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The diplomatic process surrounding the ongoing Armenian-Azerbaijani war has reached an expected stalemate. The Armenians do not want to surrender, while the Azerbaijani-Turkish bloc does not want to abandon their high chances of the military victory in the conflict and the full seizure of the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The Co-Chairs of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe held consultations involving Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers on October 30. As a result, the sides issued a joint statement as a result of the negotiations:
- The sides will not deliberately target civilian populations or non-military objects in accordance with international humanitarian law;
- The sides will actively engage in the implementation of the recovery and exchange of remains on the battlefield by providing the ICRC and PRCiO the necessary safety guarantees for facilitation;
- The sides will deliver to the ICRC and PRCiO, within one week, a list of currently detained prisoners of war for the purposes of providing access and eventual exchange;
- The sides will provide in writing comments and questions related to possible ceasefire verification mechanisms in accordance with item 2 of the October 10 joint statement.
In fact these negotiations were another attempt to finally establish the humanitarian ceasefire repeatedly agreed by Armenia and Azerbaijan since the start of the war on October 27. The problem is that while both sides claim that they follow the ceasefire and accuse each others of violating it, clashes and massive strikes on civilian targets continue on the ground.
Speculations of US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien about the possible deployment of some mysterious Scandinavian peacekeepers to the combat zone are also just words as long as the Azerbaijani-Turkish advance continues. Instead, the soft position of Turkey’s NATO allies towards its campaign in Nagorno-Karabakh just ensures Baku and Ankara that they are on the right track.
“Any sort of Turkish mediation or peacekeeping role is a non-starter for the United States, as well as for Armenia. We believe that both countries should accept Scandinavian peacekeepers, and we are working with Scandinavian governments to put together a peacekeeping force that could be deployed into the region to keep the ceasefire,” Mr. O’Brien said.
The Armenian military says Azerbaiajn uses white phosphorus munitions in Karabakh:
In these conditions, the pro-Western government of Armenia started to ‘suspect’ that its NATO allies will not help it in the war with Azerbaijani supported by another NATO member state (Turkey). So, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan opted to write an official request to Moscow complaining that the Armenian pro-Western policies do not help and it is time for Russia to rescue it.
In the letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pashinyan remembered that Armenia is formally a Russian ally and asked for support to ensure the security of Armenia.
“Taking into account the fact that hostilities are approaching the Armenian border and encroachment upon the territory of the Republic of Armenia, the prime minister turned to the president of the Russian Federation with a request to start immediate consultations to determine the form and degree of support that the Russian Federation can provide to Armenia to ensure security, taking as a basis allied relations and Article 2 of the Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance of August 29, 1997,” the press service of the Armenian Foreign Ministry said.
In response, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced Moscow will provide all necessary assistance to Yerevan in accordance with the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between the two countries, if the war comes to Armenia’s territory.
“We confirm the Russian Federation’s commitment to its allied obligations towards the Republic of Armenia, including those arising from the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Armenia of August 29, 1997,” the ministry said. “In accordance with the treaty, Russia will provide all necessary assistance to Yerevan, if fighting spills over to the territory of Armenia.”
“We once again call on the parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to agree on an immediate ceasefire, the de-escalation of tensions and a return to substantive negotiations in order to achieve a peaceful settlement based on the underlying principles in line with the agreements reached by the foreign ministers of the Russian Federation, the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia in Moscow on October 10.”
It should be noted that this Russian position is not some ‘breaking news’. Despite years of anti-Russian propaganda in Armenia and the de-facto anti-Russian stance of the Pashinyan government, Russia has always been and remains the only real guarantor of the Armenian territorial integrity. As to the Nagorno-Karabakh question, Armenia itself does not recognize this territory as an independent sate or a part of Armenia. Furthermore, Armenia did not officially entered the war in Karabakh and avoided sending its regular troops there. Therefore, it would be surprising to expect the direct Russian intervention in the conflict. However, if the Turkish-Azerbaijani bloc pushes too hard and tries to advance inside Armenian sovereign borders, Russia will have to react.
Armenian reinforcemetns move towards the frontline:
This video confirms the Azerbaijani control over the Khodaafarin Bridges on the border with Iran:
The situation on the frontline remains critical for the Armenias. Azerbaijani forces continue their pressure in the direction of the Lachin corridor and the second largest town in the region – Shusha. Baku insists that these offensive actions are just a response to the ceasefire violations by Armenia.
The most recent report on the situation in the region by the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry sounds this way:
During the day on October 30 and night on October 31, the Armenian armed forces fired at the positions of the units of Azerbaijan Army and our human settlements in different directions of the front using various weapons, including artillery and missiles.
The combat operations continued mainly in the Aghdere, Khojavend and Gubadli directions.
As a result of retaliatory actions against the Armenian armed forces in various directions of the front, there were killed and wounded among the enemy’s personnel.
During the day and at night yesterday, a large number of enemy forces, 2 T-72 tanks, 3 infantry fighting vehicles (IFV), 2 “Smerch” and 1 BM-21 “Grad” MLRS, 12 different types of howitzers, 1 – “OSA” anti-aircraft missile system, 1 electronic warfare station and 2 auto vehicles were destroyed and wrecked.
