The armed forces of Turkey and Azerbaijan are set to conduct large-scale military exercises on Armenian border of Nakhijevan. As reported by the Turkish Defense Ministry, the military exercise will involve military personnel, armored vehicles, artillery, and mortars, as well as military aviation and air defense equipment. The exercises will be held from July 29th to August 10th, and will be hosted in various cities in Azerbaijan including-Baku, Ganja, Kurdamir, and Yevlakh.
Turkey and Azerbaijan have a tight military cooperation with one another, and often joint conduct military exercises. However, what is different with this particular exercise is that it was unplanned and follows a series of provocative border skirmishes Azerbaijan has had towards neighboring Armenia which have been escalating since mid-July. The choice of Nakhijevan to host these exercises is symbolic. Nakhijevan is an autonomous republic within Azerbaijan which was ceded to Soviet Azerbaijan according to a Soviet-Turkish Moscow Treaty from 1921. Nakhijevan is not connected by land to the rest of Azerbaijan, and has only a tiny border with Turkey.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan has been engaging in a systematic culture cleansing of the country’s historic Armenian heritage in Nakhijevan which is considered the worst cultural genocide of the 21st century.
To make matters worse, the border of Nakhijevan is only 40 km far from the Armenian capital Yerevan and is even less of a distance from Metsamor. Metsamor being a strategic city where Armenia’s only nuclear power plant is located. On July 17, Azerbaijani Defense Ministry spokesman Vagif Dargyakhly made a statement threatening that their weapons “are capable of hitting the Metsamor Atomic Energy Station with high accuracy, which will turn into a catastrophe for Armenia.”
Undoubtedly such a scenario will turn into nuclear catastrophe not only for Armenia but for the entire region including neighboring countries such as Georgia, Iran but ironically even Turkey and Azerbaijan themselves. Such statements were an open call to state terrorism and should be properly condemned by the international society.
Members of the European Parliament, 29 MEPs from 7 main political groups, sent a letter to the EU HR/VP of the European Commission, Josep Borrell. The MEPs called on the EU to use its leverage to put in place genuine and effective confidence-building measures mechanisms, and urge Azerbaijan to install the OSCE investigative mechanism for cease-fire violations.
“It is crucial that the EU uses its leverage to put in place genuine and effective confidence-building measures, notably the OSCE investigative mechanism for cease-fire violations which would prevent the sides from blaming each other for initiating deadly attacks. Armenia has agreed to discuss the details of the mechanism. Azerbaijan must do the same”, -mentioned in the letter.
Indeed, the investigative mechanism could be a solution. For over the past several decades each time hostilities erupt, each side ends up blaming one another for initiating hostilities. However, in the era of cutting-edge technology, it is now easier to reveal who is the culprit for initiating the violation of the ceasefire, and who is on the defense.
The main mediator of the conflict, the OSCE Minsk Group, has tried several times, calling on the Presidents of both Armenia and Azerbaijan to accept a mutually agreed upon OSCE mechanism to investigate ceasefire violations.
In a Press Statement by the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, they stated, “Without such a mechanism, the sides will continue to blame each other for initiating deadly attacks on the Line of Contact and Armenia-Azerbaijan border. Armenia has agreed to discuss the details of the mechanism, and we urged Azerbaijan to do the same.”
However, these calls from the OSCE Minsk Group continue to remain ignored from the Azerbaijani side which has refused all proposals for international mediators on producing confidence-building measures that are aimed at the consolidation of another ceasefire.
Armenia is also among 170 countries that endorsed UN ceasefire appeal during the COVID crisis. Azerbaijan refused to join this initiative. Moreover, right after these skirmishes began, protests erupted in Baku, where approximately 30.000 people came out into the streets demanding war with Armenia, and challenging the government to take a harder approach towards the conflict. From the other side, Turkey also fuels regional tensions to incite unrest.
Moreover, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made inflammatory comments threatening Armenia that it will finish the Armenian Genocide. He pledged arms and aid to Azerbaijan, sending a chilling warning to Armenia and the at-risk Armenian population still within the territory of present-day Turkey. And yet despite such comments, Turkey and Azerbaijan aspire to make Turkey one of the mediators of the conflict at the OSCE negotiations. Azerbaijan refuses the suggestions of the OSCE Minsk Group and has a destructive approach to undermine the efforts of international mediators. However, in the sake of global peace, and regional stability the international society should be supportive of the OSCE Minsk group as the only legal framework to resolve the conflict.
The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is over Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh), a part of historical Armenia, and Armenian populated autonomous region (89% were Armenians during the Soviet time) which was forced to join the Azerbaijani Soviet Republic in 1920 by the will of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Since the Gorbachev reforms in 1988, the people of Artsakh raised their voices, using their constitutional rights, to secede from Azerbaijani SSR. As a result, Azerbaijani SSR imposed a war which ended in 1994 with the victory of the Armenian forces. Since 1992, Nagorno Karabakh has proclaimed its independence and is currently an unrecognized republic. The main mediator of the conflict is the OSCE Minsk group including co-chairs from France, Russia and the USA. The negotiations are still ongoing.