a number of important high grounds were taken under control.
It is worth to recall that Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict began in the late 1980s, with Armenia’s territorial claims against Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. Taking advantage of the political and economic instability that Azerbaijan was facing after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Armenia, initiated large-scale combat operations in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Until the 1994, when the ceasefire was established, Armenia occupied twenty percent of Azerbaijani territories and about one million Azerbaijanis became refugees and IDP’s.
Since then Armenia continued its occupational policy towards Azerbaijan and failed to comply with the UN Security Council resolutions which call for withdrawal of the occupying forces from all occupied territories of Azerbaijan. However, by continuing its occupation Armenia poses threat not only to Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity but also to the regional stability and cooperation.
In recent years, implemented transport projects in the region strengthened transformed it into the transportation hub where both the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TCITR) and the International North South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) intersect.
One of these projects the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) that was mostly financed by Azerbaijan and implemented with the cooperation of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey is the shortest link in the overland transit of goods from Asia to Europe, and vice versa.
Using BTK, cargos could be shipped from China to Europe only in 12 days. Another important project is the Baku International Sea Trade Port which was constructed on the Azerbaijani coast of the Caspian Sea and will become the biggest port in this area.
Via this port, cargos coming from Asia will be able to directly connect to the Baku–Tbilisi–Kars railway and reach Europe in less than a week. Owing to the great advantages of its location, the new port will become the largest transportation and logistics center in the Caspian basin.
Regional countries also cooperate on Digital Silk Road project which will turn the region to the digital hub. Within the framework of Digital Silk Road Azerbaijan already signed agreement both with Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan for laying a trans-Caspian fiber-optic cable across the bottom of the Caspian Sea.
Implementation of these projects will transform South Caucasus to cyber-service center that will connect the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia and will improve access of 1.8 billion people to the various digital services.
As all these projects increase the importance of this region in the Eurasian connectivity, and instead of contributing to the regional projects and benefiting from them Armenia opted for self-isolation.
Due to military posture of Armenia its borders with Azerbaijan and the Turkey remains closed for more than 27 years, which prevents it from joining the regional projects. This is detrimental to Armenia itself and shows that the country has become an instrument of third parties which are interested in continuation of Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict and deterioration of regional cooperation.
Armenia’s inability to pursue an independent policy increases its political and economic dependence on third parties. By choosing this path Armenia considerably impedes its own economic development which leads to substantial social, financial and demographic problems.
Losing the opportunities from regional cooperation and regional projects Armenia jealously endeavors to hinder regional cooperation by trying to aggravate the military situation in the region.
Recent provocations of Armenia against Azerbaijan also serve this purpose. However, strong military capabilities of Azerbaijan enable it not only to stop Armenian provocations but also to liberate its occupied territories and protect regional projects from Armenian attacks. Therefore, Armenia’s every new provocation diminishes its credibility among the regional states and strengthens Azerbaijan’s position as a reliable partner.
How third parties’ neutrality protracts the Armenia–Azerbaijan conflict
30 September 2020 — 17:15
By Farid Shafiyev
The so-called “balanced approach” under which Armenia and Azerbaijan take equal blame for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has only perpetuated and protracted the antagonism, writes Farid Shafiyev.
Dr. Farid Shafiyev is Chairman of the Baku-based Center of Analysis of International Relations and Adjunct Lecturer at ADA University, Azerbaijan. He holds a Ph.D. from Carleton University and an MPA from Harvard Kennedy School of Government, as well as a Bachelor of Law and Diploma in History from Baku State University. He is the author of “Resettling the Borderlands: State Relocations and Ethnic Conflict in the South Caucasus” by McGill-Queen’s University Press (2018), numerous articles, and op-eds.
Ever since the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan turned into full-fledged war after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, international mediators, policy makers and experts have pondered how to resolve it. Classic theories of peace negotiations focus on the necessity of maintaining neutrality between the conflicting parties for the success of the mediation. Subsequently, the road map of the peace process should understand the causes of the conflict and embrace the grievances and goals of the conflicting parties. However, as I argue here, the so-called ‘balanced’ approach, in some instances, acts only to protract conflict and serves the interest of the party that is content with the current status quo.
When the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan broke out, both republics were still part of the Soviet Union. The slogan of the Armenian nationalists, miatsum, about the unification of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan with Armenia, first voiced in February 1988, met with sympathy in Western media. This movement was presented by the Armenian ethnic lobby as a liberation struggle from the yoke of a Stalinist arrangement made for the sake of a Muslim republic to subjugate the Christian Armenian population that had suffered historically at the hands of the Turks. The truth was far from these well-worn clichés, but they hit the target, as the public in the West was overwhelmed by centuries-old stereotypes. For Western policy makers, the idea of the rearrangement of the Soviet borders brought a flavor of the destruction of the communist monster.
What evolved on the ground was a bitter and bloody war, full of massacres, expulsions and occupation. American scholar Thomas Ambrosio termed this process ‘the permissive international regime’ that allowed Armenia to occupy this part of the Azerbaijan’s territory.
Most Western experts in the field repeated the few available ‘historical’ facts without making their own archival study. Therefore, stories tilted in favor of the Armenian narrative. The first man to break this one-sided story was American journalist Thomas Goltz, a flamboyant adventurer whom the Armenian lobby in Washington, DC, tried to portray as an agent of oil interests. Cliché-making continued as other experts in the field were dubbed agents of the oil autocracy or accused of ‘caviar diplomacy.’ Nevertheless, the well-documented facts and eloquently articulated arguments, especially from international legal perspectives (in 1993 the UN Security Council reaffirmed Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and demanded the withdrawal of all occupational forces), found their way into academia and the media, though they remained limited to a narrow circle of experts.
A new tone was given to the research by British journalist Thomas de Waal in his book Black Garden (2001), which unveiled the truth of the Kafan and Khojaly massacres, and others. However, the fundamental principle of his approach was to find a ‘balance’: In such a complicated and bloody conflict, both sides should be responsible. For example, Kafan was countered by a discussion of the Sumgayit pogroms. This approach was continued by other experts, including in the recent book Armenia and Azerbaijan: Anatomy of Rivalry by British scholar Laurence Broers. The Great Armenia project (the recreation of a partly mythical country between three seas) was compared to Great Azerbaijan, even though, in terms of scale and impact, they were not comparable.
International NGOs dealing with conflict resolution, such as Conciliation Resources and the International Crisis Group, took a similar approach. Their peacemaking efforts were directed at the dialogue, and therefore the real developments on the ground were of secondary importance. These and other NGOs made the ‘balanced approach’ the sacred cow of the peacemaking process.
In the meantime, the fate of almost one million refugees from Azerbaijan’s occupied territories remained uncertain as Armenia solidified the results of military control. Armenia began resettling foreigners in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, extracting the natural resources, and destroying the cultural heritage. Those narratives were countered immediately by accounts of Azerbaijan’s misdeeds: the destruction of Armenian-cross tombstones (khachkars), the murder of an Armenian officer by Azerbaijani serviceman Ramil Safarov, and others. It was a propaganda war, and well-managed by the Armenian lobby in Western countries.
However, so-called ‘neutral’ experts in the relevant fields also played a role in perpetuating the occupation of Azerbaijani territories. In particular, the Western academic press and mass media tended to disregard many Azerbaijani claims in favor of Armenian ones. A few recent incidents, which the author of this article has encountered, reconfirm the biases of the Western media. Britain’s Guardian newspaper published a piece about the Armenian khachkars, but refused to take a look at the many destroyed or defaced Azerbaijani mosques in the occupied territories. The Vienna-based International Institute of Peace published unconditionally an Armenian author but made extensive comments on an article by Azerbaijani authors. The Georgetown Journal of International Affairs published, but then retracted, an article authored by an Azerbaijani expert. Reputable journalForeign Policy, which in its writers’ guidelines basically discourages any submissions on the Armenia–Azerbaijan conflict, ran a piece written by a Yerevan-based journalist presenting a one-sided report on the recent Tovuz clashes in July.
In many discussions with Western media outlets, the buzzword ‘balanced,’ or, precisely, the lack of balance, plays suspiciously against Azerbaijan. Even the agnostic nature of the author of this piece forces consideration of religious and other cultural biases when it comes to the Western coverage of the conflict. However, what is more problematic for Western societies, to the detriment to their own interests, is the shrinking space of academic freedom versus well-organized and xenophobic lobby groups such as the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). Ironically, the motto of Washington Post – ‘democracy dies in the darkness’ – is endangered in Washington by not only by state lobbyists, but also by so-called public advocates.
As for international mediators, the negotiations that began in 1992 proceeded against the background of the complex geopolitical rivalries in the post-Cold War era, which made the Armenia–Azerbaijan conflict appear less significant than those in the Middle East or the Balkans. Finally, in 1997, three powerful actors – Russia, France and the United States – formed the Co-Chairmanship of the OSCE Minsk Group to deal with the negotiations. Coincidentally, all three countries host large Armenian communities. The principle flaw of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs was the departure from the UN Security Council resolutions towards a new formula that hinges on the status of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, which Armenia would eventually like to annex, though Yerevan put forward the intermediate goal of self-determination for local Armenians.
After several attempts to find a successful formula, the Co-Chairs, with the initial consent of Armenia and Azerbaijan, unveiled the so-called Madrid Principles in 2007, further updated in 2009. The Madrid Principles stipulated a phased approach to the peace process; this involved the de-occupation of Azerbaijani territories around Nagorno-Karabakh, the return of refugees, and the opening of communication and transportation links, but left moot the question of the status of occupied Nagorno-Karabakh until the final stage. The philosophy of the peacemakers was to create a long enough period for restoring confidence and beginning reconciliation in order to resolve the territorial dispute. Since then, instead of the implementation of practical steps, Armenia has insisted on some premediated modalities of the final status of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. Armenian lobby groups, including the ANCA, denounced the plan that the US State Department had put so much effort into developing, and Russian Armenians worked clandestinely through an ethnic network in the government, even though official Moscow made probably the greatest effort among the three Co-Chairs to find a solution. However, at the end of the day, the Co-Chairs, probably with the exception of Russia, have shown no urgency for resolving the conflict simmering in their geopolitical backyard.
When Azerbaijan repeatedly, in 2005 and 2010, appealed to the Co-Chairs with regard to the illegal activities in the occupied territories, including the resettlement process, they replied by issuing ‘balanced’ statements. Moreover, in 2010, the Co-Chairs decided not to publish the official results of their field mission on illegal resettlement, justifying this on the basis that it would be detrimental to the peace process. In contrast with this ‘balanced approach,’ official Yerevan has for all these years been working towards solidifying the results of the occupation, hoping that, sooner or later, official recognition will arrive. Moreover, while 2019 was the most peaceful year on the line of contact between the two armies, the Armenian leadership declared a new miatsum (unification) with Nagorno-Karabakh and, in 2020, laid a territorial claim towards Turkey as Armenian nationalists revived discussions about the centuries-dead Treaty of Sèvres.
As a result, the balanced approach of mediators and international experts has perpetuated and protracted the conflict, which last erupted in July 2020. Moscow may believe that the frozen status of the conflict serves its purpose of control over both republics, but the result is that there is significant discontent in Armenia and Azerbaijan about the Russian role in the region. While Armenian lobby groups rejoice over their successful campaigns in Washington or Paris, the population size of Armenia is shrinking and its economy remains isolated and dependent on Moscow’s life support. The ‘Velvet Revolution’ that brought current Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to power effectively ended in July 2020 as he reaffirmed Armenia’s political–military allegiance with Russia, in return for military support.
History has been repeated; in 1918–20, when three South Caucasian republics became independent after the collapse of the Russian Empire, an Armenian military campaign against Azerbaijan weakened both countries and the Bolsheviks later subjugated them. The first prime minister of independent Armenia, Hovhannes Katchaznouni (1918–19) later exclaimed: ‘A vast state was being organized and demanded – a great Armenia from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, from the mountains of Karabakh to the Arabian Desert. Where did that imperial, amazing demand emanate?’ The similar campaign launched in February 1988 destroyed the possibility of the peaceful development of the South Caucasus and the union of two peoples bound by geography, culture, and history.
The winners of this conflict are the forces outside of the region – geopolitical actors, weapons salesmen, state and ethnic lobbyists, and grant-seeking international experts. After twenty-six years of ceasefire and negotiations, the ‘balanced approach’ has led to a dead end. BBC HARDtalk anchor Steven Sackur, in an interview with Armenia’s Prime Minister, emphasized that the current provocative actions and inflammatory rhetoric manifest an intention to dismantle the negotiation process and secure the annexation of Azerbaijan’s occupied territories. It is likely that international mediators and peacemakers are now reflecting on ‘balancing’ these facts – or, more precisely, inventing mischievous behaviors on the part of Baku.
As for Azerbaijan, both its government and public have realized the dead end to the negotiation process. The resulting frustration was visible during the mass rally in Baku on 14 July, when the public demanded decisive military action to liberate the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. Even if the military option is not the solution under the current circumstances, many believe that the balance will change in the future.
In 1993, during discussions at the UN Security Council on the consequences of the occupation of the Kelbajar region of Azerbaijan, Mr. Olhaye, the representative for the small state of Djibouti, openly stated that ‘we all know only too well that the truth is that this is a conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan,’ and expressed hope that, in the near future, the Security Council would be in a position ‘to call a spade a spade.’ In fact, legally, it took twenty-three years until, in 2015, the European Court on Human Rights, in its decision on Chiragov v. Armenia, explicitly determined that the government of Armenia exercises effective control of the occupied territories of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan. It is now time to call a spade a spade – and act accordingly.
Azerbaijan’s army besieges Armenia’s forces in Aghdara-Terter region
BY DAILY SABAH, SEP 30, 2020
The Azerbaijani army besieged Armenian forces in the Aghdara-Terter area bordering Nagorno-Karabakh on Wednesday, the fourth consecutive day of fighting in the biggest eruption of violence in the decades-old conflict, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry stated.
The operation aims to destroy Armenian forces with artillery fire and clear the area, it added.
The ministry statement said Armenia targeted Azerbaijan’s Terter region with artillery fire in the morning hours, which led to damage in infrastructure while no civilians were injured.
Dozens of people have been reported killed and hundreds wounded since the new wave of fighting broke out on Sunday.
Azerbaijan’s parliament declared martial law in some cities and areas, following Armenia’s border violations and attacks in the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The ministry added that 2,300 Armenian soldiers have been killed and wounded since Sept. 27.
In addition, approximately 130 tanks and armored vehicles, more than 200 artillery and missile systems, approximately 25 air defense systems, six command and observation zones, five ammunition depots, approximately 50 anti-tank guns and 55 cars were destroyed, it added.
The Nagorno-Karabakh region, internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, has been controlled by Armenian separatists since the conflict broke out following the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Though a cease-fire was agreed on in 1994, Baku and Yerevan still regularly accuse each other of attacks around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Azerbaijani-Armenian border.
There are four U.N. Security Council (UNSC) and two U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) resolutions as well as innumerable calls by international organizations that demand the withdrawal of the occupational Armenian forces from Nagorno-Karabakh and seven other occupied regions of Azerbaijan.
What Armenia Won’t Tell You About Its Occupation Of Azerbaijani Land
02 October 2020 — 12:00
By Farid Shafiyev
On September 27, 2020, Azerbaijan launched a counter-offensive campaign against Armenian armed forces to liberate the occupied territories that it lost in 1992-94. There are claims made by the Armenian side stating that Baku premediated the operation. As much as fighting has developed on the battlefield, it has also advanced into a propaganda war.
“The events were reported in the world press, generally with a tone of partiality toward the Armenians.” I cite not recent opinions, but a quote from American scholar Tadeusz Swietochowski about the first violent clashes between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in 1905-1906 in Tsarist Russia. This long-established pro-Armenian trend continues today in much of the Western media in present circumstances as well.
When Armenian ultranationalists launched their unification campaign in February 1988 in an already crumbling Soviet Union, Armenia’s strong diaspora in the West supported it through a well-organized network of policymakers, journalists, and scholars. This ethnic conflict was portrayed as a religious one, even though Armenia manages to enjoy as good relations with Iran as Azerbaijan does with Israel. For liberals, it was presented as a self-determination struggle, while the end goal of the ultranationalist campaign was Armenia’s territorial expansion and the establishment of “Great Armenia.” In the evolving geopolitical environment of the post-Cold war era, Armenians exploited Islamophobia and Turkophobia to advance their cause.
A cohort of Western scholars, experts, and journalists writing about the conflict solely focused on geopolitics and history but remained largely silent on the most important element—namely international law—because it did not fit the pro-Armenian narrative.
In 1993, the UN Security Council, through four binding resolutions, reaffirmed Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven adjacent regions under Armenian occupation and demanded the unconditional withdrawal of the Armenian occupying forces. In 2015, the European Court of Human Rights also highlighted that Armenia controls through occupation the sovereign territories of Azerbaijan.
Since 1992, Azerbaijan and Armenia have been working towards a diplomatic solution under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group, co-chaired by France, Russia, and the United States. In 2007, this effort produced the so-called Madrid Principles, which were updated in 2009 and accepted by both Armenia and Azerbaijan as the basis for implementing the return of the occupied territories. Since then, Armenia under various pretexts postponed this implementation and opted for maintaining the status-quo of occupation. In March 2020 the new leadership of Armenia under Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan explicitly denounced the Madrid Principles. This had been preceded by Pashinyan’s August 2019 open declaration that “Nagorno-Karabakh is Armenia,” thus reconfirming the strategic goal of unification, i.e. territorial expansion. This in turn had been preceded by the March 2019 announcement of a new military doctrine by Armenia’s defense minister, David Tonoyan, which had called for a “new war for new territory”.
With a dead-end in the negotiation process and the increased military posture, Azerbaijan had no choice but to resort to the use of force, which it is entitled to under chapter 51 of the UN Charter. This is rarely mentioned in biased reports about the status of the conflict.
Recent developments on the ground are thus portrayed in parts of the Western media with several clichés and entrenched stereotypes with the help of pro-Armenian writers. Aside from falsely framing the conflict as a religious one, the Pashinyan government also advances the narrative of democracy vs autocracy. It fails to mention that Pashinyan has imprisoned his political opponents; remains silent on the fact that his populist and increasingly ultranationalist rhetoric has been consistently bereft of a vision for how to accommodate Azerbaijani refugees and internally displaced person’s (IDPs) who want to return to their homes, and fails to mention that Armenia’s occupation has resulted in the total and complete ethnic cleansing of the pre-war Azerbaijani population. This twisted idea of freedom exclusively for Armenians calls to mind white supremacist ideology that presupposes the physical extermination of non-whites. On the other hand, after another outburst of violence between the two countries in Tovuz in July, the public in Azerbaijan, finally disenchanted with even the slightest prospect of a diplomatic solution, staged a huge demonstration in Baku, demanding that the government overcome the diplomatic stalemate and act against Armenia.
Some news reports about the ongoing hostilities by outlets such as the BBC and Reuters contain unconfirmed sources about Syrian fighters in Azerbaijan. During the previous major outbreak of violence, in April 2016, Armenia made claims about ISIS recruits in Azerbaijan. Pashinyan himself voiced the information about Muslim radicals walking in the streets of Baku and demanding the closure of stores selling alcohol. The term “fake news” gets thrown about casually these days, but in this case, it is entirely appropriate. Despite being fully debunked, parts of the Western media, in my view, having predisposed Orientalist stereotypes against Azerbaijan, which eases the lobbying efforts of Armenian ultranationalists.
In fact, Azerbaijan, even with its democracy deficit, is a country with strong secular traditions that has prosecuted Islamic radicals to the full extent of the law, imprisoned ISIS fighters, supported U.S. operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and assisted Western intelligence agencies in eradicating terrorism. Frankly, today’s Azerbaijan is a Muslim country as much as The Netherlands is a Christian one. The Armenian lobby groups in Washington, such as the Armenian National Committee of America and their recruits on the Capitol Hill, including several sitting Congressmen and Senators, do a big disservice to U.S. national interests by advancing the narrow xenophobic and extremist agenda of one ethnic group.
Some Western observers also focus on the role of Turkey in the current stand-off between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Leaving aside a complicated analysis about why Turkey and the West ended up in the current state, considering Azerbaijan’s political, economic and energy links with the United States and the EU, cliché-driven stories of sultans and tsars should be left to Emmanuel Macron in his dealing with the Armenian lobby in France.
Fewer than two months ago, the wife of Armenia’s prime minister posed with a gun in front of cameras in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, which is consistent with her husband’s rejection of the diplomatic option to achieve a solution through good-faith negotiations. And thus both sides have found themselves having recourse to arms. Either way, the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani lands will come to an end.
Azerbaijan: Reports of shelling in Ganja October 4
Armenian forces have reportedly attacked Ganja, the second-largest city in Azerbaijan, on Sunday, October 4. Initial reports state that Armenia has denied that it fired towards Azerbaijan, however, authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) claim they have attacked the Ganja military base. Additionally, the Azeri defense ministry has announced that the cities of Terter and Horadiz near the de-facto border with Nagorno-Karabakh were under heavy shelling. Damage and causality figures have yet to be released.
Further clashes in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh region are highly likely over the near term. Clashes along the length of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border outside the Nagorno-Karabakh region cannot be ruled out. A heightened security presence and disruptions to transportation are expected.
The latest round of hostilities erupted on Sunday, September 27, when Azerbaijani forces reportedly carried out strikes on settlements in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, including the regional capital Stepanakert, causing at least two civilian fatalities. Residents of the area have been instructed to seek refuge in shelters. Following a retaliation by separatist forces, Azerbaijan launched what it claims to be a ‘counter-offensive’ in response. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have used heavy weaponry and reported casualties and material losses. Both sides have released footage claiming to show the destruction of enemy armored vehicles and installations. A state of war, martial law, and mobilization have been declared in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh. On October 1, the leaders of France, Russia, and the US, the co-chairs of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is dedicated to mediating the conflict, called for a ceasefire and a return to negotiations. Armenia responded by stating that it was prepared to work with the OCSE to renew the ceasefire, but Azeri authorities have not responded and have previously stated that Armenia must withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh to avoid further escalation.
Armenia and neighboring Azerbaijan have a long-standing dispute over the possession of Nagorno-Karabakh, home to some 150,000 inhabitants (mostly ethnic Armenians) and located in the west of Azerbaijan. This issue has fueled tensions between the two countries since 1988; some 30,000 people were killed in fighting from 1990 to 1994. The two countries declared another ceasefire in April 2016 after the region experienced four days of violent clashes that left hundreds dead.
Tensions between the two countries remain high and each side frequently accuses the other of violating the ceasefire agreement.
Western governments generally advise their citizens against all travel to Nagorno-Karabakh and the Azerbaijan-Armenia border. Those in Azerbaijan are advised to monitor developments and adhere to instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments.
New war between Armenia and Azerbaijan threatens critical energy infrastructure
07 October 2020 — 14:34
By Esmira Jafarova
On Sept. 27, 2020, Azerbaijanis awoke to the news of the latest provocation unleashed by Armenia against Azerbaijan. This time, the attack took place along the front line as well as in populated areas: Qapanli village, Tartar district; Chragli and Orta Garvend villages, Aghdam district; Alkhanli and Shukurbeyli villages, Fuzuli district; and Jojuq Merjanli village in Jabrayil district. As a result of intense shelling by Armenia’s armed forces, Azerbaijan reported deaths and injuries among civilians and military servicemen. Azerbaijan reacted immediately with counteroffensive measures, and at the time of writing, the defense ministry of Azerbaijan had announced serious military victories, including the liberation of Madagiz (Suqovushan) village in the Tartar district, Jabrayil town and several more villages in Fizuli and Jabrayil districts, and returned the strategic heights of Murovdag to Azerbaijani control.
