On the Armenian-Azerbaijani border tensions remain. The escalation has slowed a peaceful settlement, a list of claims is growing. DW interviewed officials from both countries.
The July clashes at the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia continues, and the situation in the region remains tense. From July 12 for three days between the armies of the two countries was a massive firefight involving heavy military equipment, in which 17 people were killed, including civilians. The last outbreak was recorded on July 22. Both sides put forward serious accusations against each other. DW gives the position of the representatives of both countries.
How to explain the reasons for the escalation in Baku and Yerevan
The representatives of Armenia believe that the aggravation began after the SUV of the Azerbaijani border guards on Sunday, July 12, came in the area of control of the Armenian military. The Armenian side claims that he was forced to defend the territory from invading the car. In Baku, notice that the border is still not demarcated, there was no invasion, and that all happened is a “provocation” on the part of Yerevan.
In Yerevan called the incident “aggression against the sovereign territory of a member country of the UN, OSCE and Council of Europe” and “an unforgivable mistake”, as stated by DW member of National Assembly of Armenia, member of the standing Committee on foreign Affairs and Anush Begloyan stated. In Baku on charges of aggression categorically reject. “Any military operations on the border contrary to our interests,” – said in an interview with DW, assistant to the President of Azerbaijan Hikmet Hajiyev.
In Baku explanation for the incident is found in the fact that Armenia, says Gadzhiev, “hoped to create a new source of” conflict “to distract from the essence of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict caused by the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven districts of Azerbaijan”. Yerevan, in his opinion, is trying to achieve superiority at the expense of “involvement of a third party in the conflict”, referring to the Organization of collective security Treaty (CSTO).
“Armenia is more profitable to move the conflict along the border than along the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous region. Because Armenia hopes to be able to involve the CSTO in the conflict, in the case of an armed conflict on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border,” – said Azerbaijani political scientist Araz Aslanli, the head of the Caucasian center for international relations and strategic studies. This plan, be sure to Baku, failed. “The CSTO nobody wanted to be involved,” said DW Farhad Mammadov, a political analyst and head of consulting company Strategic Consultancy Group that advises the government of Azerbaijan.
In turn, in Armenia they say that border the July incident demonstrated that Azerbaijan claims not only to Artsakh, recognized in international law of Azerbaijani territories, but Armenia itself. “The explanation for these actions must be sought not only in anti-Armenian rhetoric of the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, but in the specific territorial claims, including the claims and on the capital of Armenia, Yerevan”, – said Anush Begloyan stated. The leadership of Azerbaijan, according to Armenian expert on regional problems Manvel Gumushane, “never hid the fact that it has views not only on Nagorno-Karabakh, but on the whole Armenia, including its capital.” Earlier, the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev stated in particular that “Yerevan is our historical territory, and we, Azerbaijanis must return to this historic land.”
The main obstacles in the peace process between Armenia and Azerbaijan
The July skirmishes on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, admittedly, had a negative impact on the negotiation process on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He stalled long before the July escalation: the summits of international mediators – the OSCE Minsk group with the participation of the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan took place in 2017.
Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinian said recently that Yerevan “will continue cooperation with the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk group for the peaceful settlement of the conflict,” however, the Armenian leadership insists on the condition for inclusion in the negotiation process of the Nagorno-Karabakh authorities. “The fate of the people of Artsakh (Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh.) cannot be determined without the participation of the people of Artsakh,” said DW, the press Secretary of the Armenian foreign Ministry Anna Naghdalyan. The representative of Yerevan reminded that the Karabakh authorities took part in the negotiations, and added that their participation “is based on the substance of the talks and the peace process.”
Azerbaijan refuses to accept this condition. “We can’t take Karabakh to the negotiating table because it will throw the peace process a quarter of a century ago,” says political consultant Farhad Mammadov, referring to the Agreement on indefinite ceasefire of 1994, which was signed by the representatives of Armenia, Azerbaijan and the representatives of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. In Baku believe that the conditions of Yerevan is an abuse of the peace talks instead of “discuss the root of the problem: the return of territories, return of refugees and internally displaced persons”, as he said in an interview with DW Hikmet Hajiyev.
A key barrier to the successful completion of negotiations between Baku considers the fact that the Armenian side “perceives Nagorno-Karabakh as the same Armenia,” Mammadov said. “The last nail in the coffin of negotiations drove the Prime Minister of Armenia, saying that Nagorno – Karabakh is Armenia. It is an open annexation of the territory of Azerbaijan”, – said the assistant of the President of Azerbaijan Hikmet Hajiyev.
In Baku believe that Armenia torpedoes the peace process and supports it with one purpose – not to make concessions to the authorities of Azerbaijan. Hajiyev called Armenia’s position is hypocritical: “on the one hand, they speak of peace, but actions show that it is not interested in negotiations”. Outrage in Azerbaijan caused, in particular, reports about the construction of a new road between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
In Yerevan, Baku position called “maximalist”. “Within the meaning of the Azerbaijani side, the peace process needs to serve only their interests. And as this happens, the Azerbaijani side expresses its dissatisfaction with the negotiating process and the work of the OSCE Minsk group,” said Anna Naghdalyan.
The threat of the parties against the backdrop of escalating
Azerbaijan does not hide disappointment with the conflict resolution process. “No country would tolerate 30 years of occupation and millions of refugees,” – said the assistant of the leader of Azerbaijan Hikmet Hajiyev. Commenting on the recent statements of President Ilham Aliyev, where the Azerbaijani President has mentioned the possibility of war between the two countries, Hajiyev confirmed that “there is a high probability” the resumption of open war between the two countries.
“The approach of Azerbaijan to this issue essentially is this: we follow the path of peace. But the end of this path should be visible, this way should give the result. Otherwise military confrontation will be inevitable,” articulates the position of official Baku, the political scientist Araz Aslanli.
After the July escalation publicly began to discuss the possibility of military attacks on the critical infrastructure of both countries. The threat of a military strike on the Armenian nuclear power plant Metsamor was voiced, in particular, the head of the press service of the defense Ministry of Azerbaijan Vagif Dargyakhli. In response, the Prime Minister of Armenia Pashinyan said that this statement “should be a matter of serious international investigation, because it demonstrates the essence of Azerbaijan as a terrorist state.” In the Armenian Parliament refused to comment on “suicidal statements inadequate people”, as the Deputy said Anush Begloyan stated.
However, the assistant to the President of Azerbaijan has underlined in conversation with DW that the statement about the possibility of attack at the Metsamor nuclear power plant “in no case do not reflect the official position of Azerbaijan and was a personal opinion” one of the officers. “It is the Armenian side used to threaten attacks on critical infrastructure, using missiles “Iskander” – said Hajiyev.
In Armenia, in turn, officially also categorically denied the possibility of attacks on the civilian infrastructure of a neighboring country. Among potential targets in Azerbaijan, experts referred to the Mingachevir reservoir dam (see infographic), as well as tubes of various major oil and gas pipelines passing through Azerbaijan’s territory, for example, “the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline”, TAP and TANAP.