Currently, our troops control the operational situation.
The strike on an alleged Armenian special forces unit:
The Azerbaijani military also reported numerous strikes on Azerbaijani towns and settlements by Armenian forces. According to it, most of them hit the districts of Terter, Aghdam, and Aghjabedi. Reprots about white phosphorus munitions, which Armenia says Baku uses in the conflict, are a part of the Armenian provications, according to Azerbaijan.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry insists:
Intelligence data has been received on the delivery of a large amount of phosphorus cargo to units stationed in the defensive site of the 3rd motorized rifle regiment of the 37th rifle division of the 1st combined arms army of the Armenian armed forces in the occupied Khojavend direction.
It is expected that the aim of the enemy on delivery phosphorus-containing ammunition to the specified regions is primarily their use against the Azerbaijan Army Units. On the other hand, it targets to spread misinformation that the ammunition was allegedly scattered over the terrain by the Azerbaijan Army Units.
The Armenian side lays the basis for its further provocations by spreading on October 30 false and fake information about the alleged use of weapons containing white phosphorus by the Azerbaijan Army.
We declare once again that the Azerbaijan Army does not have any prohibited ammunition in its armament.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry released fresh videos of strikes on Armenian targets:
The Armenian vision of the situation is expectedly quite different. According to its version of events, Armenian forces do not shell civilian targets and it is ‘terrorist forces’ of Azerbaijan pound towns and settlements with civilians, including Shusha and Stepanakert. (In reality, both sides shell civilian targets)
Excerpt from the testimony of victim Zhenya Pavlov Babayan
Q: You were alone in the hospital, there were no other Armenians.
A: I don't know where the other two are, but later they told me “your Armenians were slaughtered ”
??/?? subtitles pic.twitter.com/jgR7quhMde
— Armenian Unified Infocenter (@ArmenianUnified) October 31, 2020
According to the Armenian Defense Ministry, the Azerbaijani military has suffered even more casualties after their failed attacks on Lachin and Shusha. Thus, the alleged number of its casualties reached 6,947. At the same time, Azerabaijan allegedly lost 656 armoured vehicles, 6 rocket launchers, 25 military planes, 16 helicopters and 239 UAVs.
Последние данные о потерях Азербайджана
— Armenian Unified Infocenter (@ArmenianUnified) October 31, 2020
Despite these claims ,even Armenian admit that the Turkish-Azerbaijani bloc keeps the initiative in the conflict. The recent Azerbaijani push towards Shusha became a visual example of this. Azerbaijani forces tried to storm Lachin and, when they realized that the Armenians concentrated large forces there, carried out a blitz attack towards the center of Karabakh and almost achieved a success. The leadership of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic confirms that Azerbaijani troops were located in a striking distance from Shusha.
It should be noted that the long frontline and attempts of Armenian forces to protect all what they can instead of concentrating the main forces on the key directions contribute to the strategic advantage of Azerbaijan because it has the advantage in manpower, military equipment and dominates in the skies. In general, the Armenians have more motivated infantry but this appeared to be not enough in these conditions.
The development of the military situation in Nagorno-Karabakh since September 27:
In these conditions, there are two main hopes of the Armenian leadership:
- The permanent ceasefire and return to the negotiations process with Azerbaijan due to the increasing international pressure on Baku (through diplomatic channels and sanction threats);
- The military intervention of some third party in the conflict on the side of Armenia.
For the scenario 2, the main candidate is Russia. Currently, Moscow demonstrates that it is not going to intervene in the conflict militarily if it remains on the territory of Karabakh. At the same time, Turkey and Azerbaijan are also not interested in expanding the territory of the conflict and further because this will likely lead to the involvement of other forces in the war that could (and likely will) lead to the military defeat of Azerbaijani forces.
Thus, in some scenarios, the Armenians could be directly interested in the Turkish-Azerbaijani attack on Armenian sovereign borders, especially in the area where Russian forces are deployed (to trigger the scenario of the 2008 war in South Ossetia that started after a direct attack on Russian peacekeepers by Georgia).
The shelling of the Armenian territory by Azerbaijan has already taken place and Azerbaijan accused Armenia of using weapons deployed near Karabakh in the conflict. However, now, Yerevan could even more actively involve its troops deployed inside Armenia to strike Azerbaijani forces in Karabakh. For example, Armenia can use its artillery units deployed near the border area. This as well as the public employment of regular troops could become the last try of the Armenians if they really aim to win the war.
At the same time, actions of the Pashinyan government in the previous years and since the start of the war raise concerns that he and his Soros-linked circle are not really interested in Nagorno-Karabakh. First, they created diplomatic conditions for the Azerbaijani-Turkish advance there and now the Pashinyan government is just playing a propaganda hand as it allows Azerbaijan to recapture the area. In general, this will allow the current political regime in Armenia to make an ever more dramatic turn towards the ‘Western integration’ and resolve the ‘territorial issue’ that prevents its further formal cooperation with NATO.
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