The Minsk Group, which was set up in 1992 by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), issued a statement on Sept. 27 that strongly condemns “the use of force and regret(s) the senseless loss of life, including civilians” and appeals “to the sides to cease hostilities immediately and to resume negotiations to find a sustainable resolution of the conflict.” The European Union statement was along similar lines: “The EU calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities, de-escalation, and strict compliance with the cease-fire. We need an immediate return to negotiations, without preconditions, on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs.”
Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have introduced martial law and Armenia declared a total military mobilization on Sept. 27. Later, on Sept. 28, Azerbaijan also announced a partial mobilization. This provocation became a logical continuation of the numerous provocations previously staged by the incumbent Armenian leadership since the so-called “Velvet Revolution” of 2018. The list of provocations includes, but is not limited to, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s infamous “Karabakh is Armenia and period” statement that was also coupled with the rejuvenation of a dangerous miatsum (unification) ideology regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan; the organization of the so-called “parliamentary and presidential elections” in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan; and Pashinian’s visit to the historic Azerbaijani city of Shusha in May 2020. However, the real step toward halting the negotiations was taken in early 2020 when Armenia rejected the existence of any document on the negotiating table, despite both sides, under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chaired by France, Russia and the United States, working on the so-called Madrid Principles for a resolution of the conflict.
The July 12-14 attacks against Azerbaijan took place not along the Line of Contact, but along the international border in the direction of the Tovuz district, which hosts numerous energy and infrastructure projects. From the heightened militaristic posture of Armenia and the choice of new locations for the military onslaught, which is fully in line with Armenia’s Defense Minister David Tonoyan’s vow in early 2019 to wage “new wars for new territories,” it is already clear that the incumbent Armenian leadership aims to achieve more than just “new territories.”
These provocations and frequent military confrontations with Azerbaijan also intend to damage Azerbaijan’s most strategic asset – its critical energy infrastructure. All of the strategic energy infrastructure projects initiated by Azerbaijan and its international partners – the Baku-Tbilisi-Supsa Western Export (1998) and Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (2005) oil pipelines, and the Southern Caucasus pipeline, an important chain in the multimillion megaproject the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) – pass close by the Tovuz area. Any damage to this infrastructure may have significant economic repercussions for Azerbaijan and its partners in the short term, and political repercussions in the long run.
The current skirmishes since September 27 that were unleashed in the direction of some villages of the Tartar, Fuzuli, Aghdam, and Jabrayil districts are already spilling over into other areas of the occupied territories. On Sept. 28, Azerbaijan reported that its armed forces had curbed an attack on the village of Talish in the Tartar region and had liberated several advantageous heights. A couple of days ago Azerbaijan announced of complete liberation of the Talish village and video footage from the newly liberated village was released by the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense. For the uninitiated observer, it should be clarified that, along with the Tovuz district and the city of Ganja, important transit points for the critical energy infrastructure, Talish village is also located near these strategic installations.
However, the battleground gains made by the Azerbaijani military have obviously created a sense of hysteria in Armenia. On Oct. 4, Azerbaijanis woke up to the news of Armenia firing four Smerch missiles with cluster ammunition toward Ganja – the second largest city in Azerbaijan – from Armenian territory. Civilians were injured and civilian infrastructure was damaged. Ganja is also in the epicenter of Azerbaijan’s critical energy infrastructure that passes through the area. So far, no damage has been detected to this infrastructure due to the missile attacks.
On the same day, news broke about Armenia firing four Tochka short-range missiles at Mingachevir – the city that hosts Mingachevir Dam and a Hydropower Station as well as Azerbaijan Thermal Power Plant. While civilian injuries and deaths were reported, these strategic objects were not damaged. It is not difficult to imagine the magnitude of civilian causalities if the Mingachevir Dam is damaged. Armenia also hit Azerbaijan’s Khizi and Absheron region with two 300-kilometer midrange missiles. Other Azerbaijani cities – Barda, Tartar and Beylagan – are also being continuously shelled by missiles, most of which are unleashed from Armenia’s territory.
By attacking Azerbaijani population centers and infrastructure that are far from the actual theater of military hostilities and doing so from Armenia’s own territory, the latter aims to firstly, expand the geography of military hostilities and secondly, drag third parties into the conflict, having provoked Azerbaijan’s counterattack against military objects within Armenia. Innocent civilians are killed and injured through this indiscriminate missile attacks. By doing so, Armenia violates the international humanitarian law, including first and foremost, the Geneva Conventions.
Recently, an Armenian member of parliament called for an attack and destruction of Azerbaijan’s oil and gas pipelines, naming this a priority. Unfortunately, this call is an open statement of the underlying intent that was present in Armenia’s strategic thinking for quite some time. Armenia also previously made threats against Azerbaijan’s energy infrastructure when they vowed to launch a military strike on the city of Ganja, an action that, apart from posing a threat to civilians, would also potentially destroy strategic energy infrastructure in the famous «Ganja Gap.» The threat of an attack against Mingachevir Dam was also aired by Armenia before. Unfortunately, on Oct. 4, we saw these threats dangerously materializing. Attacks against Ganja continued at the time of this writing, killing civilians and targeting Azerbaijan’s critical energy infrastructure.
Moreover, on Sept. 28, the representative of the Ministry of Defense of Armenia announced that Armenia might use Iskander ballistic missiles and Su-30SM fighter planes “when the logic of the relevant hostilities corresponds to the need to use this weapon.” Once again, this militaristic posture attests to the Armenian side’s determination not only to attack and kill civilians but also to demolish Azerbaijan’s critical energy infrastructure by conducting pinpoint military strikes.
These worrying developments should not be overlooked by Azerbaijan’s international partners, especially the European Union. The EU is Azerbaijan’s most important partner in the implementation of its energy infrastructure projects. The Baku-Tbilisi-Supsa and Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas (BTE), also known as The South Caucasus Pipeline, pipelines have enhanced Azerbaijan’s role as an energy-producing and exporting country and against all odds, the SGC is already becoming a reality. Work on all segments of the SGC is complete – the Shah Deniz-II project, the Southern Caucasus Pipeline Extension (SCPX) and the Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) – and its final portion, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), is close to full completion, with the project construction phase having been completed 98% in mid-September 2020. The corridor passes through seven countries – Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, Albania and Italy – with Italy being the final destination receiving Caspian gas. Turkey is already receiving gas via TANAP, and the commencement of TANAP is also playing a big role in the facilitation of exports and an increase in the gas volumes received by Turkey from Azerbaijan.
Works concerning the SGC are at full throttle, and even the COVID-19 pandemic could not prevent the success of the project. This corridor is one of the biggest contributions that Azerbaijan and its partners have made to energy security and the sustainable development of neighboring regions and the greater European continent. Obviously, Azerbaijan’s success perturbs Armenia, which, having occupied 20% of Azerbaijan’s territories for three decades, hopes that Azerbaijan will put up with the occupation until the status quo becomes permanent. A strong and successful Azerbaijan bent on the return of its occupied territories scares Armenia. Azerbaijan’s success is Armenia’s failure because in this case, the latter has to demonstrate its genuine commitment to the peaceful resolution of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, beyond merely feigning engagement in the peace negotiations.
Consistent provocations, warmongering, threats of and the actual use of force have therefore been employed against Azerbaijan and its brainchild and the backbone of its economy, the critical energy infrastructure. Azerbaijan’s international partners, the EU in particular, should be more vigilant and vocal against these purposeful provocations and condemn them in the strongest possible terms.
Azerbaijan’s strength is not only on battlefield, it’s in international law
07 October 2020 — 14:39
By Vasif Huseynov
26 years after the Russia-brokered ceasefire agreement that ended the First Karabakh War in May 1994, on 27 September the territorial conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan escalated again into an almost full-scale war.
The new escalation came on the heels of the failure of the negotiations mediated by the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) since the mid-1990s.
There were a number of reasons which prevented the sides from reaching an agreement over this long period of time, but the bone of contention was regarding the nature of the conflict.
While Armenia sought to justify its territorial claims to the internationally-recognized territories of Azerbaijan by referring to the history, Azerbaijan stressed the international law which is on their side, as the contested region is recognized by the international community, including the UN Security Council, as part of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
The failure of the negotiations was coupled with growing frustration in Azerbaijan and emboldened nationalism on the Armenian side. Although the Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of Armenia came to power in 2018 with an agenda promising peaceful resolution of the conflict, soon he resorted to dangerous populism making territorial claims not only to Azerbaijan but even to Turkey, its western neighbour.
For example, in celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the “Treaty of Sevres” in August 2020, the Armenian Prime Minister called on his nation not to forget the treaty declaring that “Although the Treaty of Sevres was never implemented, it continues to be a historical fact, which reflects our long journey to restore our independent statehood. We are bound by duty to remember it, realize its importance and follow its message.”
This was a clear claim to the eastern territories of modern Turkey, as according to the treaty, signed in the aftermath of the World War I, most of the Eastern territories of modern Turkey would have been put under Armenian control.
However, this treaty, obviously, never came into force and was soon replaced by another treaty – the Treaty of Lausanne – by which the international borders of Turkey were officially recognized.
Pashinyan’s policies were found dangerous even by some prominent Armenians, and they called him to refrain from reckless statements warning against “being obsessed with dreams”.
For instance, a few weeks ago before the recent escalation, Jirair Libaridian, who served as a senior adviser to the former President of Armenia, Levon Ter-Petrosyan, statedthe following:
“I don’t know if our leaders did so knowingly, but the statements by the President and Prime Minister of Armenia [concerning the Treaty of Sevres] were equivalent to a declaration of at least diplomatic war against Turkey… This was possibly the last step that will, in the eyes of our opponents and the international community, define the Karabakh problem as a question of territorial expansion”.
Unfortunately, the Armenian government continued to ignore the threats posed by their populist policies and provoking statements. Against the backdrop of this process, the peace negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan ended up eventually with a deadlock.
On 2 October, in his interview with Al Jazeera, President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan lamented that Pashinyan’s government derailed negotiations by provoking Azerbaijan and insulting the feelings of its people.
According to the situation on the frontline as of 6 October, Armenian military forces have been dealt a significant blow and already lack manpower and military equipment to resist against Azerbaijan’s counter-offensive operation. Having faced dramatic losses on the frontline, the Armenian prime minister rushed to make phone calls to a series of world leaders seeking help, but obviously without much success.
The war is accompanied by intense confrontation in the information space from the very beginning of the clashes. As in the case of previous clashes in April 2016 and July 2020, disinformation and fake news stories are widely disseminated to deviate the attention of the domestic public and international observers.
Curiously, some fake news stories originating in the region have been also propagated by otherwise reputable media agencies.
For example, from the first day of the war, it has been claimed that Turkey has brought mercenaries from Syria and Libya to Azerbaijan in order to fight against Armenia. This catching claim caused such a strong reverberation that even Reuters and Guardian published stories about this.
However, the problem was that this “information” was propagated without giving a single proof or at best by citing unspecified people or their relatives. Even President Emmanuel Macron who is the president of Minsk Group Co-Chairing state France that is legally required to be neutral in the Armenia – Azerbaijan conflict echoed this without providing evidence.
It is in fact no coincidence, as similar stories about the cooperation between Azerbaijan and terrorist groups in the Middle East have been each time propagated when the conflict escalated. In the April war of 2016, Azerbaijan was accused of transferring ISIS terrorists to the frontline, which was quickly debunked.
Having established the first secular republic in the Muslim world in 1918, Azerbaijanis were often recognised as one of the most irreligious nations in the world. Dr Farid Shafiyev, the Chairman of the Baku-based Center of Analysis of International Relations, has aptly described this peculiarity of his country.
“In fact, Azerbaijan, even with its democracy deficit, is a country with strong secular traditions that has prosecuted Islamic radicals to the full extent of the law, imprisoned ISIS fighters, supported US operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and assisted Western intelligence agencies in eradicating terrorism. Frankly, today’s Azerbaijan is a Muslim country as much as the Netherlands is a Christian one”, he writes.
However, the fake news stories have failed to affect Azerbaijan’s counter-offensive operation to liberate its internationally recognized territories. In his address to the nation on 4 October, President Aliyev rejected the international calls for ceasefire until Armenian armed forces leave the internationally-recognized territories of Azerbaijan.
Aliyev has emphasized that Azerbaijan is fighting in its own territories and, therefore, it has full right to end the occupation. Aliyev has also sent a positive message to the Armenians living in the Nagorno-Karabakh. “We invite them to live with us in Azerbaijan as representatives of many other nationalities and ethnic minorities”, Aliyev said.
Considering the massive humanitarian loss due to the military hostilities, Azerbaijan hopes that Armenia will soon recognize the demands of the UN Security Council resolutionsof 1993, withdraw its armed forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, and peace will be re-established in the region soon.
A residential building in Azerbaijan’s second largest city was almost completely destroyed and several people were killed after fighting resumed, hours after the Armenia and Azerbaijan limited-cease-fire on Saturday, Special Correspondent Simon Ostrovsky reports. He is reporting from region with support from the Pulitzer Center.
Read the Full Transcript
Armenia and Azerbaijan are blaming each other for violating a temporary cease-fire that went into effect yesterday, with renewed fighting overnight over the ethnic-Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.
A residential building was destroyed and officials in Azerbaijan said at least nine civilians were killed and dozens were wounded.
Special Correspondent Simon Ostrovsky has been reporting in the region with support from the Pulitzer Center and has the latest on the resumption of hostilities there.
It wasn’t long before the cease-fire that came into effect at noon yesterday had been broken.
These are the scenes in the self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh Republic where ethnic-Armenian forces, backed by troops from the Republic of Armenia, say missiles sent by the central authorities of Azerbaijan landed in a breach of the cease-fire.
Thankfully, no one was hurt in this attack here but in the Azerbaijani city of Ganja, a number of bodies were pulled from the rubble of a residential building, and the Azerbaijani authorities are blaming the Armenians for violating the cease-fire, it was reported in international media.
It’s a worrying development in a conflict that’s already claimed hundreds of lives and began on September 27th with an Azerbaijani offensive on areas that had been controlled by ethnic-Armenian forces since 1994.
With the international community consumed by global pandemic and a bitter U.S. election campaign, the world seems to have turned its gaze away from the fighting here and put little real pressure on the two sides to bring a halt to the war.
Russia has so far done the most to bring the two sides to the negotiating table. But efforts to secure an end to fighting have so far failed.
Azerbaijan: 9 die, 34 injured in Armenian attack on civilians
Idiris Okuduci and Ruslan Rehimov. 11.10.2020
The death toll in a recent Armenian missile attack on Azerbaijan’s Ganja city, despite a cease-fire, rose to nine including four women on Sunday.
As many as 34 others, among them 16 women and six children, are injured, the Prosecutor General’s Office in Azerbaijan said in a statement.
The Armenian attacks continued despite a humanitarian truce agreed on Saturday for the exchange of prisoners and retrieval of bodies in Nagorno-Karabakh, an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan.
Hikmat Hajiyev, assistant to the Azerbaijani president, said the attacks were Armenia’s «policy of vandalism and barbarism» against Azerbaijani civilians, and «an act of genocide.»
Attacking civilians with destructive missiles is a war crime, a manifestation of immoral behavior of Armenia’s political-military leadership, he tweeted.
The armistice came after a trilateral meeting in Moscow on Friday between the foreign ministers of Russia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia.
Between Sept. 27, when the clashes began, and October 11, as many as 41 Azerbaijani civilians have been killed and 205 injured.
Some 1,165 houses, 57 residential and commercial buildings, and 146 public buildings have also been destroyed or damaged, the prosecutors said.
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said their army repulsed Armenian attacks throughout the night.
Relations between the two former Soviet republics have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military occupied Upper Karabakh.
Recent clashes began when Armenian forces targeted Azerbaijani settlements, and military positions in the region.
Four UN Security Council and two UN General Assembly resolutions, as well as many international organizations, demand the withdrawal of the occupying forces.
The OSCE Minsk Group — co-chaired by France, Russia, and the US — was formed in 1992 to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, but to no avail.
While many international powers have called to end clashes, Turkey supports Azerbaijan’s right to self-defense, and has demanded the withdrawal of the invading forces.
Armenia and Azerbaijan continue to battle over Nagorno Karabakh, a disputed territory and enclave of ethnic Amenians. At issue are seven districts of Azerbaijan that surround the region. This week, Russian officials pushed the two countries for a cessation of hostilities — but so far the effort to broker peace has been unsuccessful. Special correspondent Simon Ostrovsky reports.
Read the Full Transcript
As the war over the ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh continues between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the push for a cessation of hostilities accelerated this week. But that’s hard to tell on the ground.
With the support of the Pulitzer Center, special correspondent Simon Ostrovsky reports.
The fighting here is approaching its fourth week, despite attempts by Moscow to mediate.
Hundreds are dead, thousands displaced, here on the southeastern fringe of Europe. Yesterday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made another offer after Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed last week to a cease-fire that did not cease fire.
Sergei Lavrov (through translator):
All the agreements that have been discussed lately, which were being taken seriously by the parties, assume the relinquishment of five districts and peacekeeping troops.
At issue are seven districts of Azerbaijan that surround the Nagorno-Karabakh region that have been under the control of ethnic-Armenian forces since the first war here between the former Soviet Republicans ended in 1994, after the USSR dissolved.
The de facto authorities in Karabakh have long contended that they need to hold on to these areas in order to retain their link with Armenia and as a security buffer with Azerbaijan. But that calculation may have changed, as ethnic Armenian forces sustained heavy losses in this new round of fighting that began with an Azerbaijani surprise attack on September 27.
The Russian foreign minister said that, under the proposal, the status of Karabakh and control of areas linking it to Armenia would be decided at a later date.
Alexander Hagopjanian (through translator):
Let me show you guys. Come. I will show you.
Reactions were mixed in Stepanakert, which sustained a steady stream of bombardment in the first weeks of the conflict, destroying Alexander Hagopjanian’s brand-new stoneworks.
Alexander Hagopjanian (through translator):
It would be reasonable to relinquish five districts. It would not be reasonable to talk about all seven. We cannot lose our link to mainland Armenia, and there can’t be an artificial buffer in between us, like the one that was artificially created by the Soviets.
As mediation continues behind closed doors within the framework of the so-called Minsk group, chaired by the United States, Russia and France, the leaders of the two warring nations have ratcheted up their public rhetoric.
Nikol Pashinyan (through translator):
At this crucial moment, the Armenian people have only one thing to do, unite, mobilize all the potential we have, halt the enemy with a decisive blow, and achieve a final victory.
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s president confirmed that Turkish F-16 fighter jets were indeed parked in Azerbaijan, but said they were only there for support.
Ilham Aliyev (through translator):
Turkish F-16 jets are here. They came here for military exercises. After these exercises, and after the Armenian attacks, they remained here. But they are on the ground, not up in the air, and none of them were used in this war.
Sounding equally warlike, the man who supplied those fighter jets and mercenaries from Syria, Turkish President Erdogan. He spoke yesterday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who holds a mutual defense treaty with Armenia, but also supplies weapons to Azerbaijan, stoking fears the conflict could expand, pitting a NATO member against Russia.
For the «PBS NewsHour,» I’m Simon Ostrovsky in Stepanakert.
Sometimes truth and lies cross paths, and no more so than in the case of the Republic of Artsakh. If you thought post-Soviet state – you’d be right. But it’s one that doesn’t exist. No-one recognizes this “republic” – the Armenian name for the place really called Nagorno-Karabakh – and it is where, earlier this week, a ceasefire lasted a whole hour before the fighting was restarted by the Armenian-backed separatists who control it, against Azerbaijan who legally owns it.
America should care about this, for far beyond the battlefield an international media war is underway to re-brand dangerous Russian and Iranian-backed separatists as freedom fighters – and in the same breath condemn as aggressor the nation which by international law and every other country in the world rightly claims ownership. It is an attempt to drag the United States into the fight on false pretenses. And it would be all too easy to believe the tale being woven, leading America into making vital – and disastrous – foreign policy decisions.
The real facts are simple. Some thirty years ago, during the fall of the Soviet Empire, Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a brutal war within Azerbaijan over the majority ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, leading to its control by separatists and separation – along with swathes of additional Azerbaijani territory with majority Azerbaijanis – from that country until the present-day.
Majority ethnic Armenian it was, and it remains. But in the 1990s there was a large Azerbaijani and Muslim minority – one million who were forcibly evicted from these lands and their homes and who now live as internally displaced persons within their own country of Azerbaijan. Then, Christians and Muslims lived therewith their churches and mosques – both with a joint claim to one and half millennia of history and culture. But no longer. Today the mosques are destroyed, their remains used as pens for grazing cattle. Now we are told this place which Armenia renamed “Artsakh” is Christian, and Armenian, only – and always was. And we are told it is under attack from Muslim invaders.
This is not – as Kim Kardashian, self-appointed geopolitical strategist and celebrity supporter of the “Republic of Artsakh” has claimed – a reason why America should do more to assist Armenia. It is a reason why we should be careful to base U.S. foreign policy on fact and not a carefully crafted Hollywood fiction.
For behind the separatists stands Armenia – a country with a military pact with Russia so intense they are host to a military base with thousands of Russian paratroopers and a dedicated Russian border guard corps.
Armenia is similarly backed, funded, and armed by Iranian Mullahs. They are opposed to Azerbaijan because one-third of Iran itself is ethnic Azeri – and it was that minority within Iran who first took to the streets to bring governance reforms during the Middle Eastern spring.
Armenia in its turn is so symbiotically connected to the separatists it is impossible to disconnect one from the other. During the recent two weeks of war, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan even traveled to the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh to review the separatists’ troops, with American and British TV anchors in tow for the media exclusive.
What Pashinyan really did was step into someone else’s country to encourage a militant Iranian-backed, ethnic-cleansing army to keep on fighting for lands they control but do not own. When that army fired missiles at Azerbaijan’s second city Ganja last week killing civilians it was not, in fact, any form of defensive action – but rather an attack launched from illegally occupied Azerbaijan into non-occupied Azerbaijan. Who is the aggressor and who is the defender now?
This doesn’t mean we should be arming, or backing, Azerbaijan. But it does mean that we should be avoiding completely falling into the media confidence trick that is being played across our TV screens – where Russian and Iranian backed Armenia and its separatist proxies are being sweetened with a sprinkling of Hollywood stardust in an attempt to drag America into someone else’s war.
Artsakh is a land of make-believe. So is the story behind it. If there’s anything the United States can do it is to wade into the conflict carefully.
Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict: A Fight about International Law not Religion
Oct 16, 2020
The city of Shusha in Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is recognised as part of Azerbaijan by the UN, has been in the news after the bombing of a historic cathedral located there during the current fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Last week Armenia accused Azerbaijan of targeting Holy Saviour Cathedral, an iconic site in Shusha for the Armenian Apostolic Church, which was shelled during the recent clashes, which broke out on 27 September. 20% of Azerbaijani territories, including Shusha, have been under de facto Armenian control since the early 1990s despite 4 UN resolutions asking for immediate withdrawal of Armenian forces.
Both sides have blamed each other for the current violence with Azerbaijan countering the Armenian claims of damage to civilian targets with their own accusations against the Armenian army firing on civilians in Ganja, Tartar, Beylagan, Garbanoy and Mingachevir – home to the biggest power plant in the South Caucasus. These regions are a long way from the centre of hostilities and have no military targets.
The Armenian accusations concerning the bombing of the cathedral in Shusha risk reopening old scars and igniting a religious motive behind the war, where none exists.
Armenia has a national Christian religion, which is a very old form of Christianity that was the first to be identified as a state religion. As a national church, it plays an important part in the spiritual life, development of the national culture, and preservation of the national identity of the people of Armenia.
