The Caucasus is at war again. The intensity of the clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan increases in the Republic of Artsaj with no negotiations in sight despite the international community’s calls for restraint and dialogue.
The frontline is currently situated along the entire eastern border of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Armenians are trying to defend the Republic of Artsaj by focusing their attacks beyond Magadis.
For its part, Azerbaijan is bombing the positions north of the enclave’s border with its entire air force. They are using Turkish-made drones. There are Turkish F-16 fighters in the air “The Armenian Defense Ministry spokeswoman, Shushan Stepanián, wrote on Facebook yesterday.
Both Azerbaijan and Armenia have reported numerous casualties in the enemy ranks and huge losses of war material. The Armed Forces of Azerbaijan declare to have destroyed about 200 battle tanks and 228 artillery pieces of the Armenian military forces.
The disabled equipment includes rocket and mortar launchers, 30 air defence systems, six command, control and observation posts, five ammunition depots, more than 110 light vehicles and one unit of the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system.
In terms of loss of life, according to one part of the Azerbaijani ministry of defence, since the outbreak of fighting there have been “nearly 2,300 casualties, including both dead and wounded”. For its part, the Yerevan government claims that more than 800 Azerbaijani soldiers have been killed since the beginning of the aggression.
Both sides have entered into a war of information that neither clarifies nor denies the information published by each other. But if these figures are true, we see a great disadvantage within the Armenian troops. Indeed, Armenia’s prime minister, Nikol Pashinián, has banned men between 18 and 55 from leaving the country in case he has to send them to the front.
The Azeris are gaining ground in the areas invaded by Armenia in 1994 and which have been in dispute since the war ended 26 years ago. In this connection, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence has claimed to have “liberated territories previously occupied by Armenia”, citing the towns of Garakhanbeyli, Garvend, Kend Horadiz, Yukhari and Ashagi Abdulrahmanli, among others.
This progress appears to be endless, particularly after the declarations of the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliev, who made it clear yesterday that he will continue with the military operations until the Armenian troops leave the occupied Azerbaijani territories. “Armenia must renounce the policy of occupation. “We only have one condition: Armenian armed forces must unconditionally, fully, and immediately leave our lands”, said the president when visiting several soldiers wounded in the front line.
The opposing sides criticise the Minsk Group and rule out dialogue
Nikol Pashinián stated yesterday that his country does not consider a tripartite Russian-Armenian-Azerbaijani summit on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict possible. “In the midst of intense military actions, it is not very appropriate to speak of an Armenia-Azerbaijan-Russia summit. To negotiate requires an atmosphere and adequate conditions “, Pashinyan told a group of journalists in the Armenian capital.
Referring to the peace talks sponsored by the group, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev is also very critical of the inefficiency achieved after almost thirty years. “They encouraged us and sent us some signals: be patient and the problem will be solved. But I warned them that the Azerbaijani people will not tolerate the occupation and that, if the negotiations do not succeed, Azerbaijan will solve the problem by military means,” he said.
Aliyev regretted that the mediators of the Minsk Group and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were unable to influence Armenia, adding that: “If they cannot stop the occupant, the Azerbaijani soldier will”. In contrast to his previous warlike actions and declarations, the Azeri president assured that he has nothing against the Armenian people and recalled that Azerbaijan is a country where thousands of Armenians live. “Nobody treats them badly. They are our citizens,” he said.
Following news of renewed armed clashes, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has decided to take up the initiative of the Minsk Group, a body set up in 1992 to resolve this territorial conflict. The group’s co-chairmen are Russia, France and the United States. The group also comprises Belarus, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Finland and Turkey, as well as Azerbaijan and Armenia.
It seems that this dialogue table has been set aside by both sides due to its diplomatic inefficiency in the past. This makes things more difficult for the international community, which will have to think of another strategy to attract opponents to the dialogue, either by reinventing the Minsk Group, involving the United Nations with a peace mission or creating another group that has more influence in fair and diplomatic talks.
Both the UN Security Council and the French President himself, Emmanuel Macron, wanted to take direct action. While the Council pinned all its hopes on the Minsk Group, Macron (who belongs to the group) decided to speak directly to Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, and Donald Trump of the United States. These three countries are part of the Minsk Group which is reviving its talks to plan a new roadmap.
The Turkish government assured yesterday that it will stand by Azerbaijan in its military confrontation. Since last Friday when the movements of Turkish militias from Syria and Libya to Azerbaijan were published, this support on the ground had not been so explicitly confirmed by any member of the Turkish government.
“We said that if Azerbaijan wants to solve [the Armenian occupation problem] on the ground, we will stand by Azerbaijan,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu told the Turkish agency Anadolu. The minister did not give details on what kind of military support Turkey would be ready to offer, although he reiterated that Ankara “will do what is necessary if Azerbaijan has “any demand”.
This foreign intervention leaves the Armenians in deep disadvantage, the clashes continue if development and Armenia loses ground. Azerbaijan’s main objective is to recover the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Although it is not yet known who broke the ceasefire established between the two sides, the big losers of this offensive, unlike in the war of 1994, are on the way to being the Armenians.