Aris Messinis / AFP via Getty Images
On Wednesday, Russia proposed sending military observers to monitor a shaky ceasefire in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, amid mutual recriminations between Armenia and Azerbaijan over alleged truce violations.
In the Azerbaijani capital Baku, officials accused Armenia of attempting to attack Azerbaijan’s oil pipelines. In turn, the Armenian officials he said Azerbaijan was trying to conquer Nagorno-Karabakh despite the ceasefire.
The small oil-rich region in South Caucuses, internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, has been ruled as a de facto independent state controlled by ethnic Armenians, known as the Republic of Artsakh, since it broke apart in 1991.
The seething conflict between the former Soviet republics over Nagorno-Karabakh has erupted again in a hot war in recent weeks, with over 500 deaths since September 27. It quickly attracted regional powers in Turkey and Russia. Ankara has close ties with Azerbaijan, whose population is mainly ethnic Turks. Russia is seen as an ally of Armenia, but it also has good relations with Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said he was confident of regaining the disputed region by force, a position Turkey supported, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledging his nation’s support and urging other countries to side with Baku. in the “battle against invasion and cruelty”.
Aliyev on Wednesday warned Armenia of any attempts to seize its oil and gas pipelines, two of which pass close to the disputed region.
“Armenia is trying to attack and take control of our pipelines,” he said in an interview. “If Armenia tries to take control of the pipelines there, I can say the result will be serious for them.”
Armenia denied the request.
The Artsakh Defense Army of Nagorno-Karabakh accused Azerbaijan of “targeting peaceful settlements”, bombing the city of Martakert and conducting air strikes in the region.
#Azerbaijan continues to violate the humanitarian truce, targeting peaceful settlements.
– Artsakh Defense Army (@Karabakh_MoD) October 14, 2020
Foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia reached an agreement on a humanitarian ceasefire starting Saturday and an exchange of prisoners, but the truce began to fall almost immediately.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday that he believed Moscow should send its observers to monitor compliance with the ceasefire agreement.
He said that the decision lies with Azerbaijan and Armenia, but: “We believe it would be absolutely correct if they were our [Russian] military observers, “Lavrov told Russian radios in an interview, according to the TASS news agency.
Meanwhile, Turkey allegedly recruited Syrian mercenaries to join the battle on the Azerbaijani side, which Turkey denies, raising concerns about a possible proxy war in the region. Militarily, Azerbaijan is seen as having the upper hand and Baku has reportedly gone into arms-buying madness, buying tens of millions of dollars worth of weapons before the fighting, Reuters reports, citing Turkish export data.
“It is not too late to resolve the conflict peacefully, through negotiations,” Nagorno-Karabakh leader Arayik Harutyunyan said, Reuters reports. “But if the enemy doesn’t want to, we are ready to fight to the end.”
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Azerbaijan and Turkey are pushing the conflict and appear to have no intention of honoring the ceasefire.
In his Russian radio interview, Lavrov said Moscow disagreed with Turkey that a military solution was a viable option, a position he said was shared by the Azerbaijani leader.
“It is no secret that we cannot agree with the statement that a military solution to the conflict is permissible,” said the Russian foreign minister.
Since 1992, the Minsk group of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), co-chaired by Russia, the United States and France, has been working to resolve the long-simmering conflict in the South Caucasus.
Late last month, French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to be siding with Armenia in the conflict, claiming that it was Azerbaijan that started the conflict and saying he discussed the situation with Aliyev and Pashinyan.
“I wanted these attacks to stop. I explicitly condemned these disproportionate attacks,” he said at a press conference during a visit to Latvia.
Macron said the attacks had been established “to come from Azerbaijan”, adding that: “Both sides must respect the ceasefire.”
However, on Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France should remain neutral in the dispute.
“We would do a disservice to the quality of our bilateral relations with Armenia if we took an unbalanced posture that would question the role we play within the Minsk Group and the influence we have,” Le Drian told the French. newspaper Le Figaro.
Earlier this month, the United States signed a joint statement with Russia and France condemning both sides for “the dangerous escalation of unprecedented violence in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh area.”