But Azerbaijan is known as a secular state, which is tolerant and multicultural as it embraces many different religions. Whilst the majority of the population of the country is Muslim, religious observance tends to be low, and Muslim identity is based more on culture and ethnicity than religion.
People of many religions co-exist harmoniously in Azerbaijan, including Jewish, Christians and others, and the constitution guarantees that people of all faiths may choose and practice their religion without restriction. While restoring and funding dozens of churches and 7 synagogues at home, Azerbaijan also provides support for the restoration of religious sites abroad, including the cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, the Marcellino and Pietro Catacombs in the Vatican, synagogues and churches in Georgia. Known as the land of no-antisemitism, Azerbaijan has been home for centuries to the ancient Mountain Jew community in Quba, the largest all-Jewish town outside Israel.
It would be an absolute travesty if the current war, which is fundamentally about international law and the sovereign control of territory, were to degenerate into bickering and propaganda about religious differences. It is absolutely essential that the brokers for peace in this regional conflict deal with the legal issues at stake of land and sovereignty, and they should not allow either side to start trading insults, which are based upon racial or religious stereotypes. This will only inflame passions and tempers in the torrid Caucasus, when it is the qualities of patience and restraint that are in short supply at present.
Human Rights News: The Importance Of International Law In Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict
By Rodney Dixon
The separatists of Nagorno-Karabakh cannot claim the mantle of democracy when they have none. Elections – such as they have been conducted in the territory – have not been supported or recognized by the international community.
Though the occupied territories are today largely ethnically Armenian, this was achieved by force, in recent decades, after close to one million Azerbaijanis were ejected from their homes and who now live as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) across Azerbaijan.
A decisive ethnic majority, especially one decisively secured through war is not a justification for statehood. Neither is there any requirement under international law for the occupied territories to be recognized as an independent state in order to protect based on ethnicity, heritage and religion.
In the last two weeks, war in the Caucasus has reached our television screens and is alarming the world. There is real concern that this conflict may escalate with the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan drawing in more heavily armed regional powers. A temporary ceasefire only just agreed appears to have already been broken, and a lasting solution remains elusive.
To understand this unfolding disaster, it is imperative to consider the legal and policy arguments marshaled by the two sides. They boil down to this: do the claims of self-determination in respect of Nagorno Karabakh trump the legal ownership and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan?
Today, ethnic Armenian separatists control Nagorno Karabakh – recognized under international law as being within Azerbaijan’s borders – along with further Azerbaijani territory surrounding and connecting Nagorno Karabakh by land to Armenia. The separatists call these occupied territories the “Republic of Artsakh”: yet even Armenia has stopped short of recognizing this “republic” well aware that to do so would contradict established international law. Recognition has only come from a tiny clutch of similarly minded separatist groupings including the self-styled republics of Transnistria, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia. The only more puzzling recognition has come from the Government of New South Wales, a move so embarrassing to Australia that the country’s Foreign Minister felt obliged to take the unusual step of publicly reaffirming that it stands byNot a single UN Member State legally recognizes these lands as anything other than an integral part of Azerbaijan. And international institutions from the United Nations to the Council of Europe, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have all adopted the same position.
To attempt to counter this international legal lock, those who support separation raise democracy and the right to self-determination. They say this is a case of a people seeking to rule themselves, to protect their culture and human rights. They argue that “Artsakh” is ethnically Armenian and underpinned by democracy. Facing them is an “invader” of their historic lands who threatens their heritage and people-led government. It may for some make for a fine sounding, “moral” argument even: but it is unfounded when held against both international law and historical and modern-day fact.
Azerbaijan’s full territorial integrity.
Firstly, the separatists of Nagorno-Karabakh cannot claim the mantle of democracy when they have none. Elections – such as they have been conducted in the territory – have not been supported or recognised by the international community. Indeed, they have been denounced by the Council of Europe in its finding that “these so-called ‘elections’ cannot be legitimate”, and by the EU’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy who stated that the European Union “does not recognise the constitutional and legal framework” for Nagorno-Karabakh’s “parliamentary electictions.Secondly, though the occupied territories are today largely ethnically Armenian, this was achieved by force, in recent decades, after close to one million Azerbaijanis were ejected from their homes and who now live as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) across Azerbaijan. After the 1988-94 Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict when the territories came under the control of the separatists that further Armenians were then resettled there from Armenia itself. Thirdly, a decisive ethnic majority, especially one decisively secured through war is not a justification for statehood. Neither is there any requirement under international law for the occupied territories to be recognized as an independent state in order to protect based on ethnicity, heritage and religion. Such protections exist under the national laws of Azerbaijan and its international human rights obligations including the European Convention on Human Rights. There is no legal basis for creating what would amount to a second Armenian state within Azerbaijan.
There remains a single, lasting solution to the conflict: it is for those Azerbaijanis who were displaced in the 1988-94 conflict to be allowed to return to their homes as is their lawful right and, together with ethnic Armenians to find a way to live there together as part of the territory of Azerbaijan. Essential for doing so will be to strip away the distortions that surround the “territorial integrity versus self-determination” debate, and to understand both the applicable international law and the factual realities.
Integration may be hard to achieve. But it is vital to uphold international law and human rights standards and for an enduring peace.
Civilians killed in Ganja as Nagorno-Karabakh conflict escalates
Armenia rejects claims it was behind the attack that prompted Azerbaijan president to vow ‘revenge’.
17 Oct 2020
At least 13 civilians – including two children – have been killed and more than 40 wounded in an attack on Azerbaijan’s second city of Ganja that Baku said was carried out by Armenia.
A missile attack levelled a row of homes on Saturday, killing and badly injuring people in their sleep in a sharp escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Armenia denied it was behind the attack and in turn accused Azerbaijan of continued shelling on Stepanakert, the main city of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The attack on Ganja marks a sharp escalation in the conflict, with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev promising “revenge”.
According to Hikmat Hajiyev, an assistant to the Azeri president, “more than 20 houses were destroyed” in the attack.
Mushfiq Jafarov, a member of parliament from Ganja, told Al Jazeera that two children are among those killed.
“There are only civilians living here,” said Jafarov.
The attack on Ganja, which has a population of more than 300,000 people, came only six days after a missile struck another residential part of the city, killing 10 civilians and leaving many on edge.
“Fortunately my family and I were not at home,” Sevil Aliyeva, a resident from Ganja, told Al Jazeera. “My house is destroyed.”
Rescue workers are digging through the rubble to find survivors.
One man was buried under the debris for 30 minutes before he was rescued. He said he was very tired and wanted this conflict to end soon.
At around the same time in the city of Mingecevir, an hour’s drive north of Ganja, AFP news agency reported the impact of a huge blast that shook buildings.
Mingecevir is protected by a missile defence system because it is home to a strategic dam, and it was not immediately clear if the missile was destroyed in the air or had made an impact.
The defence ministry said Mingecevir had come “under fire”, but provided no other immediate details.
An Azerbaijani official said a second missile hit a separate, industrial district of Ganja at around the same time.
Al Jazeera correspondent Sinem Koseoglu, reporting from Baku, said Azerbaijan was trying to run the diplomacy channels.
“We just heard from the assistant to the president that he himself is delegating a group of foreign diplomats and military attaches to head to Ganja to see the explosion site,” she said.
Azeri officials said the Scud missile was fired from the Armenian territory, which the Armenians have consistently denied.
“Based on Armenia’s defence ministry spokesperson’s claims, Ganja is a military target because of [the presence of] some military units, battalions and brigades and some defence industry factories,” Koseoglu said.
“Since October 4, Ganja has been targeted by rockets and ballistic missiles. These land in residential areas and the city centre, the most crowded dense residential areas.”
Hours after the shelling, the Azeri president said the country’s army would retaliate against Armenia and “take revenge on the battlefield”.
Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan, condemned the attack and called it a “war crime”.
“Armenia still commits war crimes and massacres civilians,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in a tweet. “Silence against this atrocity equals sharing responsibility of these murders.”
Armenian defence ministry denied the Azeri claim on shelling cities in Azerbaijan and accused Baku of continuing to shell populated areas inside Nagorno-Karabakh, including Stepanakert, the region’s biggest city.
Three civilians were wounded as a result of Azeri fire in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian foreign ministry said.
“We woke up at 4am due to an awful blow, it was not just a strike, it was something more powerful … we are scared, but we got used to it,” Lika Zakaryan, a 26-year-old resident of Stepanakert, told Reuters news agency.
“Sometimes we felt as if they were hitting directly on us.”
Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith said Armenia is now under intense pressure, having lost control of some territory it has controlled since the 1994 ceasefire to Azerbaijan.
“The foreign ministry of Armenia has released a tweet and it says that consistent attempts by Azerbaijan to extend the geography of the conflict, plus irreversibly undermining regional security should be condemned in the strongest terms,” Smith said, speaking from the Armenian town of Vorotan.
“Armenia is accusing Azerbaijan of taking this territory militarily rather than the negotiations over which both sides agreed to take part in.”
The fighting which began on September 27 is the worst in the region since Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces went to war in the 1990s over Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway Azeri region predominantly populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.
More than 700 people, including nearly 80 civilians, have been killed in the conflict so far.
Azerbaijan, Armenia Agree to Cease-Fire Beginning Sunday
By VOA News
Updated October 17, 2020 05:04 PM
Azerbaijan and Armenia announced Saturday that they had agreed to a new cease-fire beginning at midnight, the second attempt in a week to temper almost three weeks of fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh.
«The Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan have agreed to a humanitarian truce as of October 18, 00h00 local time,» Armenia’s foreign ministry said late Saturday.
Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry issued an identical statement.
The announcements came after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke by phone with his Armenian and Azeri counterparts. Lavrov and French President Emmanuel Macron both stressed that the cease-fire must be strictly observed by both sides.
Earlier Saturday, Azerbaijan and Armenia accused each other of new attacks, a further indication that violence has escalated in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region in violation of a Russian-brokered truce that took effect a week ago.
Authorities in Azerbaijan said an Armenian missile attack on the city of Ganja killed at least 13 people and wounded 50 others in early hours of Saturday, while Armenia accused Azerbaijan of more shelling.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said that the cities of Ganja and Mingachevir were hit with missiles fired from two locations in Armenia.
According to official sources in Azerbaijan, Saturday’s missile attacks destroyed at least 20 residential buildings in Ganja, the country’s second-largest city.
The Armenian defense ministry denied carrying out the strikes and accused Azerbaijan of continuing to shell populated areas in Nagorno-Karabakh, including its largest city, Stepanakert.
The Armenian foreign ministry said three civilians were injured in a fire resulting from Azerbaijan’s attacks.
Armenia also accused Azerbaijan of flying drones over Armenian settlements, attacking military installations and damaging civilian infrastructure.
The U.N. Children’s Fund, meanwhile, called Saturday for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire, declaring in a statement that children have been killed, injured and displaced by the fighting, forcing them to endure weeks of “extreme psychological trauma and distress.”
“Children, families and the civilian facilities that they depend upon must be protected, in line with international human rights and humanitarian law. A complete cessation of hostilities is in the best interest of all children,” the statement said.
The fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia erupted Sept. 27 and has killed hundreds of people, marking the biggest escalation of the decades-old conflict over breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh since a 1994 cease-fire.
The predominantly ethnic Armenian territory declared its independence from Azerbaijan in 1991 during the collapse of the Soviet Union, sparking a war that claimed the lives of as many as 30,000 people before a 1994 cease-fire. However, that independence is not internationally recognized.
Missiles strike residential areas in Azerbaijan after shelling of Armenian separatist region
17/10/2020 — 05:51
A missile strike levelled a row of homes in Azerbaijan’s second city of Ganja Saturday, killing and badly injuring people in their sleep in a sharp escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The early hours attack, which saw a second missile strike another part of Ganja and a third reach the nearby strategic city of Mingecevir, came hours after Azerbaijani forces shelled the ethic Armenian separatist region’s capital Stepanakert.
There was no early official information about the toll from any of the attacks but AFP reporters in Ganja saw a rescue team remove black bags containing body parts from the scene.
The spike in violence further undermines international efforts to calm a resurgence of fighting between Christian Armenians and Muslim Azerbaijanis before it draws in regional powers Russia and Turkey.
An AFP team in Ganja saw rows of houses turned to rubble by the strike, which shattered the walls and ripped the roofs off buildings in the surrounding streets.
People ran outside in shock and tears, stumbling through muddy alleys in their slippers, some wearing bathroom robes and pajamas.
One witness said he saw rescuers pull a small child, two women and four men from the debris in the minutes immediately after the strike.
«We were sleeping. The kids were watching TV,» Rubaba Zhafarova, 65, said in front of her destroyed house.
«All the houses around here are destroyed. Many people are under the rubble. Some are dead, some are wounded.»
The attack came only six days after a missile struck another residential part of the city of more than 300,000 people, killing 10 civilians.
Hikmat Hajiyev, an assistant to Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, tweeted that according to «initial information, more than 20 houses were destroyed» on Saturday.
Passports, keys, bracelets
Rescuers periodically called for silence so they could detect sounds of survivors as the hours passed, pulling out passports, keys, bracelets and items of clothing from the debris.
They called in sniffer dogs and watered down the suffocating columns of dust with hoses from a fire truck.
«One woman was missing her feet. Someone else was missing an arm at the elbow,» said Elmir Shirinzaday, 26.
AFP later saw three more people carried away on stretchers, although it was not clear if they were dead or alive.
«My wife was there, my wife was there,» one man cried inconsolably while being walked toward an ambulance by a paramedic.
At around the same time in the city of Mingecevir, an hour’s drive north of Ganja, AFP heard the impact of a huge blast that shook buildings.
Mingecevir is protected by a missile defence system because it is home to a strategic dam, and it was not immediately clear if the missile was destroyed in the air or had made impact.
The defence ministry said Mingecevir had come «under fire», but provided no other immediate details.
An Azerbaijani official said that a second missile hit a separate, industrial district of Ganja at around the same time.
No immediate details about that second attack were known.
The decades-long Nagorno-Karabakh conflict re-erupted on September 27 in hotly disputed circumstances and has so far killed more than 700 people, including nearly 80 civilians.
The mountainous western region of Azerbaijan has remained under separatist ethnic Armenian control since a 1994 ceasefire ended a brutal war that killed 30,000.
But Armenia, which backs Nagorno-Karabakh but does not recognised its independence, has admitted that Azerbaijani forces have made important gains along the front in the past week.
AFP on Friday was taken by the Azerbaijani military to one settlement re-captured in the southern section of the conflict zone near the Iranian border.
Officials said they last controlled the settlement of Jabrayil, which includes strategic hights over looking a fertile valley, during the post-Soviet war.
The current escalation is the deadliest and longest since that six-year conflict.
The shelling of Stepanakert and the strikes on Ganja followed a joint call from Russian President Vladimir Putinand Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday to «end the bloodshed as soon as possible.»
Armenia is using PKK terrorists on the front lines in Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijani Vice President Hikmet Hajiyev told an online meeting organized by the British Foreign Press Association.
Hajiyev said Armenia targets civilians and rejected claims that Syrian fighters were fighting for Azerbaijan.
«First of all, we don’t need such a thing. We have a very professional military. We also have enough reserve power,» he said.
However, he said foreign fighters from several countries including Syria, Lebanon, as well as the U.S., Canada and France, in particular, were fighting among the ranks of Armenia’s armed forces.
Hajiyev urged countries, whose Armenian citizens have joined the war and are killing Azerbaijani civilians, to stop the slaughter of ordinary civilians.
«We also have concerns about the PKK terrorist organization’s involvement in the war. They are also in the ranks of the Armenian armed forces. Essentially, they are deployed to the front line for the defense of the Armenian armed forces,» said Hajiyev.
Armenia is also using civilian airplanes, which is «against the rules of the International Civil Aviation Organization. They have attached missile systems to civilian airplanes. In addition, weapons and missiles are being sent in the name of ‘humanitarian aid,'» he said, noting that it was carrying arms on its official airplane as if it is on a formal visit.
«They kill Azerbaijani civilians with them. This also needs to be examined by the international media,» he said.
About relations with Turkey, Hajiyev said: «Turkey’s diplomatic and moral support for Azerbaijan essentially takes place on the basis of international law.»
Hajiyev said there is defense cooperation but it cannot be attributed to Azerbaijan’s defense capabilities or be considered as a third country’s participation in the war.
He said Armenia is using PKK terrorists on the front line in Nagorno-Karabakh and his country does not expect progress on talks to be held in the U.S. between Azerbaijani foreign minister with American and Armenian counterparts.
New clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia have erupted over the control of Nagorno-Karabakh. The conflict, which has been going on for over three weeks, has devastated the region, killing hundreds of soldiers and dozens of civilians. Simon Ostrovsky reports from ground zero with support from the Pulitzer Center. A warning: some of the images seen are disturbing.
Read the Full Transcript
New clashes have erupted in the contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The fighting between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces has been going on for nearly three weeks there, despite efforts of a Russian-brokered cease-fire last weekend.
The destruction has swept through this region with devastating force and is eroding assurances that have held for nearly 30 years.
Special Correspondent Simon Ostrovsky has been reporting in the region with support from the Pulitzer Center and has the latest.
Some of the images in this segment are disturbing.
The war over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave has dragged on for more than three weeks, sweeping through this region with devastating force. It’s also sweeping away old certainties that have held here for almost three decades.
Ethinc-Armenians won control of this region in a bitter and bloody war between the former Soviet Republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan that broke out as the Soviet Union disintegrated.
They cemented their rule over these mountains, declaring independence and forging overland links with Armenia. Azerbaijan doesn’t yet rule the mountains, but in this new war, it rules the sky with an arsenal of sophisticated weaponry purchased with its oil wealth.
It’s a war in which you never see your enemy face to face. Ethnic-Armenian forces are left to warily scan the sky searching for the next suicide drone or guided missile.
It’s a plane! It’s a plane! It’s not safe here!
The same thing happened yesterday. We were hit with bombs, some kind of smerch rockets or artillery. I don’t really know, I’m a doctor, I don’t know these weapons very well.
Here in Martakert, a military hospital was destroyed in a strike on Wednesday as staff removed bodies for transportation homewards. Two medics were injured.
This town, like other parts of Karabakh, has remained under fire despite a cease-fire that was brokered by Russia last week.
Russia once ruled over both Armenia and Azerbaijan, but lately, there is a new power player in the region: Turkey. It’s supplied its ally, Azerbaijan, with an arsenal of killer drones and sent in Syrian mercenaries on Baku’s behalf.
Ankara’s involvement is evoking memories of the 1915 Armenian genocide.
Martin Sargiyan fears the worst.
Genocide for us. They don’t want us here.
For almost three weeks, Sargiyan has called this cellar underneath a kindergarten in the town of Martuni his home. He shares it with several other pensioners. One of whom was hit with shrapnel when his guard booth was destroyed by a bomb.
Here on the fringes of Karabakh, unlike in the big cities, the cease-fire never came into effect, the war never ended. The men here are frail and old, they say they hope for peace, but they’re also ready for war.
Half an hour ago there were explosions, a 100 meters from here. We want peace. We want our sons and grandchildren to come here. To be near me, that’s what I want.
Martuni has been transformed into a ghost town. The streets are pockmarked and deserted. The sound of distant artillery fire hangs in the air.
Yet, Violetta Tumanyan refuses to flee.
My son is on the frontline, she says. If we stay here, our sons will fight harder knowing they need to defend us.
Further back from the frontline in the town of Lachin, we meet the owner of a supermarket.
Stepan Sargsyan lived in Los Angeles for 20 years before deciding to plant roots along the only functioning road connecting Karabakh to the Republic of Armenia.
On Friday, a bridge here was targeted with an airstrike in an attempt to sever that link.
He tells us it has become more difficult to fill store shelves with dairy products and meat since the conflict began.
It was a very, very big attack. We didn’t expect it to be this bad. I didn’t think that the world would stand by and look at it, and then make some regular standard statements and then forget about it.
I say that it will be fine. They won’t win. But let’s hope that God will help us. That ends up being true.
Districts like Lachin are at the center of Azerbaijan’s grievances with Armenians.
When ethnic-Armenian forces won the first war, they didn’t just take control of the mostly Armenian Karabakh region, they also took over seven surrounding districts of Azerbaijan, forcing out the ethnic-Azeri population. Armenians too had to flee areas that remained under Azerbaijan’s control.
Karabakh’s representative to the United Sates, Robert Avetisyan, told me these Azerbaijani districts, which are now largely depopulated, serve as an important security buffer for Nagorno-Karabakh, which Armenians call Artsakh.
Do you think there is a scenario in which Nagorno-Karabakh will ever trade land for recognition with Azerbaijan as part of a lasting peace settlement?
Whatever is the Republic of Artsakh today is even less geographically and historically than historical Artsakh, which was part of Armenia for millennia.
So that’s a no?
That is the clear understanding that the security of the Republic of Artsakh is in the hand of the political leadership and the Defense Army of the Republic of Artsakh.
Azerbaijan too has taken an uncompromising stance, demanding all the territory controlled by Armenians within it’s internationally recognized borders be returned to its control.
Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijani President:
But at the same time we have proposed that in the future, the Armenian community and the Azerbaijani community should peacefully coexist there.
The overall death toll continues to rise.
According to Armenia, 633 soldiers and 34 civilians have died from its side. Azerbaijan reports 43 of its civilians have been killed but isn’t releasing figures for military casualties. Judging by the grim footage coming out from the battlefield, it too is sustaining heavy losses.
While Azerbaijan has made some modest territorial gains, it hasn’t swept the board as it’s military leadership had originally hoped. A temporary cease-fire was agreed to on Saturday but the two sides appear to be locked in a gruelling war with no end in sight.
Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh: The Azerbaijani perspective on the route to peace
October 21st, 2020
Since the end of September, the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh has been reignited. Rovshan Ibrahimov and Murad Muradov present the Azerbaijani perspective on the roots of the current escalation and the way forward to a peaceful resolution.
Between 1988-94, in the shadow of the break-up of the Soviet Union, Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a war within the borders of Azerbaijan. The outcome was the occupation of the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh – where there was at that time and remains today an ethnic Armenian majority – and an additional seven neighbouring districts surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh where Azerbaijanis had always constituted an overwhelming majority. As a result of the invasion, 600,000 ethnic Azeris lost their homes and became Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). A further 400,000 Azeri refugees also fled their homes within Armenia to Azerbaijan as a result of persecution.
The debate over the cultural ownership and heritage of Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven occupied territories are today subject to widespread debate – but not widespread appreciation of the historical facts. It cannot be disputed that both Azerbaijani and Armenian, Christian and Muslim history and culture run deep across this region and for over one and a half thousand years. It is perhaps though to be expected that the further the journey is taken back into that history, the further it becomes subject to mythmaking.
Yet wind forward to the 1988-94 Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, and the facts are much clearer: that balance was broken by the mass eviction of one ethnic group by and in favour of another, with the current ethnic make-up further majoritised by the re-location over the last two decades of tens of thousands of additional Armenians to the occupied territories from Armenia itself. The organised re-engineering of the ethnic balance of these territories was indeed decisively condemned at the time, when in 2005 the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) condemned in the strongest possible terms “large-scale ethnic expulsion and the creation of mono-ethnic areas which resemble the terrible concept of ethnic cleansing” (Resolution 1416).
Negotiations have in theory been taking place ever since the 1994 ceasefire, mediated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group – co-chaired by the United States, Russia and France, and founded in 1992, while the last conflict was still being fought.
The Minsk Group set out with the good intentions of resolving the conflict within the fundamental framework of the United Nations Security Council resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884, requiring the urgent withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from the occupied Azerbaijani territories. This has never happened. It is the failure of the Minsk Group process that has directly led to the current conflict.
