The fighting on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border: Why now?

The fighting on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border: Why now?
By Seymur Mammadov

For several days, fierce fighting has been going on in the Tovuz direction of Azerbaijan on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. As a result of the escalation of the conflict, 11 military personnel were killed on the Azerbaijani side, and 4 military personnel on the Armenian side. The most curious fact is that the battles are not on the contact line in Karabakh, as was usually the case, but on the state border. Frankly, the previous Armenian regimes tried to refrain from provocations at the state border, but the Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan went a completely different way. Why did official Yerevan decide to arrange a similar military adventure on the state border, and not in occupied Karabakh? There are several factors that can explain the transfer of the theater of operations from the contact lines in Karabakh to the state border.

Firstly, the clash with Azerbaijan occurred only three days after the demobilization of the son of Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan Ashot Pashinyan from the army. This coincidence is not accidental, because over the past year, while Pashinyan’s son was in the army, the situation on the front line was much calm.

Secondly, a year ago in Azerbaijan it was decided to transfer the state border with Armenia to the State Border Service of Azerbaijan. Prior to this, units of the Ministry of Defense of the country were located here. In the summer of 2019, a gradual transfer of sections of the state border to the border regime began. This decision caused hysteria in Armenia, where they would like the border to remain in the status of a war zone, which would enable the Armenian armed forces to quietly advance their positions in Azerbaijani territories.

Thirdly, from the first days of coming to power, Pashinyan began to make excessive claims against his strategic ally of Russia and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). He put pressure on the leadership of the CSTO, provoked and made demarches in order to obtain preferences for Armenia. It is enough to recall the scandal with the arrest of the CSTO Secretary General Yuri Khachaturov in Yerevan and the many-month-long obstruction by Yerevan of the process of electing a new general secretary. Nikol Pashinyan wanted only one thing – to get the CSTO open support for Armenia in the conflict with Azerbaijan.

However, the Armenian side was clearly stated that military operations in Karabakh are an internal affair of Azerbaijan and this does not fall under allied obligations. In this case, Pashinyan understood what Serzh Sargsyan’s main failure was, so he decided to transfer the theater of operations from the Karabakh front to the state border with the hope of involving Russia and the CSTO in the conflict.

Neither Russia nor the CSTO supported Armenia, and did not condemn Azerbaijan. They called on the conflicting parties for restraint and a cessation of hostilities. Pashinyan’s plan to engage them in the conflict failed. Meanwhile, Turkey openly declared its readiness to support Azerbaijan in the current situation.

Fourth, what is happening in Karabakh is perceived by the Armenians as happening on foreign territory, far from the borders of Armenia. Despite the efforts of propaganda, the Armenians still deep down understand that Karabakh is a foreign land and military operations on the contact line have nothing to do with their safety. Meanwhile, a clash on the state border is already a kind of threat that can make citizens forget about everything else. Including power failures, an upcoming pandemic, deep economic crisis, 30 percent unemployment and 50 percent poverty in the country. Simply put, by provoking hostilities on the border, Nikol Pashinyan tried to save his power, divert the attention of his people from internal problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Unfortunately, until UN resolutions are implemented, military clashes both on the border and on the contact line in Karabakh will continue to occur. Official Baku is ready to provide the Nagorno-Karabakh region with wider autonomy under the jurisdiction of Azerbaijan, a guarantee for the full provision of the civil, socio-economic, cultural rights of the Armenian population living there in accordance with the legislation of Azerbaijan and international law. However, official Yerevan should intensify its participation in the negotiations on the Karabakh issue, and carry out all four revolutions of the UN Security Council. This is the only way to restore peace and stability in the region …

The author is Director of the International Expert Club "EurAsiaAz"
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