Jalpeyrie - Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) soldiers from the 8th regiment are rushing out of a trench during operation on the Agdam front on the most eastern side of the front
Jalpeyrie - Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) soldiers from the 8th regiment are rushing out of a trench during operation on the Agdam front on the most eastern side of the front

New Year offers little hope for a peaceful resolution of conflict in Nagorny Karabakh

The Nagorny Karabakh War was an armed ethnic conflict between the Armenian and Azeri people that took place from 1988 to 1994. It resulted from conflicting territorial claims during the last period of the Soviet Union. A ceasefire agreement was signed in May 1994 to ensure an end to hostilities and military operations, but it turned into a self-regulating ceasefire without any peacekeeping troops in between. The war ended, but there has been no peace until now, and several dozen soldiers have died in incidents along the Line of Contact. The Nagorny Karabakh Republic is a de-facto independent but unrecognized state. The Nagorny Karabakh Republic Defence Army is its formal defence force, and Armenian soldiers often serve in it.

In 1992, the 49-member Conference for Security and Cooperation, the CSCE (later the OSCE), began to take a more sustained interest. The Minsk Group’s Co-Chairs visit the region regularly to conduct high-level talks with the parties of the conflict, and hold meetings with the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and the Minsk Group members to brief them on the process. They are mandated to a) provide an appropriate framework for conflict resolution by assuring the negotiation process, b) obtain conclusion by the Parties of an agreement on the cessation of armed conflict in order to permit the convening of the Minsk Conference, and c) promote the peace process by deploying OSCE multinational peacekeeping forces. [1]

VANADZOR 31 January, 2015 – As Armenians celebrated the New Year holiday and prepared for the Holy Nativity, news came from the Ministry of Defence that hostile actions were carried out by Azerbaijani Armed Forces on the Line of Contact with the Republic of Nagorny Karabakh Defence Army on 2 and 3 January 2015, resulting in the deaths of two Armenian servicemen. One other soldier was wounded while repelling the aggression. The Nagorny Karabakh military later reported another dead soldier.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia announced that with this provocation, Baku continues to implement Azerbaijani authorities’ threats to use force, even in the time of New Year. The ministry further called the incidents a flagrant disregard for appeals made by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair Countries to refrain from provocative actions and escalation of the situation, especially on the eve of and during religious holidays. [2] According to the Azeri websites News.az, on 5 January 2015 the Armenian Armed Forces reportedly fired intensively at Azerbaijani positions.

“Armenian armed forces’ continuous firing at civilians and villages urges the Azerbaijani side to take adequate and drastic measures by using its all military capabilities. […] The Azerbaijani Armed Forces are fully ready to liberate its occupied territories, and we are confident that we will win the truth war,” the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Azerbaijan stated. [3]

According to the Nagorny Karabakh Defence Army, in the period between on 4 January 2015 and 10 January 2015, Azerbaijani forces violated the ceasefire about 2,500 times. Using weapons of different calibre, including mortars and grenade cup dischargers, they fired more than 25,000 shots. [4]

Similar information can be found in Azeri websites. For example, News.az, on 13 January 2015, published an article about the violation of the ceasefire. “Armenian armed forces violated ceasefire 75 times in various directions of the frontline by heavy machine guns, mortars and grenade launchers within a day”, said the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Azerbaijan. [5] In the both cases, the end of the articles contained almost the identical sentence: “The enemy was silenced by retaliation fire.”
On 10 July 2009, the Presidents of the OSCE Minsk Group’s Co-Chair countries of France, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America affirmed their commitment to supporting the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan as they finalized the “Basic Principles” for settlement of the Nagorny Karabakh conflict. The “Basic Principles” were based on three fundamental elements: the non-use of force, territorial integrity, and the equal rights and self-determination of peoples. The “Basic Principles” called for inter alia: return of the territories surrounding Nagorny Karabakh to Azerbaijani control; an interim status for Nagorny Karabakh providing guarantees for security and self-governance; a corridor linking Armenia to Nagorny Karabakh; future determination of the final legal status of Nagorny Karabakh through a legally binding expression of will; the right of all internally displaced persons and refugees to return to their former places of residence and international security guarantees that would include a peacekeeping operation.

The principles have still not been implemented because both countries are not ready for negotiation or compromise. Instead the Armenian military issued orders to step up pre-emptive actions. According to the information of the website Armenianow.com, the Minister of Defence of the Republic of Armenia, Seyran Ohanyan, has called for more freedom to commanders to be ‘pro-active’ when it comes to defences and pre-emption at the border with Azerbaijan following a recent increase in infiltration attempts by Azerbaijani forces. Ohanyan made the statement at a meeting with top brass held on 13 January 2015. He spoke specifically about addressing shortcomings that were revealed after the repulsion of Azerbaijani sabotage-reconnaissance raids at the beginning of the year, dwelling on enhancing the border defines capabilities. Ohanyan emphasized that the military patrol and monitoring system must be improved and special trainings should be carried out to raise the combat efficiency of troops.
Moreover, according to the minister, the Armenian side should also show initiative in some cases and focus on preventive actions from now on. “We should be able to act on a regular basis and have ready-made counter strikes and punitive measures,” he stressed. [6]

“The current tension on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border is a result of the incompetent, poor and weak-willed foreign policy of the Armenian authorities.” says Arthur Sakunts, Chairman of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor in an interview to Lragir.am, further stating that such incidents are an inevitable consequence of Armenia’s isolation from the international community. [7]

On 2 January 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law making Armenia a full member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). The EEU also includes Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.

Considering the Armenian security issue in the context of the EEU, Sakunts observed that it is both an isolated and opposing union. Joining the Union caused the security guarantees for Armenia offered by broader international cooperation to decrease, and the country became more vulnerable.

“Azerbaijan realizes that Armenia is not only isolated, but also subject to Russia, which opposes the international community. Given this, Azerbaijan reserves itself a considerable right to treat the international agreements, including the ceasefire agreement, in such an irresponsible manner”, Sakunts said. [8]

The population of the border villages is eagerly waiting for a peaceful resolution of the conflict, hoping that one wonderful day they will wake up without fear and without the sounds of shootings.

The years pass, but the problem has not been solved…

References

References

  1. Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, The Minsk Group, Conflict prevention and resolution, available at: http://www.osce.org/mg.
  2. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia, Announcement, available at: http://www.mfa.am/en/interviews/item/2015/01/03/MFA_statem/.
  3. Defence Ministry threatens Armenia with war, available at: http://news.az/articles/karabakh/94714.
  4. New Year brings more truce violations in conflict zone, available at: http://armenianow.com/karabakh/59679/armenia_border_situation_karabakh_azerbaijan.
  5. Armenians use heavy machine guns in firing at Azerbaijani posts, available at: http://news.az/articles/karabakh/94913
  6. Armenian military ordered to step up preemptive action, available at: http://armenianow.com/karabakh/59738/armenia_army_karabakh_minister_seyran_ohanyan_azerbaijan.
  7. EEU untied Azerbaijan’s hands: attacks will continue, Armenian, available at: http://www.lragir.am/index/arm/0/country/view/108757.
  8. EEU untied Azerbaijan’s hands: attacks will continue, Armenian, available at: http://www.lragir.am/index/arm/0/country/view/108757

About Ani Ghambaryan

Ani studied History at the Vanadzor State Teachers Training Institute in Vanadzor (Armenia). She has more than six years of work experience in human rights organizations in Armenia. For developing her capacities, she is currently pursuing a Master degree in Human Rights in Vienna.

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