Essentially this brings to the forefront of the return of the fighting today a fundamental question over priorities for the international community: what matters most, principles of international law, or the acceptance of de facto situations which are at odds with those principles?
Territorial integrity vs the 1991 ‘referendum’
In 1991, some three years before the end of the last conflict, while the war still raged – but after the forced ejection by Armenian forces of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Azeris – an illegal ‘independence referendum’ was held in Nagorno-Karabakh. The fact that the war was still ongoing and that the only voters were the ethnic majority and their supporting occupying forces should alone be enough to conclusively reject the result. Yet added to that, we can see parallels with the cases of Catalonia, Scotland or Corsica where independence referendums cannot be held without the consent of the Spanish, UK or French governments respectively – these being the legally recognised sovereign countries of which those territories are constituent parts. For the 1991 referendum to have any validity, it required the consent of the Azerbaijan Government, and that consent was quite obviously not given.
Referring to Article 72 of the 1977 Soviet constitutional law (which was still in place, with the USSR existent in 1991) the right for unilateral secession was retained exclusively by 15 constituent republics, but not for lower-level administrative entities – and not for Oblasts, of which Nagorno-Karabakh was one.
Even more decisively, on the international stage, not a single UN member state has ever recognised the validity of the vote, with the unsurprising result that the ‘Republic’ remains to this day unrecognised by any country. Even the Republic of Armenia has not granted recognition to Nagorno-Karabakh, nor sought to publicly contradict this tenet in international law. Additionally, the European Court of Human Rights, commenting in 2015 on the Chiragov and others v. Armenia case regarding the property rights of Azerbaijani nationals living in the district of Lachin currently under occupation, ruled that Armenia had been exercising effective control over the Nagorno-Karabakh without any legal basis in international law to do so.
The evolving, regressing Armenian position
It is known that the first President of Armenia, Levon Ter-Petrosyan, had a pragmatic view regarding the resolution of the conflict. Ter-Petrosyan clearly understood the future prospects of Armenia – landlocked without direct sea access, and without an abundance of natural resources – were limited without better relations with its neighbours. To improve them he sought better relations specifically with Azerbaijan and Turkey, seeking Armenia’s participation in regional infrastructure projects, including the transportation of energy resources.
Despite the fact that Ter-Petrosyan actively participated in the negotiations to resolve the conflict, the growing presence of nationalists in the Armenian government who publicly supported Nagorno-Karabakh separation and separatists stymied his attempts at resolution. When in 1998 Ter-Petrosyan was forced to resign, that initial progress went with him.
Hopes were again raised twenty years later with the 2018 election of current Armenian Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, brought to power on the wave of the ‘velvet revolution’ – a nationwide mass protest movement against institutionalised corruption, lack of freedoms and economic stress.
It was widely expected by the international community that Pashinyan would be an ally in supporting the negotiations, held in the preceding years between Azerbaijan and Armenia with the mediation of the Minsk Group, which had led to what is known as the ‘Madrid Principles’. These state that the seven occupied regions adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh should be liberated and restored to Azerbaijani control, a corridor should be formed between Armenia and Karabakh, and the subsequent status of Nagorno-Karabakh should be determined on the consensual basis of the Azerbaijani and Armenian communities of Karabakh.
It is now clear these hopes have been dashed. Far from being the progressive force that was expected, Pashinyan has sabotaged the process by demanding the inclusion of representatives of the unrecognised ‘Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’, to the dismay of the three national co-chairs of the Minsk Group. Further regression to a nationalistic position was evident in abundance when Pashinyan visited Karabakh and surprised observers with his public declaration that “Karabakh is Armenia”.
The way forward
At a time of armed conflict, against the tragic background of thirty years of invasion, occupation, and resistance, it requires both vision and courage to work toward a better future beyond the battlefield. Yet the core principles on which that future can be built are well known. They are the principles that have been the Minsk Group’s basis for negotiations for nearly three decades; they reflect the UN Security Council’s resolutions, as well as the positions of countless international bodies – from the UN’s own General Assembly to the European Parliament; and they, inevitably, would result in the withdrawal of Armenian forces from Azerbaijan.
With that in place, the region can and must return to its true multi-faith, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic character. Clearly this will not be easy. But it is possible: already an example exists in today’s Azerbaijan itself – where ethnic Azeris live with some 30,000 Armenians (not including those in the occupied territories), Russians, Turks, Lezgins, Avars, Talyshs, Georgians, Tsakhurs and more. Azerbaijan’s leadership has made it clear what is on offer.
The legitimate ethnic Armenian population will be fully recognised and protected as citizens of Azerbaijan, and they will be joined by those of their former ethnic Azeri neighbours who choose to exercise their right, as refugees, to return. Homes, towns and villages razed to the ground both by previous conflict, and today’s, must be rebuilt. The horrors of a grey state, existing outside the norms of international law, can be addressed: environmental abuses and drug trafficking – well-documented under the occupation – must be tackled, and cease. The future holds a promise for economic, cultural and environmental renewal in this remote mountain region, a renewal whose positive effects will be felt far beyond.
Armenia’s tragedy is that is has been painted by the rhetoric of its leaders into an impossible, indefensible corner. The country’s leadership bears a heavy responsibility – but particularly the Pashinyan administration – when it had the open opportunity to set a new course that would both address injustices in the occupied territories and the economic fears voiced in the mass protests that brought Pashinyan to power in Armenia itself.
The current position of regression into nationalistic extremism is both economically and militarily indefensible. Inevitably, for Pashinyan and his government this is a truth that must – sooner or later – be aired publicly with his own populace: not doing so would likely lead to a heavy price being paid at the ballot box. It is an unenviable choice, to be sure. Yet the faster the facts and fiction are separated and the reality of Azerbaijan’s legal ownership and offer to build something better for both countries is acknowledged, the sooner the conflict can end and a better life can begin.
Humanitarian Ceasefire and Civilian Lives in Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict: What is at Stake?
21 October 2020 — 10:57
By Esmira Jafarova
On September 27 Azerbaijan announced the launch of its counteroffensive in response to Armenia’s military provocations along the Line of Contact.
Armenian side claims that it was Azerbaijan who attacked Armenia first and violated the ceasefire, which Azerbaijan rejects completely in view of Armenia’s recently increased military activism along the front line, i.e. in July, 2020 in the direction of Tovuz district, as well as lately along the Line of Contact.
In the face of assertive advances by the Azerbaijani armed forces, since September 27 Armenia pleaded for a ceasefire, which was eventually brokered by the Russian Federation with the participation of Russia’s Foreign Minister, S. Lavrov, and the respective foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Z. Mnatsakanyan and J. Bayramov, on October 9–10 in Moscow.
By October 10, Azerbaijan had already managed to liberate parts of its occupied territories and had broken the defenses of the Armed Forces of Armenia along the Line of Contact.
Termed a “humanitarian ceasefire,” its purpose was to offer a temporary lull in the conduct of active military hostilities beginning at noon on 10 October. The joint declaration that was issued at the end of eleven-hour-long discussions envisaged following three main points. First, the ceasefire is for humanitarian purposes, to enable the exchange of prisoners of war and the retrieval of the bodies of the dead, which has to be mediated by and in accordance with the requirements of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Second, Armenia and Azerbaijan, with the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairs and based on the basic principles of settlement – the so-called Madrid principles – have to be engaged in substantive negotiations to reach a peaceful settlement as soon as possible. Last, but not least, both conflicting parties once again “confirmed the invariability of the format of the negotiation process.”
The provisions of the declaration that refer to the return to “substantive negotiations based on the basic principles” and confirm the “invariability of the format of the negotiation process” are important. The period after Prime Minister Pashinyan’s ascension to power in Armenia was dominated by his heightened militaristic rhetoric and nationalist agenda vis-à-the Armenia–Azerbaijan conflict. He embarked on numerous provocations against Azerbaijan that, among others, included Armenia’s rejection of the Madrid Principles for a negotiated solution of the Armenia–Azerbaijan conflict and demand to change the format of negotiations to include the Nagorno-Karabakh region as an independent party. (The author of these lines has previously written about this in greater depth.) The call for substantive negotiations based on the basic principles was therefore an important factor in establishing Armenia’s liability in regard to the documents already agreed during the decades-long negotiation process. Moreover, reconfirmation of the existing format of negotiations means that Prime Minister Nicol Pashinyan’s attempts to include Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent party to the peace talks have turned into a fiasco.
When agreeing to the humanitarian truce, Azerbaijan made its objective very clear – its determination to liberate its occupied territories is inexorable. Having embraced a position of strategic patience for almost three decades and remained a committed party in the peace negotiations, Azerbaijan had hoped for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. However, with negotiations lasting for almost three decades without delivering a tangible solution to the conflict, Azerbaijan’s strategic patience started to wear thin.
President Ilham Aliyev, in his interviews with the foreign media, underlined that Azerbaijan is determined to fight till the liberation of all of its occupied territories. He also underscored that the solution to the Armenia–Azerbaijan conflict is politico-military. Nevertheless, he also made clear that the liberation of the occupied territories does not necessarily need to happen through military means and that Azerbaijan is ready to stop its counteroffensive if Armenia returns to negotiations and gives a clear timetable for the withdrawal of its troops from all occupied Azerbaijani territories in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 853.
Nonetheless, right after the humanitarian ceasefire took effect, Armenia’s subsequent actions and statements caused utter confusion and disappointment. Armenia violated the humanitarian truce that it had asked for within minutes of it being signed. The second largest Azerbaijani city, Ganja, was attacked using Tochka-U and, later, SCUD ballistic missiles on the very night that the ceasefire took effect. Azerbaijan also reported the shelling of cities such as Tartar, Barda, Mingachevir, Aghjabedi, and Beylaghan. However, Ganja became a textbook example of war crimes against peaceful civilians. The missiles used against Ganja are proven to have large destructive capacity and their use against civilians is prohibited under international humanitarian law. The attacks were also confirmed as having been launched directly from Armenian territory. This attack against Ganja, which is far from the theater of military hostilities, killed 10 people and injured 34. On the nights of October 16–17, Armenia again attacked Ganja city using a SCUD/Elbrus tactical operative ballistic missile that killed more than 10 and wounded over 50 civilians, alongside causing significant destruction to civilian infrastructure. On the same night, Armenia also attacked the Mingachevir Dam; however, the missiles were intercepted by Azerbaijan’s air-defense system.
Despite these heinous terror attacks against civilians in Ganja, Azerbaijan expressed commitment to the humanitarian ceasefire, vowing, however, that this act of terror will be reciprocated against Armenia on the battlefield. The Foreign Policy Advisor to President Ilham Aliyev, Mr. Hikmet Hajiyev, also reiterated that Armenia’s ballistic missile launchers that target Azerbaijani cities and civilians automatically qualify as legitimate military objectives under jus in bello and Azerbaijan reserves the right to neutralize these installations to preempt future terror attacks. Representatives of the diplomatic corps in Azerbaijan were dispatched to Ganja to witness the destruction caused by the missile attacks. On October 14, Azerbaijan announced that it had neutralized several operational-tactical missile systems with ballistic missiles at the starting position in the border zone with the occupied Kalbajar region of Azerbaijan, having identified these as legitimate military objectives. Azerbaijan thereby prevented potential further deadly strikes against its peaceful civilians.
In the meantime, the latest statements by Armenia’s leadership in no way testify to any genuine intent to observe the humanitarian ceasefire, finally comply with the four UN Security Council resolutions, and de-occupy Azerbaijani lands peacefully. In his address to the nation on October 14, Prime Minister Pashinyan declared that, despite the losses that the Armenian army had incurred and its “tactical withdrawal” from some positions, Armenia will not withdraw from the occupied territories unless the issue in regard to the status of the Nagorno-Karabakh region is solved. Having reasserted Armenia’s maximalist and unconstructive position, Prime Minister Pashinyan once again confirmed that Armenia rejects the Madrid Principles, which envisage the staged de-occupation of Azerbaijani territories before any discussion on the status of the Nagorno-Karabakh region actually takes place. Such a belligerent and denialist rhetoric clearly hinders the chances for a peaceful solution of the conflict.
Apparently, Armenia is clutching at straws in an effort to compensate for its losses on the battlefield. Its pleas for a ceasefire once again proved to be a stratagem, as it had previously employed during the active military hostilities in the 1990s, for achieving a temporary lull in military hostilities in order to stage an attack of greater magnitude. A vivid example was the occupation of Shusha by the armed forces of Armenia on May 8, 1992, only a day after a ceasefire was mediated by Iran on May 7, 1992.
Today, Armenia continues to violate the humanitarian ceasefire and is attacking Azerbaijani cities and civilians in Ganja, Tartar, Aghdam, Aghjabadi, Goranboy, Ordubad (in Nakhchivan), and so on that are located far from the arena of military operations. In doing so, Armenia aims to terrorize innocent civilians and also, potentially, drag third parties, namely, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), into the conflict by provoking an Azerbaijani counterattack against military objectives in Armenian territory. Azerbaijan, however, remains resilient, shows restraint, abides by the humanitarian ceasefire, and defeats the repeated attacks by the armed forces of Armenia, who want to recapture the lost positions. In exercising its inherent and individual right to self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter, Azerbaijan,through the proportionate use of military force, is curbing the armed attack against its sovereignty and territorial integrity. In doing so, Azerbaijan is fighting against combatants in full compliance with the Geneva Conventions (1949).
The violent terror attacks against Ganja city on October 11, the very night that the humanitarian ceasefire took effect, and also on October 17 are utterly deplorable acts that amount to war crimes and violate all the relevant international legal documents. Unfortunately, similar attacks are still being carried out against Azerbaijani cities and civilians every day. Houses, hospitals, schools, kindergartens, and administrative buildings are exposed to intensive shelling, and Azerbaijan has so far suffered numerous deaths and injuries among its civilian population, including children. As of this writing, according to information distributed by the Prosecutor General’s Office of Azerbaijan, the death toll among the civilian population had reached 63, with 292 injured and about 1981 houses and 386 civilian facilities damaged or destroyed. Armenia has also repeatedly targeted Azerbaijan’s critical energy infrastructure, having launched missile attacks against the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan pipeline in the vicinity of Yevlakh district and against Mingachevir city in an effort to strike the Mingachevir Water Dam and Hydropower Station. It is not difficult to imagine the magnitude of the civilian causalities as well as the environmental consequences if these strategic objects were to be damaged.
Just very recently, starting from 18 October, midnight Armenia and Azerbaijan declared of another humanitarian ceasefire to take effect. However, the very same morning Azerbaijan reported of Armenian shelling of Azerbaijani cities again. One civilian died in Aghdam as a result of the shelling. Armed forces of Armenia also made attempts to attack Azerbaijani positions using fighter aircrafts.
The militaristic posture demonstrated by the Armenian side against Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, the security of its citizens, and its critical energy infrastructure may have dangerous consequences not only for the South Caucasus, but well beyond. Armenia continues to openly ignore the four resolutions of the United Nations Security Council (822, 853, 874, and 884) and, in contravention to the norms and principles of international law, and the Geneva Conventions in particular, is attacking Azerbaijani civilians. Innocent Azerbaijani civilians should not be punished, terrorized, or retaliated against to compensate for Armenia’s military losses on the battlefield. Even wars have laws, which Armenia grossly ignores and violates every day.
Azerbaijani political parties condemn Armenian «war crimes» against civilians
Posted on Oct 21, 2020
By Ceyhun Osmanli
Despite OSCE Minsk Group’s efforts to strike a second humanitarian ceasefire over on 17 October, Armenia once again failed to respect it, shelling the Aghdam region, which borders Nagorno-Karabakh. The first humanitarian ceasefire, brokered by Russia on 10 October had also collapsed,writes Ceyhun Osmanli.
This follows the horrific missile attack on the night of 17 October launched by Armenia against Azerbaijani sleeping civilians in Ganja, killing 13 civilians, including 3 children, leaving 50 civilians wounded, and destroying more than 20 residential buildings. With a population of 500,000 people, Ganja is the second largest city in Azerbaijan, which lies far away from the conflict zone. This attack came only six days after a missile struck the residential part of the city, killing 10 civilians. Since 4 October, the city has been targeted by Armenian rockets and ballistic missiles, alongside with other peaceful cities on the frontline– Absheron, Khizi, Barda, Beylagan, Aghjabadi, Zardab, Goranboy, Goygol, Tartar and Yevlakh.
Separately, Armenian armed forces launched an operational-tactical missile on Ordubud district of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic on 15 October, another Azerbaijani region, which is far away from Nagorno-Karabakh.
‘I ordered to bombard Ganja’ said the de facto leader of the Nagorno-Karabakh separatist regime Arayik Harutyunyan on Twitter on 4 October. As of 17 October, 61 civilians were killed, 291 civlians were injured, 327 civilian facilities and 1704 houses got destroyed in Azerbaijani cities, which are outside of the conflict zone. By contrast, no civilians were killed or destroyed on the Armenian side.
The shelling of civilians by ballistic missiles, as was the case in Ganja and other Azerbaijani cities during several attempts, is a war crime in violation of international law, including the principles of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. In a letter to international and regional organisations, including the UN, NATO, OSCE, the Council of Europe and the European Union, 51 political parties in Azerbaijan condemned Armenia’s ‘aggressive steps against Azerbaijan’ and excessive militarisation with the aim of ‘occupation of new territories’ in Azerbaijan. The letter highlighted the non-compliance of Armenia with UN resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884 of 1993, calling for an immediate and unconditional withdrawal its armed forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan while reaffirming the territorial integrity, sovereignty and inviolability of the internationally recognised borders of Azerbaijan.
While 51 out of 52 parties in Azerbaijan are supporting our President Ilham Aliyev in his legitimate quest to restore justice all by respecting Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity in face of the Armenian aggression, only 14 out of 80 parties in Armenia are in favour of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s belligerent policies.
For more than 30 years, Armenia has been occupying 20 percent of Azerbaijani territories in Nagorno-Karabakh and its 7 surrounding districts. Instead of abiding by international law or seeking for a constructive solution during the peace negotiations under the OSCE auspices, Armenia has adopted a new offensive doctrine “new war for new territories”, which was declared by its Defence Minister David Tonayan in March 2019.
On12 July this year, it launched a large-scale military operation in the direction of Tovuz district on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border, which lies far away from the conflict zone. The region has a strategic importance, as it is situated on energy and transport routes connecting Asia and Europe through Georgia. 50,000 Azerbaijanis volunteered for military service after this incident, which shows the popular support the Azerbaijani government enjoys in its fight about respect of international law.
The fighting, which began on 27 September is the worst since the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia in 1991-1994, which led to the loss of 30,000 lives and 1,000,000 refugees and Internally Displaced Persons. War crimes committed by Armenia, such as the 1992 Khojaly Massacre, killing 622 Azerbaijani civilians overnight, have gone unpunished. The international community shall stop turning a blind eye to such crimes against humanity and avoid similar massacres 30 years later. It is time for justice as keeping silent in face of these horrors would make the international community complicit in Armenia’s inhuman attacks.
Dr.Ceyhun Osmanlı is Leader of Azerbaijan Greens, former MP and analyst on international relations and political economy.
Nagorno-Karabakh peace hopes slim before Washington talks
OCTOBER 22, 2020
By Nailia Bagirova, Nvard Hovhannisyan
BAKU/YEREVAN (Reuters) — Hopes of ending nearly a month of bloodshed in the mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh looked slim on Thursday as Azeri and ethnic Armenian forces fought new battles on the eve of talks in Washington
Plans for U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia on Friday raised hopes this week that the two former Soviet republics would agree to end their deadliest fighting since the mid-1990s.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he hoped that the United States would help Moscow broker a solution to the conflict.
“I very much hope that our American partners will act in unison with us and will help the settlement,” Putin told a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club.
He added that he speaks to leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan several times a day by phone.
But those hopes have been dented by the continued heavy fighting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway territory that is inside Azerbaijan but controlled by ethnic Armenians, and by angry rhetoric from both sides.
Hundreds of people have been killed since fighting flared on Sept. 27, raising fears of a wider war drawing in Turkey and Russia and increasing concern about the security of pipelines in Azerbaijan that carry Azeri gas and oil to world markets.
Putin said on Thursday Moscow believed that nearly 5,000 people had been killed in fighting between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces, with more than 2,000 dead on each side.
Nagorno-Karabakh said 874 of its military personnel had been killed since Sept. 27, in addition to 37 civilians. Azerbaijan says 63 Azeri civilians have been killed and 293 wounded, but has not disclosed its military casualties.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on Wednesday he could see no diplomatic resolution of the long-running conflict at this stage.
In a transcript of comments to the Nikkei newspaper published on Thursday, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev said the prospects of reaching a peace settlement were “very remote”.
Reiterating Azerbaijan’s main condition for ending the fighting, Aliyev demanded promises that his country will be handed back control of Nagorno-Karabakh, which broke away as the Soviet Union collapsed.
“So our main objective at these discussions will be to find out whether the Armenian leadership is ready to liberate our territories or not, and if ready, then when?” he said.
Armenians regard Nagorno-Karabakh as part of their historic homeland and accuse Azerbaijan of making a land grab in the recent fighting.
Aliyev said he would not rule out “cultural autonomy” for ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh but not say what he meant by this.
Russia has brokered two ceasefires since Sept. 27 but neither has held.
Azerbaijan reported fighting in several areas on Thursday, including territories near the line of contact that divides the sides.
It also said Armenia had fired three ballistic missiles at three regions inside Azerbaijan but Armenia denied this.
Armenia reported fighting in several areas, and Nagorno-Karabakh officials said the town of Martuni and nearby villages in the enclave had been shelled.
Azeri forces, bolstered by weapons bought from Turkey, say they have made territorial gains in the latest fighting, including full control over the border with Iran, though Nagorno-Karabakh says its forces have repeatedly repulsed attacks.
Turkey has said it would send soldiers and provide military support for Azerbaijan if such a request were made by its ally.
Putin said Russia disagreed with Turkey on Nagorno-Karabakh, but both countries needed to find a compromise. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan “might seem tough, but is a flexible politician and reliable partner for Russia,” he said.
Pompeo said on Wednesday he still hoped a diplomatic solution could be found as the United States, France and Russia press on with mediation efforts they have led for decades.
He said the “right path forward is to cease the conflict, tell them to de-escalate, that every country should stay out”.
Nagorno-Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan. On that basis, war with Armenia can be ended
By Jeyhun Bayramov — — Thursday, October 22, 2020
During the night of Oct. 16, Armenian Scud missiles were launched on Azerbaijan’s second city, Ganja. Conducted under darkness, with no prior warning to allow for evacuation, the attack targeted homes and innocent families. Fourteen civilians lost their lives; another 40 were seriously injured.
This second attack could have been the third. Last week, military intelligence reported an Armenian missile battery moving to the border with Azerbaijan to strike the city. Requiring special authorization from the Armenian defense ministry, the planned attack — like the last — could only come via direct orders from the country’s leadership.
There was no option but to destroy the missile battery. However, there is a difference between striking a military installation on the one hand, and purposely targeting innocent civilians with long-range Scuds on the other. Ganja is 60 km from occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, the reason for our return to war.
There is also a difference between the reporting of this conflict and what it really is. It has been called a border dispute; even, as some wish it to be, a proxy war for competing global powers. As a matter of fact, this is a war in Azerbaijan’s territory. It has been triggered by Armenia’s invasion and more than two-decade long occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and its seven surrounding territories. With the repeated targeting of Ganja, it now extends to Azerbaijani territory, which is not — and never has been — a conflict zone.
