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New ‘Humanitarian Ceasefire’ And Prospects Of Azerbaijani-Armenian War

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New 'Humanitarian Ceasefire' And Prospects Of Azerbaijani-Armenian War

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The Armenian-Azerbaijani war, which started on September 27, continues in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region despite international diplomatic efforts to decrease tensions and motivate the sides to return back to the negotiating table. The interesting fact is that intense clashes and offensive operations of Azerbaijani forces, supported by Turkey and Syrian militants, continue in the region at the same time as the Azerbaijani government claims that it is committed to the ceasefire regime, which entered force in Karabakh on October 10, after the Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations in Moscow. At the same time, the Armenian side also claims that it is committed to the ceasefire simultaneously conducting counter-attacks against the advancing Azerbaijani forces.

On October 17 evening, the Armenian Foreign Ministry announced that the sides once again reached a humanitarian ceasefire, which should start at 00:00 local time on October 18. Nonetheless, it is not expected that it will last for long in the current conditions.

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry:

No:357/20, Information of the Press Service Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

The Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia have agreed to a humanitarian truce as of October 18th, 00h00 local time.

This decision was taken following the statement of the Presidents of the French Republic, the Russian Federation and the United States of America, representing the co-chair countries of the OSCE Minsk Group of 1 October 2020, the Statement by the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group of 5 October, and in line with Moscow Statement of 10 October 2020.

For the Armenian side, the situation is further complicated by the fat that the current Armenian leadership is not ready (or do not want) to employ the entire variety of its means and forces to fight back the ongoing Azerbaijani advance. Instead of this, Armenian forces involved in the conflict are limited to those of the Nagorno-Karakbah Republic (Republic of Artsakh), a self-proclaimed Armenia-affiliated independent state on the territory of Karabakh. The government of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has so far limited its support to Karabakh forces to supplying weapons, sending volunteers (instead of regular forces), complaining in media and calling on other countries to recognize the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic as an independent state, while Armenia itself has made no steps in this direction.

Azerbaijani strikes on Armenian positions and equipment:

As of October 17 evening, the situation on the frontline demonstrates that the Azerbaijani-Turkish side has been slowly but steadily taking an upper hand in the war. Azerbaijani forces have achieved a series of tactical successes in the northern and southern part of the region, capturing two dozens of small towns and villages. The most important of them are Fuzuli, Jabrayl, Hadrut, Madaghis and Talish.

Azerbaijani forces are in Hadrut:

Over the past few days, especially heavy clashes were taking place near the town of Hadrut, from which Armenian forces withdrew after Azerbaijan took control of surrounding heights. Fuzuli experienced a similar fate as the Hadrut heights in fact overlook its countryside. The Armenian side still insists that the town has not been captured by Azerbaijan. But photo and video evidence from the ground, together with official announcements of the Azerbaijani government, indicate that in fact the town was lost.

New 'Humanitarian Ceasefire' And Prospects Of Azerbaijani-Armenian War

Click to see the full-size image

The Azerbaijani military extensively uses its advantage in the air power (an active usage of combat drones for strikes and reconnaissance operations), artillery and manpower. The advance is also supported by radical militant groups deployed by Turkey from the northwest of Syria and Turkish special forces and specialists (especially in the field of EW operations, intelligence and the air domain warfare).

These factors, especially the air dominance, allowed to deliver a notable damage to Armenian forces destroying multiple pieces of their military euqipment and destroying fortified positions, manpower. The oudtated air defense forces of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic appeared to be unable to deal with the threat from Azerbaijani military aircraft, while Armenia also seems to be unable or has no political will to employ its air defense. Just recently, on October 17, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry released a video of strikes on the S-300 system in Armenia.

Azerbaijani strikes on the Armenian S-300 system (deployed in Armenia):

Earlier, Azerbaijan released videos of several strikes on components of the possible S-300 in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The previous videos include the moments of the alleged destruction of 35D6 (ST-68U) radars and alleged S-300 missile launcher of Armenian forces with Israeli IAI Harop loitering munitions. The first incident took place near the village of Khojaly the Khojaly District, while another one near the village of Qubadlı in the Kashatagh District of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (Republic of Artsakh). The location of the destruction of the S-300 launcher remains unclear.

The strike near Khojaly:

The strike near Qubadli:

Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani side also released a video of the alleged destruction of the S-300 missile launcher. The location of the strike is unclear, but it may have taken place near Qubadli:

Azerbaijani sources also claimed that Azerbaijan destroyed several TOR surface-to-air missile systems of Armenian forces in the combat zone. These claims were not confirmed by video evidence.

Azerbaijan struck Armenian ballistic missile systems (also inside Armenia):

At the same time, the Azerbaijani military conducts intense strikes on civilian infrastructure in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Despite the public claims of the Azerbaijani leadership that the conflict has no ethnic grounds and there is no threat to the Armenian population, in fact, Baku seeks to not only dismantle the self-proclaimed Armenian state, but also to remove or cleanse Armenians there.

The Armenian side responds in a similar manner regularly shelling settlements and towns near the contact line. While some of these strikes may be considered as accidental, as Armenian sources claim, the recent strikes on the Azerbaijani city of Ganja with ballistic missiles are for sure not an accident. According to Azerbaijani authorities, 13 civilians were killed and more than 40 others were injured in the last night attack on the city. The strike was likely conducted with the Soviet R-17 Elbrus tactical ballistic missile complex, which is in service with Karabakh forces.

It is possible that the Turkish-Azerbaijani bloc will develop its further advance along the Iranian border aiming the towns of Qobadli and Zengilan. For Azerbaijan, it will be profitable to extend the frontline because it will allow it to use the advantage in air power and manpower. Meanwhile, the terrain in this part of the region is less complex than in the center or the south. In the event of the success, such an advance will allow to undermine the entire southern flank of Armenian forces deployed in Stepankert and Shusha. This will also create a threat of cutting off the so-called Lachin corridor, a mountain pass within the de jure borders of Azerbaijan, forming the shortest route between Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh.

Another direction of the possible strike is Martakert and Agdam. Nonetheless, in this case, even if Azerbaijani forces achieve a success there, the further advance will be more complicated due to the more complex terrain. In any case, if Baku wants to push the ‘military solution’ of the Karabakh question as its main option, it should regularly demonstrate field gains to its population in order to compensate the negative impacts of the war.

Since the start of the war on September 27, the Azerbaijani-Turkish alliance has achieved a notable tactical progress, but it still needs to turn it into the strategic success if it wants to capture the entire region and push Armenian forces out of it.

The new humanitarian ceasefire announced on October 17 seems like another attempt of the Minsk group, led by France, Russia and the United States, to de-escalate the conflict. Nonetheless, the position of the current Armenian government, which was for years undermining its relations with Russia, and the hardcore posture of Azerbaijan and Turkey that already felt the flavour of the potential military victory will likely not allow to find a ‘constructive’ solution of the situation. Thus, Ankara and Baku will continue demanding a full surrender of Armenia over the Karabakh question, which the Armenian government (even if it wants to do so) cannot accept because this will lead to the immediate collapse of the Pashinyan regime and the instability inside Armenia itself.

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