Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has warned that Azerbaijan is trying to create a “pretext for new military aggression against Armenia.”
“Azerbaijan is continuously attributing its own ceasefire violations to Armenia. Obviously, this is a creation of a pretext for new military aggression against Armenia,” Pashinyan tweeted on Monday.
The Defense Ministries of Armenia and Azerbaijan have accused each other of ceasefire violations every day in the past week. Pashinyan retweeted a report from the Armenian Defense Ministry on Tuesday that Azerbaijani units along the eastern border fire at each other and then at Armenian positions “as if in response to fire opened by the Armenian side.”
“The Azerbaijani armed forces create an impression that the Armenian side is firing in the direction of its positions, and then begins to open fire in the direction of the Armenian combat positions from different caliber firearms,” the MoD of Armenia said.
Pashinyan said the report proves that the Azerbaijani side is “creating fake news on ceasefire violations by Armenia.”
Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense said on Monday that the Armenian armed forces “assembled additional military personnel and four artillery pieces” using military vehicles near Azerbaijani military positions along Armenia’s eastern border on October 16.
“We declare that the Armenian military-political leadership bears the entire responsibility for the tension that may arise in the region,” the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said.
The MoD of Armenia responded that the buildup of artillery is a defensive response to the “movement and deployment of additional forces and equipment by the Azerbaijani armed forces.”
“If the Azerbaijani side withdraws the mentioned equipment from the given direction, the Armenian side will also withdraw its [equipment],” the Armenian Defense Ministry said. “The Armenian side is ready to negotiate on this issue.”
In response to ongoing border tensions, Pashinyan suggested the need for a “permanent international mechanism” to “maintain the ceasefire regime and provide border security.”
On October 14, the European Union (EU) sent a temporary monitoring mission to the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, following a decision reached during a quadrilateral meeting between Pashinyan, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, European Council President Charles Michel and French President Emmanuel Macron on October 6.
On October 17, the European Council officially confirmed the decision to send “40 EU monitoring experts along the Armenian side of the international border with Azerbaijan.” The monitors will be temporarily deployed from the EU Monitoring Mission to Georgia for no more than two months.
“This is another proof of the EU’s full commitment to contributing to the ultimate goal of achieving sustainable peace in the South Caucasus,” EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said.
“The 27 Member States have acted rapidly to respond to Armenia’s request,” EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus Toivo Klaar tweeted on the day of the deployment on October 14. “The aim of the EU deployment will be to monitor the situation and support Armenia-Azerbaijan stabilization on the ground.”
During a speech on October 14, Aliyev said that the Azerbaijani side had “resolutely rejected” an attempt to send the EU observer mission to the Azerbaijani side of the border.
The quadrilateral meeting, hosted on the sidelines of a pan-European summit in Prague, was held following a two-day war within Armenia proper from September 12-13, resulting in over 300 deaths on both sides and the capture of 10 square kilometers of Armenian territory. The fighting marked the first time in this decades-long conflict that Azerbaijan has launched a large-scale attack within the internationally-recognized borders of Armenia.
Armenian authorities have expressed their dissatisfaction with Russia’s refusal to assign blame for the attacks and the failure of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russian-led military bloc, to provide Armenia with military support.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan on October 12 that the CSTO is also ready to send an observer mission to the Armenian border.
Lavrov said that these “recommendations have been in our hands for more than a month” since the CSTO sent a fact-finding mission to Armenia on September 20 following the latest border fighting. He suggested that Armenia had not accepted the recommendations.
Mirzoyan said that Armenia expects a “clear position” from Russia regarding Azerbaijan’s attacks and the continued presence of Azerbaijani troops within the Armenian border.
“Some countries with which there is no long history of friendship and strategic partnership made statements that more objectively and clearly reflect the situation that has developed on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border,” Mirzoyan told Lavrov.
The previous day, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova had dismissed the EU monitoring mission as “yet another attempt by the EU to interfere by any means in the normalization of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, to oust our country’s mediation efforts.”
Armenia and Azerbaijan have also traded barbs this week regarding the opening of regional transport and communication links. The November 9 trilateral ceasefire agreement ending the 2020 Artsakh War says that Armenia will provide “transport links between the western regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic in order to organize the unimpeded movement of citizens, vehicles and goods in both directions.”
Azerbaijani authorities have interpreted the ceasefire agreement to mean that Armenia should provide Azerbaijan with a corridor through its southernmost province Syunik free of passport or customs controls. The Armenian side has repeatedly denied demands for a corridor.
“Can anyone find any mention of a ‘corridor’ referring to the territory of Armenia in the 11/9 trilateral statement? Of course no!” Pashinyan tweeted on Tuesday. “Is there any mention of a ‘corridor’ in the 11/9 trilateral statement? Yes, and it’s the Lachin corridor to Nagorno-Karabakh. That’s the only one.”
“Is there any unilateral obligation of Armenia to construct new roads between west regions of Azerbaijan and Nakhijevan in the 11/9 trilateral statement? NO!” Pashinyan continued. “Could it happen upon agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia. YES! Armenia is ready to do it according to its legislation. Positive reaction of Azerbaijan is needed.”
On Monday, Pashinyan tweeted that a draft decision on opening three checkpoints on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border to provide a connection between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan “is being formally circulated for several months.”
“Government of Armenia is waiting for positive reaction from Azerbaijan,” Pashinyan said.
Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded that “Armenia should cease fake pretexts to evade its commitments under the trilateral statement of November 2020 to link auto/railroads through Zangezur corridor.”
“To suggest three unrealistic options of check points for connectivity ignoring 20 months-long discussions is not a good policy,” the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry tweeted.
Pashinyan responded that the Azerbaijani response proves that “no one can blame Armenia for avoiding its obligations.”
Armenian authorities submitted a draft bill to the National Assembly in August that would authorize the government to set up checkpoints near Karahunj in Syunik, Sotk in the eastern Gegharkunik province and Yeraskh near the border with Nakhichevan.
At the time, Pashinyan said the Armenian government is ready to provide transit connection between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan “right today.”
“Let the Azerbaijanis say where they want to cross. We provide passport control, customs control, and of course, traffic security, in accordance with the procedure established by the legislation of the Republic of Armenia, also with the support of our Russian partners,” Pashinyan said on August 4.
Aliyev accused Armenia of failing to fulfill its obligations under the ceasefire agreement during his October 14 speech.
“We are still showing patience, but it is not unlimited,” Aliyev said, further stating that if Armenia does not provide Azerbaijan with a corridor, it “will be left with no other option but to act accordingly.”
(c) 2022, The Armenian Weekly