Since the 1988-94 war that resulted in illegal occupation of 20% of Azerbaijan, my country has negotiated for nearly 30 years for its peaceful return. It is disappointing that the international community has adopted an attitude close to appeasement of the occupier by failing to enforce the rule of international law.
There is no future for a second Armenia — the so-called ‘Republic’ of Nagorno- Karabakh — within the internationally designated borders of Azerbaijan. This is fact, not opinion: It has been enshrined in international law through four successive United Nations Security Council resolutions.
From the United States to Russia, even Armenia itself — every country recognizes the legality of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, and Nagorno-Karabakh’s indissoluble place within it. Moreover, Azerbaijan has repeatedly stated its commitment to grant Nagorno-Karabakh the highest possible autonomy once and when peace is achieved.
So with the separatists, there is nothing to negotiate: save the need for all of those who can legitimately call Nagorno-Karabakh home — whether of Armenian ethnicity or the near one million Azerbaijani refugees evicted from their homes during the 1988-94 war — to find a way to coexist and live together on the same land and in peace as an integral part of Azerbaijan.
his is possible. Azerbaijan is already a mix of Sunni and Shia, Jew and Christian Orthodox — of Azerbaijanis, Russians, Lezgins, Avars, Talishs, Georgians, Tsakhurs and many others. Some 30,000 Armenians — excluding the occupied territories — call Azerbaijan home. It is not a place of monolithic ethnicity, nor single religion.
Yet, for now at least, the current government of Armenia keeps pushing its destructive agenda. During recent ceasefire negotiations in Moscow, their diplomats insisted, at the eleventh hour, that the separatists should sit at the negotiating table before any agreement was signed. This was rejected by Azerbaijan and our hosts. In any case, there is no reason to speak with proxies when their funders are already seated opposite.
The last-minute attempt by Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan was about stalling the inevitable. We suspect it a diversion from his failure in governance at home, where arrests of opposition leaders and journalists had dramatically increased. Before the conflict, challenges were fast mounting against his administration to deliver on their election promises.
his is his motivation in expanding the confrontation we are witnessing. Now, Mr. Pashinyan is seeking to draw in America, particularly, and the Armenian-American and worldwide diaspora to make this falsely appear as an existential threat; not just to the state of Armenia but to all Armenians everywhere.
Azerbaijan, though, wishes to live together with Armenia as neighbors in peace and prosperity. All of our common troubles stem from the Armenian invasion, occupation, and refusal to comply with the only possible condition for peace: to remove their troops from our lands. We must learn to live differently.
But we start at the beginning with what will remain true at the end: Nagorno-Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan. On that basis we can end this war — and take the path to peace.
• Jeyhun Bayramov is minister of foreign affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
LONDON – As fighting rages between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed breakaway territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, with hundreds dead and fears regional powers Turkey and Russia could be pulled in, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo huddled with the foreign ministers of the two countries in a diplomatic bid to halt the fighting.
Meanwhile, in an exclusive interview with Fox News, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said his country is prepared to lay down its arms.
“We are ready to agree to a cease-fire,” he said, adding that such a move is conditioned on Armenia pulling out of what Azerbaijan calls “occupied” borderlands. Two past cease-fires have failed during the nearly four-week deadly battle.
Baku has come under international criticism for what’s claimed to be civilian casualties in the conflict. Residential buildings and even a landmark church have been hit by Azeri military fire. Azerbaijan says Armenia is doing the same, and the president claimed the damage is not intentional.
“We publicly said we will take revenge, but on the battlefield,» Aliyev said. «We do not kill civilians. We do not target religious sites.”
The concern is that this now-localized war could expand: Turkey backs Azerbaijan, and Russia is a nominal ally of Armenia.
“Our position is that all the regional countries should stay away from direct involvement in the conflict,” Aliyev said. «We are completely against the ‘internationalization’ of the conflict.”
Still, Turkey’s backing of Baku is strong and public. In addition to military gear, it’s alleged by multiple sources that Turkey-allied Syrian militia are fighting alongside Azeri troops. Aliyev flatly denied the charges.
“We don’t need any mercenaries,» he said. «It’s all fake news aimed at damaging the image of the country and diminishing the bravery of the soldiers on the battlefield.”
Some accounts note the pre-election timing of the meetings held in Washington between Pompeo and principals in the fight. Following the meetings, President Trump told reporters optimistically, «We will see what happens.”
Azerbaijan’s president seemed willing to accept assistance, however he gets it.
“Any motivation in order to put an end to hostility is supported by us,” Aliyev said. “A very straightforward position by President Trump is supported by me as well as the people of Azerbaijan.”
In fact, at Friday’s Oval Office press event, Trump praised Armenia and did not mention Azerbaijan. Asked one more time if he thought a peaceful resolution was possible, Aliyev gave a measured reply.
“I am absolutely confident … but it depends on the other side,” he said.
Armenians are renowned the world over as a resourceful and skillful people. For a small nation, they have produced a remarkable number of impressive and original minds, and Kardashians too.
But Armenians’ fabled ingenuity notwithstanding, the country of Armenia has fallen into a sophisticated trap of its own making – bankrupting its intellectually wealthy but economically fragile nation and stifling its own advancement.
The trap – initially designed as a ploy to secure the permanent, internationally condoned transfer of a large swath of sovereign territory in neighboring Azerbaijan – now appears to have backfired.
The stage was set by 1994, following a brutal war with Armenia, who then controlled Nagorno Karabakh, an enclave within Azerbaijan with an ethnic Armenian population and seven surrounding ethnic Azerbaijani districts. Seven hundred thousand Azerbaijanis were evicted from Karabakh, becoming Internally Displaced Persons, with an additional 300,000 from Armenia becoming refugees. The outcome was the occupation of territory – approximately 25 percent of Azerbaijan – and ethnic cleansing in all but name.
United Nations Security Council, General Assembly, Council of Europe, and European Parliament resolutions followed – all demanding the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan be restored. But Armenia leveraged a sham independence referendum, held in Nagorno-Karabakh, which even they did not recognize.
With a synchronized troupe of skilled diplomats from a trio of Great Powers treading water, Armenia’s answer was not to comply with international law but to buy time and stay afloat.
Thanks to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group – co-chaired by negotiators from the United States, Russia, and France – repeated talks took place, with near breakthroughs but little demonstrable progress, for close to three decades. During this time, Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven other occupied regions remained under Armenia’s control.
Cut off from the sea – its nearest coast in Azerbaijan – and lacking the oil wealth and natural resources of its neighbors had stunted Armenia’s growth for decades. The steep costs associated with funding the occupied territories for almost thirty years had proven a further burden. Enter Nikol Pashinyan. A former journalist and opposition politician, Pashinyan was raised to power from the streets by a “velvet revolution” of mass protest against endemic corruption and economic failure in Armenia.
Pashinyan seemed Western, and more reasonable at first. Ascending to power with calls for freedoms and rights ringing in his ears, he could have, perhaps, negotiated a settlement that may have advanced Armenia economically – returning occupied lands in exchange for jobs and investment. But instead, the offensive posture that facilitated his rise led him to demand that Minsk Group co-chairs, as well as Azerbaijan, include leaders from the unrecognized and illegal “Republic” in a naked attempt to force the issue of legal independence for the occupied territories onto the agenda.
Analyses – Western Media’s approach to Nagorno- Karabakh rife with bias and prejudice
Assoc. Prof. Yusuf Ozkir
The writer is Lecturer at the Istanbul Medipol University’s Faculty of Communication. He is also the publication coordinator of the Kriter political and social journal.
The status quo in the Caucasus has been shaken with Azerbaijan recapturing parts of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which has been under Armenian occupation for nearly 30 years. As the famous phrase goes: the genie is out of the bottle now. In the words of Azeri journalist Ceyhun Asirov, one of the prominent names when it comes to providing essential information to the Turkish and world media about the region, the much-propagated Armenian rhetoric on Azerbaijan as a “defeated nation” in the Caucasus has been “relegated to the trash bin of history”. Azerbaijani Turks have now confirmed their position as a “victorious nation” with their advance in Nagorno-Karabakh. President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, recently saying “Where on earth is the Armenian army? They could not withstand us; they are fleeing!” in reference to the advance of the Azerbaijani army, once again announced to the world that Armenia, whose image has long been inflated unjustifiably by the global media, has actually proved a paper tiger. The statements coming out of Armenia, on the other hand, are trying to present all these losses and defeats as a “withdrawal”. However, the picture before us is very clear and shows that the real situation is very different, with the Armenians decisively defeated on every front where a clash took place.
Having been defeated in the actual battleground, the Armenian army resorts to certain other methods, one of which is to perpetrate civilian massacres. Armenia, which committed civilian massacres in the early 1990s, especially in the Khojaly region, is now carrying out missile attacks on the city of Ganja in Azerbaijan to cover up its defeats at the front. Dozens of civilians have died in these attacks so far, with also dozens of houses reduced to mere rubble.
Attacks on areas outside the conflict zone constitute war crimes according to international conventions. But despite committing crimes of this nature before, the Armenian state does not shy away from committing the likes of them again and again, confident that it will face no sanctions whatsoever. Considering the silence of global organizations to be an implicit green light, Armenia is highly likely to continue its attacks on civilian settlements. The international community should not have remained silent in the face of these attacks, be it only for saving the dignity of its principles and institutions.
Western media playing “the three monkeys”
The response of the major international media organizations to the Ganja attack, and to all other civilian massacres that have taken place so far, has been very problematic since the very beginning of this conflict. Where global organizations and political power centers have adopted a strongly biased attitude, it is not rational to expect neutrality from the media, which is merely a useful tool in the hands of the very same organizations and political power centers; yet what still manages to strike us as very troubling is how these media organizations, which are so keen on delivering universal sermons on journalistic principles, can be so biased when it comes to reporting on the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict. One can, very surprisingly, see the phrase “Turkish aggression” interspersed throughout the news reports and opinion pieces.
In this regard, the general broadcasting policy of the major news agencies of the world, such as Russia’s Sputnik, France’s Agence France Presse (AFP) and France 24, the UK’s BBC and Reuters and the US’s Associated Press (AP), is very problematic in that they have been disseminating utterly biased content. In the aftermath of the Ganja attack, news media such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the CNN did not run a single sentence on the attack. The AP, on the other hand, first reported that the Armenian Defense Ministry was denying the attack; afterwards, it merely highlighted the statement of the perpetrator of the massacre in the lead of the report that it ran: “Azerbaijan accused Armenia of striking its second-largest city” with a ballistic missile. There is also a concerted effort to put Armenian theses into circulation in the majority of broadcasts by extending the microphone to Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
In addition, the Iranian state television Press TV has also been part of this scheme. Press TV, through its broadcasts, has very clearly embarked on a smear campaign against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, interspersing its hostile discourse with such words as “sultan” and “empire”, which are indicative of an emerging neo-Orientalist approach. In its coverage, it is generally defending the Armenian theses. We find such pro-Armenian content in some of Al-Jazeera’s coverage as well. As for the media outlets funded by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia, all they do, unsurprisingly, is trumpet the Armenian theses.
Major media outlets continue to play the three monkeys — “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” — although they do know the truth of the matter. We can summarize this biased attitude and feigning ignorance in seven bullet points.
Seven sins of Western media
First, the Armenian occupation of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which has been repeatedly defined by the United Nations (UN) as Azerbaijani soil, is not emphasized in clear terms. Although Armenia’s presence there has been defined by the UN as an “occupation”, they do not (presumably not to upset Armenia) lay the due emphasis on the question of why Armenia has not peacefully evacuated the region in question for all these years, leaving it to its rightful owners. In TV coverage and internet publications, the phrases “disputed region” or “contested region” are very often used to refer to Nagorno-Karabakh, and any objective truth, if it is mentioned at all, is presented with a disclaimer: “according to the claims of Azerbaijan”.
Second, the dozens of civilians who lost their lives in Armenia’s ballistic missile attack on Ganja were not reported on in a timely manner, and when the said media outlets did broadcast and/or publish the story, the accompanying visuals and/or video footage were remarkably insufficient and, as a result, did not convey the true magnitude of the massacre. There is a very visible tendency to meticulously avoid mentioning the word “massacre” side by side with Armenia. However, civilian massacres have been carried out, and both this eerie international silence and statements coming from Armenian are engendering an air of pessimism, making us conclude that more of these massacres are to be expected.
Third, in the news coverage of the attacks, the civilian deaths were presented as “Azerbaijan’s accusation and claim”, although the situation on the ground was clear as day. In the face of such civilian massacres, the use of a language that seeks to favor the discourse of one of the two warring parties over that of the other and also the use of such words as “allegation”, “accusation”, and “claim” strongly smack of an organized attitude, the implicit message being, “O reader! You don’t have to believe this; this is merely the claim of one of the warring parties and it is churning out these dubious claims to malign its enemy”.
Fourth, although the Armenian state transported foreign terrorists from various regions to Nagorno-Karabakh (mainly from Latin America, Syria and Lebanon), Western media did not cover this properly, either, despite the existence of ample material (audio recordings and footage), demonstrating that terrorist groups, including the terrorist PKK, were transported to the region via Iran. On the contrary, they just echo the Armenian propaganda that it is Azerbaijan which has transported foreign fighters to the region, although this is an all-out lie.
Fifth, journalists affiliated with the international media have largely chosen to travel to the Armenian side to follow the conflict, and they continue to do so. What should have been the case, however, was to follow the conflict in the region from both sides. Reporting from only one side naturally brings along prejudice. News stories written with this one-sided approach visibly carry concomitant characteristics resulting from one-sidedness.
Sixth, news articles written by journalists from Armenia or close to the Armenian diaspora in the global media are marred by ideological bias as well. One such story was written by Isabelle Khurshudyan in The Washington Post (Khurshudyan being one of the three contributors) , in which they claim, right in the headline, that Turkey is responsible for the sending, and subsequent deaths, of Syrian mercenaries to Nagorno-Karabakh. Similarly, the fact that the editor-in-chief of Sputnik and Russia Today, Margarita Simonyan, is of Armenian origin is more at play in the use of biased language in these media than Russia’s state policy.
While Sputnik employs a more balanced language in its Turkish edition, Simonyan’s influence is more prominent in Sputnik’s English edition. They discuss Russian President Vladimir Putin’s response to the claim that foreign terrorists are brought to Nagorno-Karabakh in a context in which it is also claimed that Azerbaijan brought these terrorists from Syria and Libya, which is simply not true. They, however, did not say a word on the foreign terrorists brought to the region by Armenia (mainly PKK terrorists) from various regions, whereas Armenia remains the only party that has brought foreign terrorists into the conflict. What is also very curious is that an image of a church is constantly used in the social media posts of Sputnik’s English edition about the conflict. Although it has nothing to do with the subject matter, the image of the church is used in any news story on the conflict. Another interesting detail is that after it is said that the US, France and Russia, which, together, constitute the Minsk Group, call for peaceful negotiations to resolve the Karabakh issue, it is invariably claimed that Turkey continuously incites Azerbaijan to aggression and is also supporting Azerbaijan to that end. This can be safely interpreted as an approach aimed at marginalizing Turkey.
Seventh, Western media, which has long been consumed with opposition against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has reinvigorated this anti-Erdogan stance by this opportunity, spreading more and more stories against him. The analyses and opinion pieces published by Western media about Azerbaijan’s process of reclaiming its occupied territories are rife with the traces of this opposition. So much so that, they are attempting to build the whole narrative around Erdogan rather than Ilham Aliyev.
All in all, highly influential media organizations with a global reach condemning themselves to such biased approaches is a source of great disappointment in terms of the basic journalistic standards. This mechanism of generating lies and biases, which Turkey knows all too well from its experiences in the last 200 years and has, understandably, become inured to, has been set in motion again to drown out Azerbaijan’s voice and to cause its right cause to go unheard and unheeded again. Yet, we have to note, this time it is not proving as effective as it once was.
The world has been alarmed by the recent flare-up of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. It stems from the 1988-94 Armenian-Azerbaijan war, when ethnic Armenian separatists gained control of the area.
These and adjoining appropriated lands are recognised under international law as being within Azerbaijan’s borders. Not a single UN member state legally recognises these lands as anything other than an integral part of Azerbaijan. The Council of Europe, the EU, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe all adopt the same position. Even Armenia itself has stopped short of recognition, well aware that to do so would contradict established international law.
The separatists claim it is a case of a people seeking to rule themselves, to protect their culture and rights. This may make for fine-sounding ‘moral’ argument – but it is unfounded when held against both international law and historical and modern-day fact.
It is true that the occupied territories are today largely ethnically Armenian. But this came about by force – almost one million Azerbaijanis were ejected from their homes and now live as internally displaced persons across Azerbaijan. And then, after the separatists had taken control, further Armenians were resettled there from Armenia itself. A decisive ethnic majority, especially one secured through war, is not a justification for statehood.
Neither is there any requirement under international law for the occupied territories to be recognised as an independent state, in order to protect ethnicity, heritage and religion. Such protections exist under the national laws of Azerbaijan and its international human rights obligations including the European Convention on Human Rights. There is no legal basis for creating a second Armenian state within Azerbaijan.
The lasting solution would be for those Azerbaijanis who were displaced between 1988 and 1994 during the Armenian-Azerbaijan war to be allowed to return to their homes, as is their lawful right, and, together with ethnic Armenians, to find a way to live there together as part of the territory of Azerbaijan.
Essential for doing this will be to strip away the distortions that surround the ‘territorial integrity versus self-determination’ debate, and to understand both the applicable international law and the factual realities. This may be hard to achieve but it is vital for upholding international law and for an enduring peace.
La crisi tra Azerbaijan e Armenia mette a rischio anche gli interessi strategici dell’Italia
Questo conflitto mai sopito, da 30 anni, rischia di accusare un’escalation in un’area del mondo ricca di giacimenti di gas e petrolio
di Roberto Bongiorni
26 ottobre 2020
Donald Trump si era illuso. Pensava di aver avuto successo là dove proprio i russi avevano fallito due settimane fa. Un buon punto messo a segno negli ultimi giorni di una campagna elettorale tutta in salita. Ma il cessate il fuoco umanitario, siglato domenica, tra Azerbaijan e Armenia, mediato proprio dagli Stati Uniti e annunciato da Trump con il solito tweet entusiasta, è fallito ancor prima di iniziare. Non sono passati pochi minuti dalla sua entrata in vigore, che le armi hanno ripreso a parlare. È la terza tregua in meno di un mese che cercava di porre fine agli scontri in Nagorno Karabakh.
Seguendo un copione già visto più volte ciascuno dei belligeranti accusa l’altro di aver violato per primo il cessate il fuoco. Ma come precisa Hikmet Hajiyev, il consigliere del presidente azero, Ilham Aliyev, per gli affari internazionali, c’è ancora tempo per riprendere la fase negoziale. Altrimenti questo conflitto mai sopito, che si trascina ormai da 30 anni, rischia di accusare un’escalation in un’area del mondo peraltro strategica, ricca di giacimenti di gas e petrolio.
Mr Hajiyev, ancora una volta la tregua è saltata. Dalla guerra del 1992-1994 il percorso dei negoziati non ha portato risultati. Quasi che le potenze straniere coinvolte nella mediazione mirassero ad uno status quo. Nel mentre l’Europa non ha certo brillato per spirito di iniziativa.
Noi apprezziamo l’Unione Europea, che riconosce e sostiene l’integrità territoriale dell’Azerbaijan. Ma il supporto non deve fermarsi alla parole. In alcune crisi e conflitti protratti che hanno coinvolto ex territori dell’Unione Sovietica la posizione europea è stata molto più forte. L’Europa è una potenza politica ed economica. Dovrebbe fare pressione sull’Armenia, che altrimenti si sente impunita e consapevole di non rischiare nulla. Sono ormai quasi 30 anni che è in corso un percorso negoziale che tuttavia non ha raggiunto alcun risultato pratico. Ma più che dall’Europa, che non ha un mandato diretto per la risoluzione del conflitto, siamo delusi dall’approccio portato avanti dal gruppo di Minsk (la cui copresidenza è costituita da Usa, Francia e Russia). Ci sentiamo frustrati per la sua mancanza di iniziativa. Il processo negoziale non è tangibile.
Ma qual è la strategia percorsa oggi dall’Azerbaijan: continuare il conflitto o riprendNoi siamo pronti a discutere le basi dei principi di Madrid, ed andare avanti in linea con la risoluzione negoziale del conflitto. Ma quest’anno gli armeni si sono tirati fuori dicendo “non riconosciamo più i principi di Madrid”, “il Karabakh è Armenia”. Ci sono voluti più di 15 anni per sviluppare l’architettura e concetti dei principi di Madrid (documento di raccomandazione emanato dal 15° Consiglio Osce, tenutosi a Madrid nel novembre 2007al fine di far raggiungere alle parti in causa un definitivo accordo di pace dopo la guerra del Nagorno-Karabakh). Gli armeni, con le loro dichiarazioni, li hanno distrutti in pochi minuti.
D’accordo. Ma un conto è un approccio graduale, passo per passo, altra cosa è chiedere simultaneamente la restituzione del Nagorno Karabakh e i sette distretti azeri occupati nella guerra del 1992-1994.Qual è la vostra strategia?
Il primo passo è la liberazione dei territori azeri che circondano il Nagorno Karabak occupati dagli armeni nel 1992-1994. Sfortunatamente non abbiamo mai visto alcun arretramento da parte degli armeni. Tenete conto che il gruppo di Minsk dovrebbe fare pressioni sulla controparte armena affinché si adegui alle risoluzioni del Consiglio di sicurezza delle Nazioni Unite. Sappiamo bene che risolvere questo conflitto con un solo “pacchetto negoziale” è impossibile. Quindi questa è la nostra posizione: prima le forze armene si ritirano dai distretti azeri occupati, e successivamente dal Nagorno Karabakh, anch’esso parte del territorio dell’Azerbaijan riconosciuto internazionalmente e occupato sempre in quella guerra. Questo è in linea con i principi di Madrid, e con la road map, che noi sosteniamo pienamente. La quale si articola in sette punti. Il secondo punto è il ritorno dei rifugiati azeri, nella regione del Nagorno Karabakh. Quando queste condizioni saranno soddisfatte allora potremmo andare avanti con gli altri punti.
Ma da parte loro gli armeni che vivono in Nagorno hanno legittimi timori di esser perseguitati una volta che la regione ritornasse concretamente sotto la sovranità dell’Azerbaijan.
Non abbiamo mai negato il diritto degli abitanti di origine armena presenti in Nagorno Karabakh. In Nagorno Karabakh, prima dell’occupazione, la composizione degli abitanti era la seguente: 70% di persone di origine armena e 30% di origine azera. Certamente i rifugiati azeri devono avere il diritto di tornare nelle loro case. Ma in questo processo siamo pronti a garantire la sicurezza a tutti gli abitanti armeni e ipotizzare un tipo di autonomia come quella usata nel Sud Tirolo.
L’Azerbaijan è il primo fornitore di greggio dell’Italia e da poco ha fatto entrare in produzione il Corridoio sud, il gasdotto che trasporta il gas naturale estratto nel Mar Caspio e che approda sulle coste pugliesi. Quanto sono a rischio le infrastrutture azere energetiche?
Noi stiamo cercando di assicurare nel modo migliore la sicurezza dei nostri asset strategici. Ma sappiamo bene che in caso di escalation del conflitto le infrastrutture energetiche potrebbero diventare degli obiettivi per gli armeni. Già in passato hanno colpito vicino ad un oleodotto. Non possiamo dunque escludere che provino a colpire le nostre infrastrutture.
Prezzi energetici in declino, Covid 19 ed ora la guerra. L’Azerbaijan non rischia di sprofondare in una crisi economica da cui difficilmente si risolleverà?
