What is behind new border clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan?

According to the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Azerbaijan, on the night of September 12 and the morning of September 13, the armed forces of the Armenian side committed a large-scale provocation in the Dashkasan, Kalbajar, Lachin, and Zangilan directions of the state borders of two states.

On September 13 President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Ilham Aliyev, held an operational meeting with the participation of the leadership of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Azerbaijan regarding the provocations committed by Armenia on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. During the meeting, it was stated that the provocations committed by the Armenian armed forces on the border of the two states were prevented, and all relevant duties and tasks were fulfilled. It was also stated during the meeting that the responsibility for the current tension rests squarely with the military-political leadership of Armenia.

In accordance with the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Azerbaijan, during the suppression of the large-scale provocation, 71 servicemen of the Armed Forces, including service members of the Azerbaijan Army and servicemen of the State Border Service, became martyrs. Official Armenia also stated that 105 Armenian military service members lost their life. However, independent media outlets of Armenia argue that their loss is around 200 service members.

Before highlighting the various assumptions regarding the Armenian provocation, it should be stated that while complying with the obligation of the Trilateral Statement of November 10, 2020, that was signed between Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Russia as a result of the 44-day War of 2020, Azerbaijan side expressed its interest in establishing permanent peace between the two South Caucasus states by first demarcating and delimitating of officially recognized borders between Azerbaijan and Armenia and then signing of a peace treaty. That is why it should be added that the main aim of Azerbaijan in taking retaliatory measures against the recent provocation of Armenia is to ensure the safety of not only the Army Units of Azerbaijan but also civil Azerbaijanis that are involved in restoration and construction work in the liberated territories after the 44-days War.

Thus, the question arises: What was the Armenian side’s main purpose in this regard to shell the positions of Azerbaijan Army Units regularly and commit large-scale provocation on the Armenian-Azerbaijan state border? It is obvious that since the Trilateral Statement of November 10, 2020, Armenia, both at the political and military leadership level, has tried to escalate the situation in either liberated territories of Azerbaijan or on borders between two states with the same kind of military provocation and adventures when peace negotiation progress intensifies and parties come close to the final agreement. So, the last large-scale provocation of Armenia may be deliberately planned to sabotage the result of the recent Brussels meeting between the parties and the peace agreement that should be prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of both states for final signature by the end of this month. Furthermore, after Brussels meeting Russia has become more active, as evidenced by the telephone conversation between President Aliyev and President Putin, as well as the meeting between President Putin and Prime Minister Pashinyan in Vladivostok. Another Russia initiative is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand that began today on September 15, which will continue two days, and for the first time in three years, is planned to be organized entirely in person, with the participation of 15 leaders from all eight SCO member states, as well as three observer states, and three dialogue-partner countries – Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkiye. Azerbaijan and Armenia have the status of SCO dialogue partners. Both states have confirmed their intention to come to the event in Uzbekistan on the sidelines of which the further discussion on the peace agreement is expected. However, yesterday Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan refused from participation in the upcoming event, and thus, once again demonstrated destructive position and unwillingness for conclusion of peace agreement.  

Noteworthy, that the SCO summit for the first time in three years, is planning to be held entirely in person, with the participation of 15 leaders from all eight SCO member states, as well as three observer states, and three dialogue-partner countries – Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkiye. Through the refusal of attending Russia’s-initiated event and implementation of a large-scale provocation trying to disrupt the peace treaty process, Armenia simultaneously exposed Russia. Realizing that Russia is “distracted to Ukraine”, the leadership of Armenia goes on a provocation to frustrate Russia’s initiative.

It is observed that Armenian political leadership, while failing to fulfill its obligations under the Tripartite Statement of November 10, 2020, always makes different statements at the negotiating table with the participation of international mediators and later on uses all possible ways first to sabotage the negotiations on the peace agreement and then tries to slow down the construction projects of Azerbaijan in the liberated territories.

In parallel, the Armenian side, adhering to its traditional tactics, hastily began “calling” world capitals in order to convince the world community that Azerbaijan is responsible for outbreak of the recent violence. The Armenian government appealed to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) for assistance. According to the CSTO statement, the presidents of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan called for a peaceful solution to the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict based on international law and agreements brokered by Moscow. Yerevan which repeatedly criticized the CSTO before for what it sees as a lack of such support, also appeal to US in the hope of enlisting the support of American politicians fueled by the Armenian diaspora overseas.

It is argued that in the background of the Russian-Ukrainian War, the Armenian side gets support from France and possibly from Iran rather than Russia, its historical ally in this case, because Russia is in a big dilemma and can’t afford any support to Armenia. The recent declaration by Iranian and France political leadership that shows support for Armenia and France’s intention to call United Nations Security Council meeting to take measures against Azerbaijan lays the basis for this argumentation. Against this background it could be argued that, Armenia also seeks to leave the trilateral format and change the current agenda. All these tensions occur in accordance with mercantile goals of Armenian businessmen rushing into big politics, the victim of which is the Armenian people in need of peace.

In fact, Azerbaijan gained elements of pressure on Armenia: new heights, destroyed equipment and infrastructure that will need to be restored, and irretrievable losses. Hence, the strategy and tactics of Armenia lead the country to a new catastrophe.

As stated above, Azerbaijan’s main aim is to conclude a peace treaty as soon as possible, but this intention is always faced with Armenian provocations. Therefore, in light of this development, the only logical way for the Azerbaijan political leadership to take retaliatory measures against Armenian provocations and influence Armenia by force is to conclude peace between the sides. It should also be highlighted that if Armenia will not fulfill its obligation under the Tripartite Statement of November 10, 2020, to open the Zangazur corridor, it does not give any alternative to Azerbaijan but close the Lachin corridor for the use of the Armenian side.

At the time of preparation of this op-ed, the ceasefire after new border clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan has been reached.

Dr.Ceyhun Osmanli
Dr.Ceyhun Osmanli
Dr. Ceyhun Osmanli is a former Member of Parliament, Researcher and Analyst on International Relations and Political Economy, Director of TLM – Initiatives and Projects Center in Azerbaijan