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Armenia commits another provocation in Karabakh: Test of Baku’s resolve, or call for military operation?

7 March 2023 17:59 (UTC+04:00)
Armenia commits another provocation in Karabakh: Test of Baku’s resolve, or call for military operation?
 Fuad Muxtar-Aqbabali
Fuad Muxtar-Aqbabali
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Armenia has resorted to another provocation against Azerbaijan’s stout resolve to enforce its own national laws across the whole of Karabakh, and the situation in and around the troubled region, once under Armenia’s occupation regained during the 2020 war, has again escalated to the limit.

What is behind fresh Armenian provocation?

This provocation was long in coming and Azerbaijan sustained two losses on March 5, while preventing another attempt of the Karabakh separatists to smuggle weapons and mine into the country from Armenia using a dirt road.

The truce violations were registered simultaneously in Daskasan, Kalbajar, and Gadabay districts on the Armenian border between March 5-6 as well the shelling of Azerbaijani army positions in Shusha by illegal Armenian armed groups in Karabakh was to distract attention to the major shipment of weapons to the separatist region. Truce violations along the Azerbaijani and Armenian borders and inside Karabakh usually occur when Armenians plan military shipments to the region to distract Baku’s attention and this was also not excluded on Sunday.

Beyond the shadow of a doubt, Azerbaijan is aware of illicit deliveries from Armenia to the separatist region via the road beyond its control under the supervision of the Russian peacekeepers as the 86-day-long picketing of the Azerbaijani eco-activists and civil society representatives on the Lacin road turned upside down plans of the separatists to use the ultra-modern transport link for shipment of weapons and military personnel to the area to beef up positions after the defeat in 2020.

In a statement on Armenia’s provocation in the close proximity of Shusha, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said the incident happened when servicemen tried to stop a vehicle of the separatists to check the information that the Khankandi- Xalfali-Turssu unpaved road is used for weapons, mines, and troops deliveries from Armenia to the breakaway region.

The latest shootout on the Khankandi-Xalfali-Turssu road proved one more time that both the separatists in Karabakh, backed by Armenia and their many-tentacled network of patrons and media outlets work hand in hand, and their efforts are to torpedo the confidence-building measures being spearheaded by Azerbaijan over recent months.

Reconciliation backlash?

The March 5 shootout in Karabakh occurred four days after the talks between Azerbaijani and Karabakh community representatives in Khojaly with the mediation of the Russian peacekeepers.

On March 1, Azerbaijan initiated a meeting with representatives of the Karabakh’s Armenian community in anticipation of restarting the reconciliation process following the ousting of Ruben Vardanyan, a Moscow-sent emissary to heighten tension in the region and upset the applecart.

The ministry said that the Lachin-Khankandi road is the only route that could be used for connection between Armenia and Karabakh and that the use of alternative roads is absolutely unacceptable. It added that the March 5 incident demonstrated the importance of establishing a checkpoint by Azerbaijan on the Lachin road.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in remarks for reporters on February 18 in Munich unveiled Baku’s proposal for the erection of checkpoints on the Armenian border to keep under control what is brought in and taken out of the region.

“…it would be good if Armenia and Azerbaijan established checkpoints on the Armenian-Azerbaijan border in a bilateral manner. We made this suggestion earlier and made it official today. Previously, this suggestion was communicated through unofficial channels. Armenia did not voice any position. They probably need some time to discuss it,” the president said.

What emboldens Armenia?

Nowadays Armenia seems confident with the deployment of the EU observation mission on the undelimited border with Azerbaijan and pins great hopes on the mission to be a remedy for and protect it against anti-Azerbaijani provocations.

On 6 March, a series of footage was in the public domain, which showed military deliveries from Armenia to Karabakh via the road where the shootout happened.

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said in a statement on March 5 that Armenia should halt military deliveries to Karabakh and immediately withdraw armed forces from the region.

The provocation in Karabakh shows Yerevan’s intention to go ahead with similar policies designed to preserve neither peace nor war status quo for wishful for Armenia days to attempt to regain control again if Azerbaijan fails.

Armenia has not given up its policy of occupation against Azerbaijan and is not interested in establishing peace and security in the region. Armenia has substantially modified ways of presenting its own foreign policy objectives, avoiding loaded language, and pretending that the Karabakh issue is off its agenda by spotlighting the humanitarian aspect of the issue. However, military deliveries speak volumes about its overt and covert undertakings and lay bare targets of Yerevan’s future-oriented but futile hopes for the situation to revamp one day.

Armenia’s call on the international organizations for an international fact-finding mission to Azerbaijan’s sovereign territories is another brazen effort of Yerevan to pose its nose into Baku affairs.

"Under the current circumstances, sending an international fact-finding mission to the Lachin corridor and Nagorno-Karabakh is of vital importance,” the Armenian foreign ministry said.

Military operation in Karabakh is a must

Limited military operations are a must in Karabakh’s separatist areas nowadays to crush negative developments in the bud and the issue has never been off the table. Azerbaijan can start an anti-terror operation any moment now.

The Russian peacekeeping troops, who are in control of the area, are also to blame for the deadly incident as they turn a blind eye to Armenians’ use of alternative roads in Karabakh in return for bribes and other gifts, and this is beyond any doubt.

The Russian military contingent makes money on the disaster, conflict, and bloodshed of the two nations and this is one of the reasons for the failure of the Russians in the region to keep the Armenian armed forces in Karabakh.

Dissatisfaction with Russia

The shootout took place in the zone of responsibility of the Russian peacekeeping contingent. And this circumstance immediately caused a wave of criticism against Moscow, both in Baku and in Yerevan.

Armenia reproaches the peacekeepers for the inability to end the “blockade of Karabakh” and Baku is dissatisfied with the fact that the peacekeepers allow the Armenian security forces to move along country roads in their area of responsibility, which opens up the possibility for unauthorized transportation of weapons into the region. Azerbaijan believes that the Russian command is cooperating too closely with the power structures of the separatists.

Yerevan is dissatisfied with the current situation and is also trying to influence Moscow, but by other geopolitical methods. The team of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, at every opportunity, shows the Kremlin that the West can be chosen as the main mediator, protector, and sponsor. It is no coincidence that recently Yerevan has sharply increased contacts with European and American representatives, and more and more willingly discusses ways out of the conflict with Azerbaijan not in Moscow, but in Brussels.

Media and Telegram channels associated with Nikol Pashinyan and his team are very critical of Russia. The situation is more and more reminiscent of zugzwang when each of the possible moves only worsens the position.

On March 6, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry blamed the Russian Defense Ministry for spreading false information that serves Armenia's interests and runs principles of the mission it has been vested with since 2020.


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