Il declino dei prezzi del greggio e la pandemia hanno indebolito la nostra economia. La quale, tuttavia, resta stabile. Abbiamo le nostre riserve, e una volta che le nostre operazioni militari saranno terminate, potremmo tornare a stabilizzare l’economia portando avanti le riforme che avevamo deliberato.
Negli ultimi anni Italia ed Azerbaijan hanno rafforzato in modo considerevole le loro relazioni commerciale. Ancora di più dopo il gasdotto Tap, che dovrebbe entrare in funzione nelle prossime settimane.
Con l’Italia abbiamo un partenariato strategico. In febbraio il nostro presidente si è recato in visita ufficiale a Roma. Durante questa visita ufficiale abbiamo siglato più di 20 accordi in diversi settori, incluse la difesa e la cooperazione militare. Ci attendiamo di acquistare dei jet da combattimento da Finmeccanica. La cooperazione tra Italia e Azerbaijan spazia dall’energia alla sicurezza passando anche per la Cultura. Roma è un partner strategico importante e sono convinto che lo sarà ancora di più.
Torniamo al conflitto scoppiato lo scorso 27 settembre. Sin dai primi giorni l’Armenia ha denunciato la presenza di mezzi militari e caccia turchi a fianco dell’esercito azero. Non solo. Secondo Yerevan la Turchia avrebbe inviato mercenari provenienti dalla Siria settentrionale.
Tengo a precisare che il sostegno turco in Azerbaijan è un sostegno politico e morale. Nulla di più. È totalmente falsa la presenza di terze parti attive nei combattimenti al nostro fianco. Quanto all’idea di mercenari siriano al nostro fianco la rigettiamo in toto. Non ne abbiamo bisogno, il nostro esercito è moderno ed efficiente.
L’impiego di droni turchi di nuova generazione sta rivelandosi un’arma molto efficace. L’Armenia lamenta tuttavia che siano stati usati per colpire anche obiettivi non militari.
Usiamo droni di fabbricazione turca ed altri acquistati da altri Paesi, oltre ed armi di precisione che ci permettano di colpire gli obiettivi legittimi in modo da evitare danni collaterali. Non lo neghiamo. I droni servono a questo. Certo, possono essere danni collaterali, ma facciamo il possibile per evitarli. Sono gli armeni usano a utilizzare armi non prEppure, il vostro esercito, molto più armato e moderno di quello armeno, fatica ad avanzare. Come lo spiega?
Eppure, il vostro esercito, molto più armato e moderno di quello armeno, fatica ad avanzare. Come lo spiega?
Innanzitutto, siamo sempre attenti alla vita dei nostri soldati e cerchiamo al contempo di evitare danni collaterali ai civili armeni. Quindi rallenta l’avanzata. Poi la geografia del Nagorno Karabakh non facilita le cose; ci sono molte barriere naturali, come corsi d’acqua, montagne e boschi. Gli armeni hanno costruito trincee dello stile della Seconda guerra mondiale. D’altra parte siamo rimasti stupiti dal numero di carri armati e armi costose e sofisticate in mano agli armeni. L’Armenia è un Paese povero non potrebbe permettersele. Sono state donate da Paesi terzi.
Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: Lack of Democracy is Not a Factor
26 October 2020 — 12:39
By Farid Shafiyev
While the argument that a democratic deficit easily fits into the media’s already existent pro-Armenian narrative, the reality could not be further from the truth.
Since the recent escalation in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, certain experts and members of global media have pinpointed the lack of democracy to be a major factor in the Armenia-Azerbaijani conflict. While the argument that a democratic deficit easily fits into the media’s already existent pro-Armenian narrative, the reality could not be further from the truth.
Firstly, the conflict’s history shows that a lack of democracy is irrelevant to the war. To comprehend the origins of the conflict, one can go as far as to the nineteenth-century Russian Empire (when imperial borders shifted the Caucasus’ demographic balance). This reveals that the conflict’s roots can be traced back to the legacy of the Russian Empire and Soviet Union, not to the independence of Armenia and Azerbaijan. The incumbent leaders’ lack of responsibility for the origins and ignition of the conflict, does not hold with the democracy deficit argument laid by some experts.
Apart from history, the nature of the dispute is also not based on a democratic deficit (or religion as some like to claim). Rather, the dispute is grounded in Armenian territorial claims that revolve around the concept of “miatsum,” meaning unification of the Azerbaijani territory of Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia. The two nations peacefully co-existed before the rise of Armenian nationalism; the first expulsion of Azerbaijanis by Armenian extremists started in the fall of 1987 from the district of Kapan, long before the Sumgait events of 1988.
Identifying the conflict as the result of a democracy problem also implies that in the event of a more democratic state, the West would be more sympathetic to the Azerbaijani position. The events of 1992, more specifically the adopted Article 907 of the «Freedom Support Act» (banning U.S. aid to Azerbaijan) implemented during the presidency of the pro-western Abulfaz Elchibay, debunk these claims. All leaders of Azerbaijan have become victims of Western villainization, regardless of their politics.
Another important factor is the current political situation in Azerbaijan, where all political forces, be it governmental or opposition, are united behind the military operations in hopes of finally restoring the country’s territorial integrity and bringing back internally displaced persons and refugees to their homes. The rally in Baku on July 14 also proved that it is not only political entities but the public as well which is demanding the liberation of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. The entire nation, not a lone part of it, accepts the official position.
Moving on to the situation in Armenia, it should be stated that although the government had suffered from autocracy and corruption all these years, they still got to enjoy a permissive international environment. Even today, Armenia is still violating international law and not abiding by UNSC resolutions 822, 853, 874, 884, yet Yerevan does not get met with a substantial amount of disapproval from the international community. This again shows that the international community’s true concerns are not focused on the presence or absence of democracy.
It is also essential to decode current Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan’s vision of “democracy.” The fact that Pashinyan’s version of regional “democracy” can only be extended to Armenian nationals, with Azerbaijanis ethnically cleansed from both Armenia and the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, makes such a vision more resemblant of white supremacist ideology rather than democracy.
Last but not least, the argument that the Armenia-Azerbaijani conflict is caused by a democracy problem also implies that were there no democracy deficit, the problem would have been solved. However, such a hypothesis does not hold once we take into account the current ethno-territorial conflicts within Western democracies such as Quebec in Canada, Scotland in the United Kingdom, Catalonia in Spain, as well as Flanders in Belgium. The existence of advanced democracy simply does not solve or prevent these conflicts from happening in their regions.
When assessing some policies implemented in Western democracies, it becomes clear that those countries themselves have resorted to the use of force in certain instances, even on foreign soil and sometimes without proper authorization from the UN Security Council as required by international law. Azerbaijan, on the other hand, has patiently waited for peaceful negotiations for almost thirty years and now is practicing its legal right of self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter.
The current position taken by the global media experts exposes the biases within Western media outlets when it comes to discussing the Armenia-Azerbaijani conflict and its causes. It is worth remembering that in the past, redrawing borders have caused two global wars in Europe. The formula for a durable peace can be based on territorial integrity and minority rights, both principles that Azerbaijan relies on and offers.
TERTER, Azerbaijan — For years, the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia had agreed to postpone discussionabout the status of the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, to avoid inflaming passions. But that changed suddenly this spring, when Armenia’s populist prime minister declared the area indisputably Armenian.
To Azerbaijanis, who lost a bitter, unresolved war with Armenia over the region in the 1990s, the remark by the prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, landed with explosive force. Even more infuriating, it was delivered in Shusha, a city that Azerbaijanis regard as their cultural capital but that lies in territory lost during the war.
“The final nail in the coffin of the negotiation process was when he said that Nagorno-Karabakh was Armenian,” said Hikmet Hajiyev, foreign policy adviser to the Azerbaijani president.
The two countries returned to all-out war a month ago, with Azerbaijan determined to retake the roughly 13 percent of its land that Armenia seized 26 years ago, displacing 800,000 Azerbaijanis in the process. The fighting threatens to draw in Turkey, on the Azerbaijani side, and Russia, which backs Armenia.
Casualties in the conflict have already mounted into the thousands, but as his troops make advances, Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, is showing no signs of slowing down, and the country is gripped with war fever.
A cease-fire mediated in Washington last weekend was broken within an hour of coming into force as both sides traded artillery fire Monday morning.
Mr. Aliyev is demanding that Armenian forces withdraw to internationally recognized borders in keeping with United Nations Security Council resolutions and basic principles agreed to in previous negotiations. These were the terms agreed upon 10 years ago but never implemented, and analysts say that Armenia became less ambiguous this year about claiming Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding districts seized during the war.
Mr. Hajiyev said in an interview that Azerbaijan had hoped for progress when the Armenian leader, Mr. Pashinyan, came to power after a popular uprising in 2018. At their first meeting, Mr. Pashinyan, a former journalist, asked Mr. Aliyev for time but promised to pursue a new policy on Nagorno-Karabakh.
That policy never came. Tensions escalated this year, analysts say, as Mr. Pashinyan and his defense minister made increasingly populist statements over the territory, announcing plans to make Shusha the regional capital and in August moving the Parliament there. Those steps may ultimately prove to have been major miscalculations.
An American-Armenian historian, Jirair Libaridian, has suggested as much. “We became obsessed with our dreams instead of focusing on the possible,” he wrote in September.
Independent analysts largely see Azerbaijan as the main driver of the war, saying it prepared a major offensive, but add that Mr. Pashinyan pushed the envelope with his populist talk.
“It’s logical that Azerbaijan wanted to start this, not the Armenians, who merely want the status quo,” said Thomas de Waal, a senior fellow with Carnegie Europe and author of “Black Garden,” a book on Nagorno-Karabakh. “But the Armenians also played their part with provocative moves.”
The Armenian government has accused Azerbaijan of mounting a planned offensive and of instigating the clashes that led to all-out war, and says it is acting entirely in self-defense.
Russia has been a crucial presence backing Armenia. It supported Armenia in the original conflict, maintains two military bases in the country and has provided support and equipment.
Since the moribund truce in 2009, leaders of both countries proceeded carefully, believing it was politically safer to stick with the status quo than risk the territorial compromises that a peace deal would demand, Mr. de Waal said.
All the while, Mr. Aliyev, who inherited the presidency from his father in 2003, was using his country’s oil and gas wealth to build up the military, purchasing advanced weapons and sending officers for NATO-standard training in Turkey.
The rearming effort seemed to bear fruit in 2016, when in four days of fighting Azerbaijani forces seized control of a village just over the cease-fire line. But Russia intervened to stop the advance, said Farid Shafiyev, a former diplomat and director of the government-funded Center for Analysis of International Relations in Baku.
The popular disappointment at that time was palpable, he said. He noticed the same public reaction when Russia negotiated a cease-fire on Oct. 10, just two weeks into the latest fighting. “People were very depressed,” he said.
The immediate spark for the current conflict came in July, in a deadly clash near the border town of Tovuz, where Azerbaijan’s vital oil and gas pipelines run on their way to Georgia and Turkey.
Armenian soldiers fired on an Azerbaijani military vehicle, touching off heavy cross-border exchanges that killed more than a dozen people, including several officers.
One of those killed, Maj. Gen. Polad Hashimov, was a popular figure whose death stirred an outpouring of emotion. A small protest became a demonstration of tens of thousands of people marching through the capital, Baku, demanding that the country retake Nagorno-Karabakh.
“The July events sent a shock wave,” said Mr. Hajiyev, the policy adviser. “And public opinion and the youngsters sent this message: ‘Enough is enough.’”
Frustrations over the coronavirus pandemic and severe water shortages added pressure, said an Azerbaijani journalist, Khadija Izmayilova. “It was clear to Aliyev that the public was ready to explode and it was time to act.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey regarded the clash at Tovuz as a strategic threat to Azerbaijan and immediately dispatched jets and troops for two weeks of joint military exercises with the Azerbaijani military.
Turkish analysts saw Mr. Erdogan’s move as a way to gain leverage in his dealings with Russia. But protecting his Turkic ally, which recently replaced Russia as Turkey’s main source of natural gas, was also hugely important.
“It is a cliché that Turkey was instigating it,” Mr. Shafiyev, of the Center for Analysis of International Relations, said of Azerbaijan’s venture into war. But he confirmed, as both Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Aliyev have since, that Turkey has promised active support if Azerbaijan were to run into difficulties.
In August, the Azerbaijani authorities said the army had detained Armenian troops making another cross-border foray. “We understood something was coming,” Mr. Hajiyev said.
After years of trading sporadic artillery fire, both sides were poised and ready for more by September.
Villagers living on the Azerbaijani side of the cease-fire line near the town of Terter were forewarned by the Azerbaijani military on Sept. 26. Some who had cars left in the night. Those who stayed described a barrage of Armenian rockets at 7 a.m. the following day.
“We hear shelling all the time, but this was completely different,” said Gulbeniz Badalova, 59, who lives in Terter, just 500 yards from the cease-fire line. “They started to fire continuously, and we all got scared.”
Azerbaijan quickly retaliated, saying it was defending its civilian populations. “They started attacking civilians and we were obliged to make a counter offensive operation,” Mr. Hajiyev said. But even some officials admitted they had been waiting for an excuse to launch an attack.
Azerbaijani troops have already retaken parts of four southern districts along the border with Iran and have come within striking distance of the Lachin corridor, a mountain pass that is a critical supply route from Armenia.
But there is little doubt that it has been tough going for Azerbaijani forces. Baku has not released numbers of military casualties, but President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said on Thursday that each side had already lost more than 2,000 soldiers in less than a month of fighting. Missile strikes have also killed at least 65 civilians from Azerbaijan and 37 from Armenia, according to official figures from both sides.
Public support for the offensive remains solidly behind Mr. Aliyev and the army, but the president could face a difficult job managing expectations.
Many Azerbaijani families displaced by the shelling in Terter are originally refugees from Karabakh, and said they would not be satisfied if Mr. Aliyev halted after taking only a few districts.
“It’s not enough,” Zarifa Suleymanova, 43, said, before listing all the regions Azerbaijan needed back. “We have very brave sons. It will not take long.”
Two wars have broken out in the Caucasus this fall. One is between Armenia and Azerbaijan in a mountainous region occupied by the former, but legally within the latter’s sovereign territory. The other is happening in the far reaches of the internet, where propogandists, key-board warriors and disinformation-spreaders wage an “information struggle”. Like the soldiers on the field, they do this in the name of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The digital sphere surrounding the conflict has now become increasingly muddy. Videos purporting to be one thing are later revealed another: supposed recent events circulated across social media are actually old footage recycled under a new heading – or they have been doctored.
Sorting fact from fiction in this shifting landscape has become difficult for onlookers. Azerbaijanis and Armenians, both convinced of their cause, may be less reluctant in seeing truth in content that shows their side favourably, and the other negatively. Confirmation bias pushes humans towards believing whatever corroborates their position. When this relates to purported atrocities committed against their compatriots, the risk of inflaming tensions becomes acute.
So, when a video emerges that appears to show an atrocity, we should exercise caution.
Armenia says they have a video that is indisputable evidence of a war crime. Investigated by the BBC’s Russian Language Service, it apparently shows two Armenian soldiers, having surrendered, being later shot by Azerbaijani forces. According to the Geneva conventions, killing prisoners of war is a war crime.
There is a murky history to such videos in this conflict. There was the video that showed Iranians on a cliff watching the war unfold across at the border. Yet this has been conclusively proved to have been taken from an old Russia’s Day of the Missile Army and Artillery, where crowds turn out to watch military exercises.
Another clip revealed the downing of an Azerbaijani MiG-25 aircraft by Armenian forces. It turned out, almost unbelievably, to be footage of a military video game. And then there has been the proliferation of photos showing mercenaries brought to Nagorno-Karabakh by Turkey. Many transpired to have been taken in Syria or Iraq, with Azerbaijan flags simply photoshopped in.
Just because a video or photo looks to be something, doesn’t mean it actually is. This new disinformation battleground is being used win international support for one side, and condemnation for the other. This alone should give us pause for thought on the latest ‘war crime’ video; not least because there are also a number of inconsistencies that place question marks over its authenticity.
If true, there’s no doubt that this video would represent a war crime. That would a highly serious matter with wide implications. It therefore needs to stand up to the most intense forensic scrutiny.
In the video, the soldiers speak among themselves in the Azerbaijani, while they speak Russian with the prisoners of war. Their accents are distinct, particularly the presumed commander who leads the captives away: the accent of Armenians who once lived in Azerbaijan, but notably those that live or have lived in the city of Ganja. The rest of the alleged Azerbaijani soldiers rarely speak. One replies to the commander: “Yes, I’m waiting”. This, too, has an Armenian inflection.
Who is who becomes further complicated by the lack of insignia on the Azerbaijani soldiers for most of the video. Yet, inexplicably, an Armenian insignia appears on one of their left arms suddenly, only to vanish in the next frames.
Then there is the footage of the scene of the shooting. It is in a park. Behind the captives, now draped in Armenian flags, graffiti is scrawled on the wall behind them. It reads, “Karabakh is Azerbaijan” when translated. Which would make sense. It is, depending on your perspective, a new liberated territory: victors simply marking their gains.
But again, problems arise. The actual words as they appear are “GaraPağ AzərbayGan” appear on the wall behind. No Azerbaijani would write this, not even a schoolkid: it is clearly written by someone without any real knowledge of the language. The correct phrase – “Qarabağ Azərbaycandır” – with the correct grammar, is how someone who is genuinely Azerbaijani would write it, and is the well-known slogan associated with the reclamation of their land.
With these question marks over the footage, it perhaps will surprise many the BBC upheld it veracity. The article, though, was first published in the Russian-language BBC service (later to be translated into English). It is a known fact, even within the BBC, that there is less editorial oversight and quality in these ‘local-language’ areas of their service, each with their own agendas at play.
This is compounded by the fact the article is written by Grigor Atanesian, an Armenian BBC Russian service journalist whose previous job was not as an investigative reporter, but editor of the Russian language version of Men’s fashion magazine Esquire. His co-author Benjamin Strick is a BBC contributor – not a journalist – and a freelance “open source researcher”. Russia has a long-standing strategic alliance with Armenia, as well as a substantial permanent military base on Armenian soil. The allegiances of the writers should give independent observers and commentators cause to reflect.
Pending a proper investigation into its authenticity, we would do well to withhold judgment. This, so far, has been a battle of narratives. Swallowing them whole will serve the interests of neither truth nor justice.
Four Azerbaijani civilians killed in Armenia missile attact
Ruslan Rehimov 27.10.2020
At least four civilians were killed and 10 wounded when the Armenian army targeted civilian settlements in Azerbaijan in a breach of cease-fire.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said the Armenian army opened fire on the cities of Goranboy, Tartar, and Barda with cannon balls and missiles.
Four civilians, including two women and a seven-year-old girl, were killed and 10 others wounded in the missile attack in Barda, Hikmet Hajiyev, Azerbaijani presidential aide, said on Twitter.
“Armenia is continuing committing war crimes,” Hajiyev said.
A new US-brokered temporary humanitarian truce between Azerbaijan and Armenia was announced Sunday and came into effect as of 8 a.m. local time (0400GMT) Monday morning.
Since the clashes erupted on Sept. 27, Armenia has repeatedly attacked Azerbaijani civilians and forces, even violating three humanitarian cease-fires since Oct. 10. To date at least 65 Azerbaijani civilians have died and 297 others were injured.
Relations between the two former Soviet republics have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Upper Karabakh, or Nagorno-Karabakh, an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions.
Four UN Security Council resolutions and two from the UN General Assembly as well as international organizations demand the «immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of the occupying forces» from the occupied Azerbaijani territory.
n total, about 20% of Azerbaijan’s territory has been under illegal Armenian occupation for nearly three decades. A cease-fire, however, was agreed to in 1994.
World powers including Russia, France and the US have called for a lasting cease-fire. Turkey, meanwhile, has supported Baku’s right to self-defense and demanded the withdrawal of Armenia’s occupying forces.
You can tell a lot about people from looking at their body language. A few days ago, Euronews’s Global Weekendcoverage of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict included a fascinating split screen of the leaders of Armenia (Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, pictured) and Azerbaijan (President Ilham Aliyev). Pashinyan is surrounded by uniformed troops on high alert, and gesticulates franticly, forefinger jerking repeatedly down as if to lash his audience – and, by extension, his Azerbaijani opponents, into submission or defeat. Aliyev appears cool and collected, measuring his words, the picture of a calm and efficient administrator,writes Martin Newman.
The contrast was so extreme that it prompted me to look further at these two men. I’ve coached many world leaders for their platform and media appearances, and I know that posture, tone of voice, gestures, and facial expressions can reveal truths that transcend mere words.
Their backgrounds could not be more dissimilar: Pashinyan the campaigning journalist, never happier than in a crowd, megaphone in hand; Aliyev the second-generation politician, a veteran of the deadpan world of international diplomacy. Some hours spent reviewing footage of different interviews –Euronews,Al Jazeera, France 24, CNN, with Pashinyan speaking in Armenian and Aliyev in English – mainly serve to confirm first impressions.
We see Pashinyan’s jerking finger, and his eyebrows which dance with consternation whenever an awkward question or inconvenient fact at odds with his narrative is raised by an interviewer. When excited or under pressure his voices rises in pitch until it is almost shrill.
Mostly, watching Aliyev during these interviews reinforces the image of the calm administrator. Rarely raising his voice, rarely using an expansive gesture, the President comes across as a conservative figure of stability. Yet there’s one slightly unexpected detail: the eye movement. Does this mean – as some experts would say – that for his urbanity, the President can come across as evasive?
They say that ‘the eyes are the window of the soul’; more accurately, in my experience, they are the mirror of the brain. People who are actively thinking are more likely to move their eyes than those who are reciting a pre-prepared lesson. I’ve also noticed, curiously enough, that when someone speaks in a language which isn’t their own, that mental effort also tends to add to eye movement. When you see this, it’s as though the speaker is literally ‘looking for the right words’. Despite being able to speak English (and having conducted interviews in the language in the past), Pashinyan appears not to trust himself except in his native Armenian when the stakes are so high.
One further detail has caught my eye, and it’s a comparison of hand gestures. We have already seen Pashinyan’s accusatory finger-pointing. At times, he is able to rein that theatrical energy in, but frequently it bursts out in large, dramatic gestures. Meanwhile, Aliyev’s hand gestures are controlled and measured, carefully presenting a case or, with a forward-moving half-folded hand, outlining forward steps in a process. The English language is rich in phrases to describe character using a body language metaphor. Looking at the two leaders, it’s hard to avoid putting the question – who seems like the safer pair of hands?
It’s interesting to see how the battle of body language between these two opposing leaders reflects their narratives. Armenia stands on the emotive questions of cultural identity, a narrative of historical victimhood, and a nostalgia for long-lost Armenian regional supremacy. Azerbaijan stands on the less emotive, more cut-and-dried ground of recognised borders, Security Council resolutions and international law.
To watch the two national leaders is to witness the confrontation of an energetic crowd-raiser, and a patient legal force. Whether the pressure of conflict and of international scrutiny will change those images remains to be seen. Until then, keep watching the body language. It never lies.
How Nagorno-Karabakh Threatens the Caspian Pipeline
28 October 2020 — 16:00
By Shahmar Hajiyev
The South Caucasus is one of the most important and critical regions in the world. Conflicts there pose threats to security and stability both in the region and beyond. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has lasted for almost 30 years and it represents the key challenge for the full economic integration of the region.
The recent tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan became even worse when Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called into question the “Madrid Principles,” upsetting the delicate balance by publicly raising doubts about the current framework of negotiations.
