— The Erimtan Angle —

bbc_news

The war over the breakaway area of Nagorno-Karabakh dates back to the last century, as recounted by the BBC in a nutshell: in ‘1988, towards the end of Soviet rule, Azerbaijani troops and Armenian secessionists began a bloody war which left the de facto independent state [of Nagorno-Karabakh] in the hands of ethnic Armenians when a truce was signed in 1994. Negotiations have so far failed to produce a permanent peace agreement, and the dispute remains one of post-Soviet Europe’s “frozen conflicts”‘.[1]

frozen

Frozen till now, that is . . . as “[n]ew fighting has been reported overnight between troops from Azerbaijan and Armenia in the disputed Caucasus region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The reports say that troops from both sides have used heavy weapons, mortars and artillery. Fighting on Saturday [, 3 April 2016] left at least 30 soldiers dead. Civilian casualties were also reported . . . The defence ministries of Azerbaijan and the unrecognised Nagorno-Karabakh republic said the situation along the front line remained tense. The Azeris said that Armenian soldiers shelled positions of their armed forces along the front lines with the use of heavy weapons, mortars and artillery. But the Armenian-backed defence ministry in Karabakh also accused Azerbaijan of firing rockets and artillery. Russia, which has sold arms to both sides, has called for an immediate ceasefire and for both sides to exercise restraint”.[2]

BBC Azeri

BBC Azeri’s Konul Khalilova explains that the “fighting that erupted on Friday night [1 April 2016] is some of the worst since a 1994 ceasefire between the two sides. Azerbaijan says it has taken back two strategically important villages from the Armenian army, a claim denied by Armenia. As usual, both sides say the other pulled the trigger first. There are reports of civilian casualties on both sides. Witnesses told the BBC’s Azeri service that people were being evacuated from villages near to the conflict zone and that others were hiding in basements. Both President Aliyev of Azerbaijan and Armenia’s President Sargsyan are on their way back from the international nuclear summit in Washington. Azerbaijan has purchased at least $4bn worth of arms from Russia. Armenia, an important strategic partner of Russia in the Caucasus, also buys weapons from Russia. There are concerns that the fighting could lead to a more wide-scale military conflict. Leaders on both sides have been blamed for not making enough effort to achieve peace and instead using the conflict as a tool to stay in power. Nationalist sentiment boosted by pro-government media in both societies has been at its height in recent years. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has expressed ‘grave concern’ over the reported large-scale ceasefire violations. The co-chairmen of the body’s Minsk Group – ambassadors Igor Popov of Russia, James Warlick of the US, and Pierre Andrieu of France – issued a joint statement saying: ‘We strongly condemn the use of force and regret the senseless loss of life, including civilians. The co-chairs call upon the sides to stop shooting and take all necessary measures to stabilise the situation on the ground. They reiterate that there is no alternative to a peaceful negotiated solution of the conflict and that war is not an option'”.[3]

OSCE Minsk

 

[1] “Nagorno-Karabakh profile” BBC News (02 April 2016). http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-18270325.

[2] “Nagorno-Karabakh violence: Shelling continues after worst clashes in decades” BBC News (03 April 2016). http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35953358.

[3] Konul Khalilova, “Analysis” BBC News (03 April 2016). http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35953358.

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