Op-ed: possible implications of recent escalation at Armenian border

JAM News
    JAMnews, Yerevan

The situation on the southern border of Armenia has not changed, acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan reported during a government meeting on May 13. Pashinyan stated that Azerbaijani armed forces had crossed the border of Armenia in the Syunik region, near lake Sev Lich, advancing 3,5 kilometers into the country. Armenian prime minister believes that Azerbaijan is attempting to establish control over the lake.

On May 12, Armenian media reported clashes with the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan which advanced their positions towards the Ishkhanasar community in the Syunik region.

The Armenian Defense Ministry denied the information about the clashes but confirmed that the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, under the pretext of “clarifying the borders, tried to carry out certain activities, but they were halted after the steps taken by the Armenian forces”.

On the eve of May 12, a meeting of the Security Council was held in Yerevan, during which the acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called the incident in Syunik a “sabotage campaign”:

“The current situation is unacceptable, Armenia cannot come to terms with it, our primary task is to resolve it through negotiations. […] But this is just one of our options”.

On the morning of May 13, Nikol Pashinyan said that the situation in the area of Lake Sevlich remains extremely serious:

“There are Azerbaijani soldiers in the lake area, there are also large numbers of our soldiers. I would like to note that the situation has not reached a military escalation and there were no skirmishes or clashes. Work is underway to have Azerbaijani soldiers withdraw from the territory.

What happened in Sev Lich was a pre-planned provocation, because the maps that Azerbaijanis brought with them to prove that they were allegedly on the territory of Azerbaijan were clearly fake.

Our task is to keep the sovereign territory of Armenia inviolable. The armed forces of Azerbaijan must return to their initial positions”.

Pashinyan added that in order to resolve the crisis, it is necessary to act “prudently, decisively, and in principle”.

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Chairman of the Yerevan Press Club Boris Navasardyan provided his own view of the ongoing situation:

“Regardless of whether the Azerbaijani military violated the border of the Armenian SSR and the Azerbaijan SSR in the vicinity of Sev Lich (Black Lake) or not, their actions contradict the November 9 agreement [document on the cessation of hostilities in Karabakh], which clearly stated that the troops deployed to the territories adjacent to Syunik had to remain in their positions.

It is logically assumed that any changes could only have occurred as a result of a formal process of demarcation and delimitation, or at least as a result of a new formal agreement.

Only a few months ago, Armenia obediently and with the tacit consent of Russia allowed the Azerbaijanis to advance, arbitrarily carry out work to “clarify the borders” in the southeast of the country, and did not even raise the problem at the government level. Therefore, there is no use speaking of the November 9 agreement as a solid basis for conflict resolution.

This, in turn, means that new security guarantees need to be found and the Security Council is obliged to address this issue, not just the latest incident”.

Political observer Hakob Badalyan believes that what is happening in Syunik and the region as a whole “is not and cannot be one-dimensional”:

“Consequently, the questions and the search for answers should be as diverse as possible and include the role of Moscow. […]

Can Aliyev afford to encroach on the border in Syunik without Moscow? Of course, opinions in our society vary. There are people who are convinced that he cannot. But why can’t he? What should Russia do if Azerbaijan does this […]? Aliyev cannot attack Russia, he will not attack territory which falls under Russia’s security commitments. But what should Moscow do if Aliyev proceeds with such a border provocation? […]

Obviously, Russia’s security guarantees are ineffective and cannot be maintained if Moscow finds itself in confrontation with the United States. The question here is how can Armenia find alternative [security] mechanisms, without waiting for the Russians to agree with the West on their agenda, because this may not happen, or it may happen, but in a way that does not correspond with Armenian interests and safety”.

Turkologist, journalist Nairi Okhikyan posted on his Facebook page:

“The enemy advanced in the Ishkhanasar sector, taking advantage of the fact that Armenia did not guard the position because of the snow. […] What justification does the country’s political power have? Maybe this too was the fault of the previous [authorities]?

In order to give a little context, I will say that the Sisian section – […] is the narrowest part of the country’s territory and the enemy decided to further narrow in order to split Armenia into two parts with one blow and seize Syunik.

[…] Due to the stupid and frivolous steps of our government, Syunik and Artsakh can be completely separated from the Republic of Armenia”.

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