On July 12, 2020, even before the current hostilities, Armenia attacked Azerbaijan’s Tovuz region, on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border far from Nagorno-Karabakh. Artillery fire caused the death of several civilians and high-ranking military officials. The Tovuz attack threatened important energy and infrastructure projects such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) and Baku–Supsa oil pipelines, the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC), and the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad.
In early October, Armenian missile batteries had attacked Ganja, Azerbaijan’s second-largest city, and the principal one lying in the “Ganja Gap,” through which Caspian oil and gas resources pass on their way to international energy markets. Spectacularly, the head of the local Armenian administration in Nagorno-Karabakh, Arayik Harutyunyan, publicly acknowledged that he had personally ordered attacks on military facilities in the city, although the rocket bombardment fell nowhere near them and instead fell into civilian areas.
Reflecting the opinion of influential Armenian political and military circles, Arman Babajanyan, an Armenian politician, wrote in early October that “Armenian armed forces must continue to target Azerbaijan’s multimillion-dollar Western projects, infrastructure, gas pipelines and oil pipelines in their attacks.” The next attack on critical energy infrastructure occurred on October 6, 2020, in Azerbaijan’s Yevlakh region when a rocket fired from the Armenian side landed within 10 metres of the BTC pipeline.
The BTC oil export pipeline ushered in a new era of economic development. It allowed Azerbaijan to export its oil to global energy markets, relying on Georgia and Turkey. This project has been instrumental in developing and strengthening the so-called East-West corridor for energy, transport, and telecommunications. Azerbaijan’s oil production increased after the BTC pipeline entered into service in June 2006, giving the country new access to international energy markets.
From a geopolitical standpoint, the BTC pipeline was the first project connecting the South Caucasus with Europe, demonstrating also the integration of Azerbaijan and Georgia into Europe. This pipeline contributed to the economic, political, and energy security of all the parties involved.
Many Western companies have huge investments in the region. Armenia’s military activities threaten their energy infrastructure, which are exporting Caspian oil and gas to the global energy markets. Ganja and Yevlakh are close to this strategic energy infrastructure, which connects Azerbaijan energy pipelines to Europe via Georgia and Turkey.
Pipelines are difficult military objectives, however, because they are buried underground and Azerbaijan has advanced air defence systems. However, if Armenia should manage to damage critical infrastructure, then it would not only interrupt the gas and oil supplies to Azerbaijan’s energy partners, affecting their interests as well, but it would also create environmental problems.
It is particularly concerning that these attacks occur just when the first gas from the Caspian Sea region will be supplied to European energy consumers via the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP). Any reckless actions by the Armenian leadership will directly threaten EU energy security, likely creating even more problems for Armenia itself.
Energy revenues are important for Azerbaijan, but its economy is strong enough to resist such challenges. Azerbaijan is an important net gas producer and exporter, and is seeking to enhance this profile further by deepening its energy relations with Western partners. Many parties are invested in Azerbaijan’s energy sector, and they are not interested in further hostilities in the region.
The South Caucasus Pipeline (SCP), the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP), and the TAP are all significant geopolitically. Azerbaijan also has an important role in the Turkish domestic gas market, where its share has gradually increased. In March 2020, this proportion reached 23.45 percent of Turkey’s gas imports. Israeli-Azerbaijani energy cooperation has likewise become very important for Israel’s energy security. Azerbaijan supplies nearly half of Israel’s oil demand via the BTC pipeline.
It follows naturally that Azerbaijan supports regional economic development in the South Caucasus as well as inter-regional projects. It is unfortunate that Armenia has isolated itself from participation in such projects. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict harms the future development and security of the region. The conflict is a real challenge not only for the security of the South Caucasus but also for the Caspian basin.
Azerbaijan has the economic wherewithal to develop its energy infrastructure and economy. If for any reason there are serious challenges for the national economy as a result of the present situation (or any future one), then the country can access Azerbaijan’s sovereign wealth fund for economic help. Azerbaijan’s sovereign wealth fund also plays important role in the strategic currency reserves of the country.
Notwithstanding the current troubles, Azerbaijan remains capable of pursuing its current energy strategy, including capital investment in energy development. Its geographical position and availability of its own energy resources have enabled it to become an energy and infrastructure hub, exporting Central Asian and Caspian Sea region energy resources to Western energy markets. The country will remain an important and reliable energy player in the Caspian Sea region.
Armenia’s rocket attack on Azerbaijan’s Barda kills at least 21 civilians
BY DAILY SABAH
OCT 28, 202012:57 PM GMT+3
Armenian forces on Wednesday hit the city center of Azerbaijan’s Barda with missiles, setting multiple shops and vehicles on fire. At least 21 civilians were killed and more than 40 injured in the attack.
It would be the deadliest reported attack on civilians since new fighting over the occupied region of Nagorno-Karabakh broke out a month ago.
This follows Tuesday’s attacks that killed at least four civilians, including a toddler, in an Armenian missile strike on a village in Barda.
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said on Twitter that his country will seek revenge for the Barda attack on the battlefield and added that 13 more villages have been liberated from Armenian occupation.
Azerbaijan’s presidential aide Hikmet Hajiyev said Armenian forces have used cluster Smerch missiles in the attack.
«Following missile attacks to Tartar, armed forces of Armenia firing rockets to Barda. No lessons learned from yesterday’s killing of civilians with cluster weapons. Armenia must end its military occupation and #WarCrimes,» Hajiyev said on Twitter.
«Such deliberate War Crimes of Armenia are deplorable,» he added.
Azerbaijani Defense Ministry in a statement confirmed that «there are killed and injured people» and «civilian infrastructure was damaged.»
«Armenian armed forces, grossly violating the humanitarian cease-fire regime, have fired at the Barda city from the ‘Smerch’ MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System),» the ministry said.
Armenian defense ministry spokesperson Shushan Stepanian denied the claim.
«The statement of the ministry of defense of Azerbaijan that the Armed Forces of Armenia allegedly hit the town of Barda with Smerch is groundless and false,» she said on Facebook.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday condemned the “flagrant and perfidious” attack on the city of Barda.
“We condemn these heinous attacks that Armenia continues against civilian people without differentiating between children, young or old. This perfidious policy that Armenia conducts to terrorize and kill civilians is the expression of the sick mindset that lies behind the Khojaly massacre,” the ministry said in a written statement.
“This latest attack has taken its place as a record of shame in the war crimes list of which Armenia will be held responsible,” it said, adding that it is time the international community, including the Minsk Group, set up by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and co-chaired by France, Russia and the U.S., show the necessary reaction to Armenian aggression.
A new U.S.-brokered temporary humanitarian truce between Azerbaijan and Armenia was announced Sunday and took effect at 8 a.m. local time (4 a.m. GMT) Monday.
Since the clashes erupted Sept. 27, Armenia has repeatedly attacked Azerbaijani civilians and forces, even violating three humanitarian cease-fires since Oct. 10. To date at least 65 Azerbaijani civilians have died and 297 have been injured.
Relations between the two former Soviet republics have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan and seven adjacent regions.
Four U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolutions and two from the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) as well as international organizations demand the «immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of the occupying forces» from the occupied Azerbaijani territory.
In total, about 20% of Azerbaijan’s territory – including Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent regions – has been under illegal Armenian occupation for nearly three decades.
The Minsk Group was formed in 1992 to find a peaceful solution to the conflict but to no avail. A cease-fire, however, was agreed to in 1994.
World powers, including Russia, France, and the U.S., have called for a sustainable cease-fire. Turkey, meanwhile, has supported Baku’s right to self-defense and demanded the withdrawal of Armenia’s occupying forces.
Azerbaijan says Armenia used cluster bombs in deadly Barda attack
Several killed and dozens wounded in attack on eastern Azerbaijan, as clash over Nagorno-Karabakh intensifies.
28 Oct 2020
Azerbaijan has accused Armenia of using cluster munitions in two days of attacks, killing at least 25 people and wounding dozens in Barda, eastern Azerbaijan, near Nagorno-Karabakh.
Armenia has denied carrying out the attacks on Tuesday, when four people were killed, and Wednesday, when 21 died.
Wednesday’s strike marked the deadliest reported attack on civilians in a month of fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Lala Ismayilova, an English-language teacher in Barda, lost her 31-year-old brother Fuad Ismayilov, on Wednesday.
“My father passed away years ago, and Fuad was the man of our family. After the first shelling, he went out to see what happened.
“The second rocket landed when he went outside. He was young. How can I live without my brother?”
Barda-based activist Ulviyya Babasoy said decried the targeting of civilians.
“I saw dead bodies, injured people, everything was ruined,” she told Al Jazeera.
“After the the things l witnessed today, I don’t know how we will continue our normal lives, it is so hard after all of this. l believe that civilians should not be targeted in war. This is crime, terrorism. Stop it, Armenia.”
According to a list seen by Al Jazeera, victims ranged in age from 30 to 80.
Barda MP Zahid Oruj told Al Jazeera that Armenia was attempting to “create scenes similar to Syria and Libya, with people’s blood shed in the streets”.
“It seems like they (Armenia) are intent on creating a picture of war that shows Azerbaijan suffering, inside Azerbaijan’s borders, rather than in the battlefields. Everyone should be convinced that peace in the region depends on Azerbaijan,” said Oruj.
Wednesday’s attack came despite a US-brokered truce agreed at the weekend, the third ceasefire attempt in a row to collapse just minutes after it took effect.
Azerbaijani presidential aide Hikmet Hajiyev said Armenian forces fired cluster Smerch missiles against Barda, accusing them of using cluster munitions “to inflict excessive casualties among civilians”.
Because of their power, more than 100 countries have banned cluster munitions, though Armenia and Azerbaijan have not.
The attack on Wednesday hit a densely populated area and a shopping district.
Russian border guards deployed
Meanwhile, Yerevan also accused Azerbaijani forces of deadly new attacks on civilian areas of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Since the conflict restarted on September 27, each side has claimed the other is targeting civilians, and both regularly deny the claims.
Ria Novosti news agency reported that Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan confirmed the deployment of Russian border guards along the Armenian border with Nagorno-Karabakh.
“There is nothing special about this,” Pashinyan said. “Russian border guards have been on Armenia’s border with Turkey and Iran … Now, due to the latest developments, the Russian border guards are also on the southeastern and southwestern border of Armenia.”
Armenia’s defence ministry, meanwhile, confirmed that Azerbaijan had seized the strategic town of Gubadli between Nagorno-Karabakh and the Iranian border, an military gain that could make a diplomatic solution more difficult.
Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but is populated and controlled by ethnic Armenians. About 30,000 people were killed in a 1991-1994 war in the region.
Azerbaijan rejects any solution that would leave Armenians in control of the enclave, which it considers to be illegally occupied.
Armenia regards the territory as part of its historic homeland and says the population there needs its protection.
The Nagorno-Karabakh’s defence ministry has recorded 1,119 military deaths since fighting erupted on September 27.
Azerbaijan has not disclosed its military casualties. Russia has estimated as many as 5,000 deaths in total.
Economic implications of Azerbaijan-Armenia military confrontation for Armenia
29 October 2020 — 15:41
The armed confrontation between Armenia and Azerbaijan that began after the large-scale provocations of Armenia along the entire front on September 27 still continues. In response to the Armenian attacks, Azerbaijan’s army launched a counter-offensive operation along the entire front. As a result of continuation of this operation, as of October 21, Azerbaijan has liberated 115 villages, 3 cities and 2 settlement that were occupied by Armenia for about 30 years. Despite the heavy losses of military personnel and equipment, Armenia is not willing to leave the occupied territories of Azerbaijan peacefully.
Armenia even grossly violated the ceasefire agreement that was reached by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of both sides on October 10 and October 17. Instead of complying with the UN Security Council resolutions (822, 853, 874 and 884), which call for the withdrawal of the occupying forces from all the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, Armenia attacks civilian objects in frontline settlements and in other settlements which are far from the conflict zone including Ganja, the second biggest city of Azerbaijan. Armenian armed forces twice struck civilian buildings in Ganja with heavy missiles, which led to deaths of more than 20 civilians, including childre
On Oct 17, the General Prosecutors of Azerbaijan officially claimed that 13 civilians were killed, including two children, and more than 40 others injured, after the Armenian army struck Azerbaijan’s second-largest city, Ganja, with missile attacks. Photo courtesy : Hurriyet Daily News
However, the continuation of armed confrontation creates not only humanitarian issues and political instability in Armenia, but also financial problems. As military expenses are rapidly increasing, it negatively affects the economy of Armenia which has already severely suffered from pandemic related issues. Just in first 4 days of armed confrantation, Armenia lost the military equipment and ammunition worth more than 1.2 billion US dollars.
Due to increasing military exspenses and economic problems, Armenian government submitted a bill on making changes and amendments to the Law on the 2020 State Budget in early October. After the submission, on October 5, the standing committee on financial-credit and budgetary affairs of Armenian Parliament approved the bill. It is the second official accepted amendment to 2020 state Budget. According to new amendments, due to the ongoing military operations, budget expenditures will be increased by $84 million. As a result, total volume of budget expenditures will reach $3.44 billion or 26.5% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Weakened economic activity also negatively affects tax revenues. According to new predictions of Armenian government, until the end of the year, tax revenues will reach $2.77 billion, which is $236.67 million less than the amount of tax revenues predicted in April. Reduction of tax revenues will also lead to a reduction of general budget revenues, about $590 million or 17.5% compared to the initial predictions of state budget of 2020.
As budget expenses expand and budget revenues decrease, the budget deficit significantly widens. After the first amendments to the state budget in April, it was expected that the budget deficit will double and reach $670 million. According to new predictions, the budget deficit of Armenia will triple and reach $963.9 million or 7.4% of GDP until the end of the year. Such huge increase in budget deficit will create essential financial problems, as during a period of weak economic activity it is hard for the government to finance financial deficit. Even economic laws of Armenia do not allow the budget deficit to reach this level, as it is dangerous in terms of financial security. So, Armenian government has activated the escape clause in its Fiscal Rule after the first amendments to the state budget in April.
Increasing budget deficit in turn necessitates attraction of foreign debt which has become the main economic problem for Armenia. As Armenia does not have free financial resources, capacity of its economy is restricted and depends on foreign remittances for solving financial problems it has to attract foreign debt. After the first amendments to the state budget in April, the Armenian government planned to attract about $532.3 million for the financing of the budget deficit and support programs. This would result in a 7.26% increase in public debt and 9.2% increase in foreign debt. However, after the recent changes for the financing of the increased budget deficit, Armenian government has to attract additional $825 million. The attraction of these funds will result in increase of public debt by about 18.5% compared to 2019.
It is worth to note that in Armenia, demand for foreign debt exceeds the expectations of the government. For example, even though Armenian government predicted the need for $523.3 million of foreign debt in April, according to statistical numbers between April and August, foreign debt of Armenia increased by about $700 million. It shows that even before the armed confrontation started, demand for foreign funds was higher than the expectations. So, we can assume that the armed confrontation will necessitate attraction of more foreign debt than the government expects.
Simultaneously, rapid growth of public debt deteriorates Debt to GDP ratio. In recent years in Armenia this ratio has been increasing and reached 50% in 2019. With the new levels of public debt, this ratio will reach an even more dangerous level. Based on the new predictions of the government, Debt to GDP ratio will reach 67%, passing the 60% threshold. As a one of the main indicators of financial security, the high level of Debt to GDP ratio increases the risks of default of government on financial obligations.
Weak economic activity and financial problems also affect the level of GDP. Despite the fact that Armenian government predicted only 2% decrease in April, it lowered its predictions to -5% in August and to -6.8% in October. Therefore, in the end of year the level of the GDP will be about $1.57 billion less compared to the initial predictions. On the other hand, because of the armed confrontation, the national currency of Armenia is depreciating which also diminishes the level of GDP in terms of US dollar.
Economic situation in Armenia also negatively affects its international ratings. In its recent revision of Armenia’s Long-Term Foreign-Currency Issuer Default Rating, Fitch Ratings downgraded its rating to ‘B+’ from ‘BB-’. According to Fitch Ratings, the main problems that are negatively affecting the rating of Armenia are the high and growing net external debt, large structural current account deficit, a reliance on remittances, weak FDI inflows and the armed confrontation with Azerbaijan. Lower ratings will reduce the volume of Foreign Direct Investments and will eliminate the opportunities to borrow foreign debt with favorable conditions.
All these negative economic trends show that in coming years Armenia will be faced with substantial financial problems. As the armed confrontation is continuing and the number of daily COVİD-19 infections increase, theeconomic and social situation worsens. Inability of the Armenian government to manage the financial problems independently, with its own financial resources induces it to attract additional foreign debt. Excessive borrowing in turn increases the risks of default on financial obligations, which could have catastrophic results for the Armenian economy. Therefore, “Repay the debt by new debt” approach of Armenia that kept its economy alive for many years will probably fail this time, as the high-level public debt, continuation of the armed confrontation with Azerbaijan and deficiency of free financial resources globally will eliminate the debt attraction opportunities. This will lead to severe economic and social problems and will destabilize the political environment in Armenia.
On the civilian casualties and destructions caused by attacks of Armenia on densely populated areas of Azerbaijan between 27 September – 28 October 2020
The Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict is one of the longest-standing protracted conflicts in the region, which has been going on for nearly 3 decades. As a result of this, the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan and 7 adjacent districts of Azerbaijan, namely Lachin, Kalbajar, Aghdam, Fuzuli, Jabrayil, Gubadli and Zangilan, were occupied by Armenia.
The conflict affected the lives of over a million of Azerbaijanis who lived in the Nagorno-Karabakh region and 7 adjacent districts of Azerbaijan, causing a number of social, economic and humanitarian problems.
The above-mentioned 7 districts are not a part of the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The total area of Nagorno-Karabakh region is 4400 km2, while the total area of 7 districts is almost 3 times larger (11.000 km2).
More than 90% of the total number of IDPs (which is more than 1 million) represent those 7 districts. It should also be mentioned that the number of Azerbaijani people forced to leave the Nagorno-Karabakh region is now 86 thousand people. It is the attention capturing fact, that the number of IDPs only from Aghdam (191.700 people) is larger than of the Nagorno-Karabakh region (the overall number of Armenians, Azerbaijanis and other nationalities populating this territory before the conflict was 189.085 people). So, the population of 7 districts is almost 5 times more than of Nagorno-Karabakh itself.
The UN Security Council Resolutions 8221, 8532, 8743 and 8844 of 1993 define the frameworks of the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict on the basis of norms and principles of international law.
On October 18th, I found myself in Azerbaijan’s Ganja, a day after the fourth missile attack had struck civilian targets in the city. I witnessed the tragic scenes of destruction and death in a residential district, meeting Jewish families and hearing their accounts first-hand.
I saw. I listened. I prayed. But I was forced to consider a difficult question: what can a religious leader do when confronted with such scenes, except bear witness and join with a community in mourning to offer prayers for the deceased?
Those two acts – of witness and prayer – must form the cornerstone of my response. But I believe that people of faith have a further responsibility to offer hope. Hope is a simple word. But it requires, in the words of a former US President, a level of audacity.
To speak with clarity about hope in this troubled region is not easy. Armenian forces of occupation have remained in control of Nagorno-Karabakh and its seven surrounding districts – a quarter of Azerbaijan’s territories – for nearly thirty years. It is the fact that, for both sides, the issue remains unsettled that has led to the return of conflict.
Any discussion of the hope for peace raises a question that communities around the world struggle. What is the best path to peace in our multi-cultural, multi-faith world? For different communities to isolate themselves behind barricades, or for them to seek to live in harmony as neighbours?
Today, there are no Azerbaijanis in Armenia. Yet 30,000 Armenians live peacefully inside Azerbaijan – and not including those in the occupied territories – as equal citizens with their neighbours, alongside Azerbaijan’s Jewish community of 30,000, with synagogues and schools flourishing in Baku and across the country.
The majority are Ashkenazi Jews who began arriving in the early 19th century. Still more came to find refuge in the nation when dark forces threatened in the Russian Empire and Europe.
But there is also an ancient Jewish tradition that reaches farther back. Mountain Jews account for nearly a third of those that follow the Talmud in Azerbaijan. They are the descendants of the Jewry of the Persian Empire, who can be traced to the area since before the 5th century.
Together, the Jewish community is proud to be a distinctive part of the rich and complex fabric of our nation, alongside Lezgins, Russians, Georgians, Kurds and a whole host of other ethnic identities.
Though the majority follow Islam, Azerbaijan is a secular, multi-faith, multi-ethnic state, with religious and cultural freedoms. This must surely be the natural condition for any Caucasian country, poised as our region is between East and West, on one of the great religious, cultural and trading crossroads of history. It is both the natural condition and the basis for hope in our damaged world.
Azerbaijan’s government has affirmed its guarantees of safety and equal citizenship for the majority Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh. This is a crucial first step to a return to the time, remembered only by older generations, when Armenians and Azerbaijanis lived side by side in that region in peace. It also offers hope to the 700,000 Internally Displaced Persons – evicted during the 1990s war – that they will soon be able return to their home.
I hope never to witness the carnage I have seen on the streets of Ganja again. I pray for all those who have died and suffered on both sides. But above all, I cling to hope for a better future. Every day in the synagogue of Baku we say the following prayer:
“He, The Lord who makes peace in his heavens, may he make peace for us and for the all world; and say, Amen!”
Last Friday, Mike Pompeo met separately with the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan. They were there to discuss Nagorno-Karabakh, the mountainous region of Azerbaijan where fighting has spilled into its fourth week. Yet following the meeting, it is clear the only thing each side can agree on is the other’s blame.
Armenia’s large diaspora in America has been urging its government to take stronger action. The Armenian National Committee of America has led calls for sanctions against the top political and military leaders of Azerbaijan. Kim Kardashian, a perhaps unlikely figure in international relations, has called for an end to U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan.
How should the government respond to such entreaties?
To do nothing in this seemingly remote region of the Caucasus is not an option. America is a co-chair, along with France and Russia, of the OSCE Minsk Group – a troika that has worked to resolve the conflict since 1993. Yet to back Armenia – as many in the diaspora have urged – is unfeasible, not only for this mediation role, but also on the basis of international law and historical context. Were it to do so, there is little to suggest this would stem the conflict; at worse, it risks worsening it.
Separating fact from fiction in the media storm that followed the outbreak of hostilities has been difficult. However, perhaps to the surprise of many, this is a war that is happening within Azerbaijan – not Armenia. No country has recognized the “republic” that self-declared itself in the middle of the previous war.
Multiple judgments from the United Nations Security Council, General Assembly, Council of Europe, and European Parliament have on the other hand recognized Nagorno-Karabakh’s place within Azerbaijan. On this definition, there is only one nation, Armenia, firing inside – and upon – another.
No less than four United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions calling for the immediate withdrawal of Armenian forces have gone unheeded. Despite the unambiguous language, little pressure has been applied.
To many, this may come as no surprise. Often UNSC resolutions are ignored. But in this case, it is – given three of its permanent members sit as co-chairs on the Minsk group. Russia, particularly, is Armenia’s largest economic partner. Yet in close to 30 years the status quo of occupation has not changed – much to the frustration of Azerbaijan.
For many in the Diaspora, this argument is transcended by that of self-determination. This is an area, after all, that is majority ethnically Armenian. Given their history of persecution, some Armenians see safety as secure only in independence, especially given Turkey is Azerbaijan’s ally.
Indeed, many find themselves in America today as a result of the Armenian genocide under the Ottoman government at the start of the 20th century. Those historical wounds, and the threat of its reoccurrence, obligates America – in their view – to look beyond the black-and-white world of law.
But to base foreign policy decisions on these kinds of arguments is dangerous. After all, Azerbaijan too can legitimately point to historical wrongs – and ones even more potent given they are still raw in those who experienced it when they remain alive today.
In the heat of the 1990s conflict, close to a million ethnic Azeris were expelled from Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding territories. The presence of a large number of displaced people in conjunction with occupying Armenian forces is a continued injustice to them – especially in light of all legal decrees in their support.
But if historical wrongs become an all-trumping factor, the logic for both is to keep fighting. For a third party, namely the United States, to weigh in on these emotionally charged arguments alone on either side would therefore be highly imprudent.
Fundamentally, Yerevan’s argument against the UN-ordered withdrawal relies on the need to protect ethnic Armenians. Indeed, the Prime Minister recently stated that Azerbaijan wants to expel them from these lands. To what extent this should be believed – in this day – should be questioned, when Baku has throughout the thirty-year mediation process stated its offer of autonomy to the region once foreign forces evacuate. Within the heat of the latest flare-up, it has again restated this commitment.
America should trust it, and on good evidence: Today, over 30,000 Armenians – excluding the occupied region – call Azerbaijan home. They do so freely, as do communities of orthodox Christians and Jews, in addition to a wide spectrum of other beliefs and ethnicities. Modern day Azerbaijan is not a homogenous state.
Furthermore, the claim to need to protect ethnic Armenians is also questionable when forces occupy not only Karabakh, but seven surrounding regions that were never majority ethnically Armenian. Though Nagorno-Karabakh accounts for 5% of legally recognized Azerbaijan, with the addition of these seven regions it rises to over 20%.
Calls for America to take more robust action in aid of Armenia must be disregarded. Were it to break from legal precedent – it would be going against precedent that the U.S .government themselves have been critical in shaping. Already frustrated by thirty years of mediation that has delivered nothing for the return of its lands, Azerbaijan would only feel further aggrieved. In these circumstances, both sides would likely dig in.
Prudence must guide policy. Though emotions run heated on both sides, a cool head – guided by international law, and supported by the needs of people alive today, not the history of yesterday – is required of the U.S. government.
Deliberately killing civilians is war crime: Armenia has killed more than 80 Azeris
30 October 2020 — 15:38
By Vasif Huseynov
Three ceasefire attempts by Russia, France and the United States have failed to end the violence and bloodshed in the “Second Karabakh War” between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Since 27 September, the two conflicting countries of the South Caucasus have been in an extremely violent and intense confrontation followed the failure of peace negotiations of up to 30 years. The negotiations between the two countries were in fact unfruitful all the time, but the provocations by the Armenian government against Azerbaijan reached a record high in the recent months and pushed the two states into war.
The growingly populist and nationalistic policies of the Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan who came to power following the Velvet Revolution of Armenia in mid-2018 dramatically radicalized his society and militarized its agenda. Despite the fact that Pashinyan promised to solve the Armenia – Azerbaijan conflict soon after he took the premiership and initiated secret meetings with the Azerbaijani government towards this goal, he has abandoned these initiatives immediately after having consolidated his grip of power in the country.
This was accompanied by the adoption of a military doctrine “new war for new territories” by Armenia’s Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan which implied to occupy more Azerbaijani territories in the case of a new war. This all convinced the Azerbaijani side and other international observers of Armenia’s unwillingness to de-occupy 20% of Azerbaijan’s internationally-recognized territories, an impression reinforced by Pashinyan’s notorious statement that “Karabakh is Armenia, period”.
The tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan soared in July this year, when Armenia attacked Azerbaijan’s Tovuz district, a region that is of crucial strategic importance as all the transportation and energy routes of Azerbaijan pass through this area. Although the clashes that caused tens of casualties calmed down quickly, Armenia persisted on its militarist agenda and further militarized the society. Less than a week before the Karabakh War II, allegedly in order to supplement the country’s armed forces”, Armenia formeda nationwide voluntary militia which was supposed to gather in total up to 100,000 members.
The inception of a new war was, therefore, commonly expected by local and international observers still in early September. The Azerbaijani government had also intelligence information about the preparation of the armed forces of Armenia for military attacks against Azerbaijan. Armenia is “preparing for a new war. They are concentrating their forces near the line of contact… We follow their actions. Of course, we will defend ourselves”, said Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in an interview with local television channels on 19 September.
The over-reliance of the Armenian political and military leadership on the defense system they had built along the line of contact between the occupied Azerbaijani territories and the rest of Azerbaijan, their underestimation of Azerbaijan’s defensive capabilities, and, in particular, the conviction that Russia would militarily intervene in the war if Armenia needed, encouraged them to launch a new military operation to realize Tonoyan’s expansionist doctrine.
The military operations did not, however, take place as Armenians expected. The deployment of modern weapons, especially military drones, by Azerbaijan over the last years, coupled with the determination and solidarity of the general public, helped Azerbaijani army to advance into the occupied region and liberate around 30% of these territories in the first month of the war. The more territories lost by Armenians, the more aggressive they had become. On the one hand, the desire to re-take the lost positions, on the other hand, the goal to retaliate for other losses led Armenians to disregarding the international calls for ceasefire and attacking Azerbaijan’s civilian settlements with missiles.
The aggressiveness caused by this desperation was, however, not limited only to the frontline, but stretched over to the settlements of the Azerbaijani people rather far from the frontline. Firing SCUD-B and TochkaU ballistic missiles and “SMERCH” heavy multiple rockets against civilian settlements, Armenia sought, among others, to cause a humanitarian tragedy in Azerbaijan, create public fear, and thus generate popular discontent with the government. The objective behind these attacks was made clear by Vagharshak Harutyunyan, the chief adviser to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who, in an interview with TV show “Vesti” aired on the Russian TV channel Russia-1 on 6 October stated that:
“Now we have developed a tactic of striking artillery. And in the future we will strike at peaceful settlements in order to cause panic…”
Following this statement, Harutyunyan’s interview was abruptly interrupted by the program producers, who had likely realized that their guest openly confessed to war crimes.
Unfortunately, not only the officials in the Armenian government, but also representatives of the general public and even journalists advocated this inhuman strategy. For example, Tatul Hakobyan, an Armenian journalist who had also participated in the Western-initiated peacebuilding initiatives between Armenia and Azerbaijan, called his government hours before the deadly missile attack against Barda city of Azerbaijan on 28 October, to cause “a large-scale human tragedy” in Azerbaijan, which he sought as the only way to push Azerbaijan into concessions.
Against the backdrop of this official and popular support to the attacks against civilians, the armed forces of Armenia did not refrain from committing war crimes at large scales.
In the early days of the war, primarily Ganja and Mingachevir cities of Azerbaijan was targeted by missile attacks. Mingachevir was particularly chosen, as the city hosts the largest water reservoir of the South Caucasus, of which destruction would kill hundreds of thousands living in the area causing environmental and humanitarian disaster. The fact that Armenia has listed this as a potential military target had been admitted by Harutyunyan back in July, when he stated that “if Armenian side uses the SCAD-B missiles to target the Mingachevir reservoir, two thirds of Azerbaijan will be under water”.
As a result of these horrendous attacks against Azerbaijani cities far from frontline, more than 80 Azerbaijani civilians were killed and tens of others were wounded. The attacks which are clearly war crimes are sometimes committed at midnights when most people were in sleep. Unfortunately, there are more than ten children among the victims, which has caused nationwide anger and calls for revenge in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan’s leadership has, however, declared that Azerbaijan would retaliate on the battlefield and legally hold Armenia accountable for its war crimes. Over the last month of Armenian attacks against Azerbaijani civilians, Azerbaijan demonstrated restraint and was able to show its strength only on the battlefield.
ANALYSIS — Five key military takeaways from Azerbaijani-Armenian war
The ongoing war shows that traditional military-geostrategic calculus is still relevant, with conventional warfighting capabilities to clean, hold, and deny territory remaining crucial
Dr. Can Kasapoglu |30.10.2020
The writer is the director of the Security and Defense Research Program at the Istanbul-based think-tank EDAM
As the Azerbaijani military progresses to regain Armenian-occupied national territories, the ongoing war offers invaluable lessons for global strategic and military community. Below, I listed five main observations to grasp the future of warfare against the backdrop of the unfolding Upper Karabakh, also known as Nagorno Karabakh, conflict.
Lesson 1: Without adequate sensors, electronic warfare cover, and counter-drone weaponry, traditional ground units are in Trouble
The first lesson that the Azerbaijani–Armenian clashes showed is the vulnerability of traditional land units —armored, mechanized, and motorized formations— in the face of advanced drone warfare weaponry and concepts. At the time of writing, open-source intelligence  publications documented some 175 main battle losses for the Armenian occupation forces in Nagorno Karabakh.
The ongoing clashes showed that while the era of tanks is still not over, main battle tanks, along with other traditional land warfare platforms, would make easy targets for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) unless they are accompanied by an organic composition of mobile short-range air defenses, electronic warfare assets, and counter-UAS systems.
Lesson 2: Integration of land-based fire-support and drones looms large in modern warfare
Syria has functioned as a warfare laboratory of the 21st century. All the involved actors, ranging from the US-led anti-Daesh coalition to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Lebanese Hezbollah, have demonstrated, tested, and learned about novel military capabilities in the Syrian battleground. Turkey and Russia are the two nations that developed ‘drone – artillery complexes’ during their Syria expeditions.
The Turkish military, especially during Operation Spring Shield targeting the northern deployments of the Syrian Arab Army in early 2020, has used its drones to execute intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions for the 155mm-class Firtina howitzer and multiple-launch rocket systems. Besides, the Turkish drones were also used for battle damage assessment duties to monitor the effects of the artillery and rocket salvos. Likewise, having digested the lessons from the Syrian battleground, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation now integrates Orlan-10 drones  to the 152mm-class artillery.
The Azerbaijani Armed Forces showed yet another example of the drone & land-based fire-support complexes. In many clashes, including night fighting, the Azerbaijani artillery and rocket systems fought in close coordination  with drone wOverall, we are witnessing an increasing tendency in combining unmanned aerial systems with indirect fires in contemporary wars.
Lesson 3: Intra-war deterrence gain importance
Overwhelmed by the Azerbaijani offensive, the Armenian side has resorted to targeting Azerbaijan’s population centers and critical national infrastructure with ballistic missiles. In my previous writings for Anadolu Agency , I have analyzed the international legal aspect of Armenian missile campaign which is tantamount to a textbook war crime.
Apart from the legal aspect, the military-strategic dimension of the Armenian forces’ ballistic missile and heavy rocket use during the war deserves attention, highlighting the vital concept of “intra-war deterrence”.
Intra-war deterrence is, briefly, about controlling the escalation patterns  within an ongoing conflict. It incorporates tacit or explicit bargaining with respect to thresholds and limits of an ongoing conflict. Unlike traditional deterrence theories, intra-war deterrence functions within an ongoing war.
Overwhelmed by Azerbaijan’s technological superiority in the battlefield, the Armenia has resorted to ballistic missile and heavy multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS) salvos, targeting Azerbaijan’s major population centers. More importantly, the Russian-manufactured SS-26 Iskander ballistic missiles in the Armenian arsenal  makes the situation even more dangerous. Overall, the ongoing war showed that intra-war deterrence, and strategic weapons pertaining to this crucial concept, will keep dominating battlefields in the coming years.
Lastly, on a separate but important note, during the conflict, Azerbaijan used its drones to hunt down Armenia’s Scud-B mobile ballistic missile TELARs (transporter-erector-launcher) in at least one skirmish. If Azerbaijan can extend this concept to a more systematic approach, then one can assume that UAS now have a new battlefield task, destroying road-mobile ballistic missiles before the boost phase.
Lesson 4: Drones make good SEAD assets against low-to-mid-range air defenses
In the Syrian and Libyan battlegrounds, Turkey’s Bayraktar TB-2 drone has made a name for itself —the “Pantsir-hunter”— due to the successful kill scorecard of the Russian-manufactured Pantsir short-to-medium range mobile air defense systems. Following the Turkish drone warfare school’s footsteps, the Azerbaijani military has effectively used UAS, especially Bayraktar TB-2, to hunt down the Armenian air defenses. Of course, Roketsan-made smart munitions, predominantly MAM-L, played a chief role in the suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) campaign. Only within the first two weeks of the ongoing clashes, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces destroyed  some 60 pieces of air defenses, mostly 9K33 OSA and 9K35 Strela systems.
Apart from the game-changer Turkish weaponry, Azerbaijan’s another important source for such arms is Israel. In this respect, the Israeli Harop loitering munitions —kamikaze drone— come into the forefront. Differently from other unmanned aerial systems baselines, ‘kamikaze drones’ carry a warhead tipped on the platform. Therefore, instead of weapons release, loitering munitions dive onto their targets. The Israeli Harop line deserves attention due to two key features. First, it enjoys great autonomy, enabling human on the loop and even human out of the loop operations. Second, it has anti-radiation capabilities which means the drone can detect and autonomously home onto radar emissions. The latter characteristic has been sensationally manifested in Azerbaijan’s targeting  of the Armenian air defense forces’ Russian-manufactured S-300 strategic SAM (surface-to-air missile) system.
Overall, in the absence of a robust network-centric air defense architecture, and in relatively permissive airspaces, drones proved to be effective SEAD assets. Without a doubt, most UAS are still easy to shoot down compared to manned aircraft. Thus, one cannot claim that against a robust adversary, fielding a complex A2 / AD (anti-access / area-denial) capacity backed by electronic warfare and counter-drone echelons, solely relying on unmanned systems could offer adequate solutions. Drone-based SEAD operations are ideal against adversaries lacking network-centric air defenses and a complete air-picture.
Lesson 5: Despite the drone age, military-geostrategic calculus still matters
While Azerbaijan’s technological edge and drone warfare have, so far, demonstrated a robust warfighting capability, the offensive campaign has had to utilize traditional concepts and weaponry to clear and hold the occupied territories. As the Azerbaijani push developed, Baku’s military planning transformed from a drone-driven, overwhelming war of attrition into a more combined arms warfare effort, pursuing a more balanced approach.
In fact, some mid-October writings, in a premature fashion, claimed that  although the Azerbaijani military showcased a good drone warfare performance, its territorial gains remained limited. Well, at present, the Azerbaijani territorial gains have a very different outlook than mid-October. The Azerbaijani military captured critical positions, such as the Iranian frontier of its occupied territories, and, at the time of writing, has been advancing for the geostrategically invaluable Lachin corridor.
All in all, the ongoing war shows that the traditional military-geostrategic calculus is still relevant. Conventional warfighting capabilities to clean, hold, and deny territory remains crucial. However, considering the aforementioned ‘lesson-1’ and ‘lesson-2’ as to the Armenia – Azerbaijan conflict, one can safely assume that drones are now an integral part of modern combined arms warfare operational art.
* Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency.
Shusha and Lacin: the two towns shaping the Armenia-Azerbaijani conflict
The war between Armenia and Azerbaijan will be determined by the fate of the two strategic towns.
Earlier this year the Armenian occupied region of Karabakh held “presidential elections” which saw Arayik Harutyunyan being elected with more than 88 percent of the vote.
The region, renamed Artsakh by the Armenians, is not recognised by any other country, including Armenia as a separate entity. Consecutive UN resolutions have made it clear that the region is part Azerbaijan.
That didn’t stop Harutyunyan from declaring himself president and holding his controversial inauguration in the town of Shusha, angering Azerbaijan in the process.
Fast forward to October 2020, the Azerbaijani army is on the outskirts of the town of Shusha as part of its ongoing effort to liberate areas from Armenian backed separatists.
The region has significant strategic and cultural importance for Azerbaijan. It’s the birthplace of many Azerbaijani writers, social figures and politicians and were it captured, it would be a significant milestone in the ongoing one-month-old conflict.
“Shusha is indispensable for Azerbaijan’s counter-offensive campaign,” says Rauf Mammadov, a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington.
“It is essential for both military and political reasons. By regaining major mountainous towns, Azerbaijan will ease its way towards Lachin and Kalbajar, two remaining districts with challenging terrain,” added Mammadov speaking to TRT World.
In recent days the Azerbaijani army has also made inroads towards the town of Lacin, which borders Armenia and is the main gateway via which Armenia re-supplies the region of Karabakh with armaments and supplies necessary to maintain control of the region.
Lacin and Shusha together are two of the most strategically important areas in the Karabakh region, says Rusif Huseynov, a foreign policy expert and director of Baku-based think tank Topchubashov Center.
“The former [Lacin] is an overland bridge connecting Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, while the latter [Shusha] is a strategic height from where one could keep all Nagorno-Karabakh under control,” says Huseynov speaking to TRT World.
The current flare-up in fighting is the most serious fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan since they fought a lengthy war between 1988 and 1994 resulting in a heavy human toll.
The agreed ceasefire was meant to give way to a political solution. Since then however, the conflict froze and Armenia moved to entrench its presence on the ground through demographic engineering.
Baku’s significant advances in Karabakh has surprised many, who firstly didn’t expect the conflict to last this long or to see Azerbaijan regaining crucial parcels of territory that it had not controlled since the 1994 ceasefire.
The Azerbaijani government has moved swiftly to exert control over the region announcing “temporary special administration in the liberated territories” which border Iran.
The decree states that securing public infrastructure and gathering information left behind in the region will be the top priorities as Baku seeks to consolidate its gains.
“The success of the Shusha operation could also inflict severe damages to the resistance of the Armenian forces. For Azerbaijanis, Shusha is the embodiment of Karabakh, its soul,” says Mammadov.
“Timely success in Shusha will also equip Baku with the upper-hand at the negotiation table with the adversary, provided, of course, if the Armenian side opts for the negotiation,” he added.
Politically for Baku it would be essential to capture one or both of these two towns. Internally the strong emotions that the latest conflict has evoked will be difficult to placate without a significant victory.
Externally, Azerbaijan’s hand at the negotiating table would be strengthened and likely force Armenia to make compromises it would not have previously countenanced.
“Both Lachin and Shusha are game-changers and capturing at least one of them means an important turn in the course of the war, capturing both would automatically end the conflict,” says Huseynov.
As the war is unfolding in Karabakh the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Jeyhun Bayramov are having a face to face meeting in Geneva.
With three broken ceasefire attempts behind them, it will be difficult to see what the meeting will achieve in particular with Azerbaijan having the upper-hand on the battlefield.
After the “stubborn and meaningless resistance of the Armenian leadership” to negotiations in the past, says Huseynov “Azerbaijan seems now to pursue a maximalist position: to liberate all the occupied territories or at least the Lachin corridor and Shusha.”
“Under a blockade, the Nagorno-Karabakh secessionist forces will have no chance and Azerbaijani control over Lachin would make their survival impossible.”
On September 27, the South Caucasus witnessed a new escalation in the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. This war has turned the world’s attention to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which has remained unresolved for 30 years. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, consisting of France, the USA and the Russian Federation, have been dealing with this problem for 26 years, unable to produce any results. With Nikol Pashinyan becoming Prime Minister of Armenia, many people hoped it would push towards a solution of this problem. In fact, during the first meeting between the leaders of the two countries held in Dushanbe in 2018, Prime Minister Pashinyan asked for time from Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in order to consolidate his power in the country and to take creative substantive steps regarding the solution of the conflict.
However, Nikol Pashinyan instead chose to take provocative steps under the influence of competition in his domestic policy. At this point, he has even made harsher and more radical statements than Robert Kocharyan and Serj Sargsyan, who are regarded as the Karabakh clan. These steps taken by Armenia have provoked Azerbaijan and strengthened the idea of war in the country, whose last hope for peace has now been exhausted.
Although the international community has taken some steps in hopes of stopping the conflict from its initial start date, it has not yielded any results. Since the beginning of the clashes, with Russia, France and USA’s coordination, the two sides have thrice agreed on a temporary “humanitarian truce”, although neither three turned into a final ceasefire agreement. During the humanitarian truce, as a result of Armenian ballistic missile attacks, 61 Azerbaijani civilians lost their lives.
While the Armenian side argued that a ceasefire should be achieved urgently without preconditions, the Azerbaijani side argued for a timetable to be put forward for the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied territories. This plan is in accordance with the four resolutions of the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly resolution adopted in 2008. James Warlick, a former U.S. diplomat and one of the Minsk Group co-chairs, also shared in his twitter that peace is possible only if the occupied territories are returned to Azerbaijan.
Nonetheless, Armenia does not accept these offers. In his interview and address to the nation, Nikol Pashinyan made a statement saying that they do not accept these conditions and told Armenians that “we will either fight to the end or accept the offer of Azerbaijan”. After the twice occurring meetings in Moscow between Ministers of Foreign Affairs of both countries, Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan declared that the problem does not have a diplomatic solution and they will fight until the end.
Both sides have complained about the lack of sufficient international support and attention. Elections held in the USA have negatively affected the country’s activity on this issue. In general, experts believe that the US interest in the region has been in decline since the Obama and Trump era. However, the presidential candidates have recently called for an end to the war. Trump’s rival Joe Biden declared in a statement that for a permanent ceasefire, Armenia has to withdraw from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan surrounding the Nagorno-Karabakh region. US Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison has also stated that “Armenians should live within the borders of sovereign Azerbaijan! This can be resolved and then this conflict will end”.
Different approaches were taken by EU member countries. While Hungary and Italy supported the position of Azerbaijan, French President Emmanuel Macron’s statement that “France will not allow Azerbaijan to enter Nagorno-Karabakh” pleased Armenia, while making Azerbaijan believe that France undermined its neutrality as a member of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs. But later, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of France Jean-Yves Le Drian corrected President Macron’s remarks and stated that France should remain neutral on this issue.
As a member of the CSTO, Armenia first expected a Russian military intervention. After Pashinyan’s fourth phone call, Vladimir Putin made a statement saying that the clashes were not taking place within the borders of Armenia and that the CSTO would not intervene. Afterwards, Armenia called for Russian peacekeeping troops to be brought to the region. However, since this region is internationally recognized as Azerbaijani territory, peacekeeping troops cannot be deployed without the approval of Baku. According to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, the arrival of peacekeeping troops here should be the last step after a political solution is reached. According to Matthew Bryza, former member of Minsk Group Co-Chairs, peace units cannot come to the region from Minsk Group Co-Chair countries.
In addition, Azerbaijan has constantly insisted on Turkey`s involvement in the negotiation process, hoping that it will speed up the resolution process. Although Turkey is one of the members of the OSCE Minsk Group, it is not a Co-Chair.
Despite some claims, Turkish forces are not on the ground fighting against the Armenian troops. As reported by the Azerbaijani officials, the Azerbaijani army has sufficient manpower to remove the Armenian troops from its territory on its own. According to some experts, Armenian claims about the Turkish involvement in clashes have three reasons. First, this creates Russian-Turkish escalation in the region. The second reason is to get support from the West. Thirdly, it allows the Pashinyan government to convince the Armenian people that they are fighting against both Azerbaijan and Turkey.
There have also been some allegations about Syrian fighters. However, all the video and photo evidences shown were scenes of conflict shot in Syria, not in Nagorno-Karabakh. President of Turkey Rajab Tayyib Erdogan has also debunked this claim, stating that Syrians have more work to do in Syria. Azerbaijan has enough manpower and has no reason to bring in foreign fighters, and additionally, Azerbaijan is a secular state. Past actions of Azerbaijan, like imprisoning some of its citizens and even stripping others of their citizenship for going to Syria to fight also make the allegations seem illogical.
Iran, one of the other states of the region, also argues that the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh should be resolved within the framework of the UN Security Council resolutions and within the framework of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity.
The resumption of this war is the result of lack of advancement in the peace negotiations process that have been going on for 26 years within the framework of the Minsk Group. Azerbaijan, along with implementing the four UN Security Council resolutions that were adopted in 1993, is also useing its legitimate right of self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter. The conflict will come to an end when Armenia withdraws its troops from the Azerbaijani territories. Otherwise, ceasefires will be temporary and occupation will be permanent.