Wednesday, November 8, 2023 Armenian Official Rejects Azeri Territorial Claims • Astghik Bedevian Armenia - A view of the village of Tigranashen claimed by Azerbaijan. A senior Armenian official rejected on Wednesday Azerbaijan’s continuing demands for the return of “eight Azerbaijani villages” which it says are occupied by Armenia. Baku refers to several tiny enclaves inside Armenia which were controlled by Azerbaijan in Soviet times and occupied by the Armenian army in the early 1990s. For its part, the Azerbaijani side seized at the time a bigger Armenian enclave comprising the village of Artsvashen as well as large swathes of agricultural land belonging to this and several other border communities of Armenia. Azerbaijan claims that it had never occupied any Armenian territory. It also rejects the idea of using Soviet-era military maps to delimit the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. This delimitation mechanism is backed by Armenia as well as the European Union. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev demanded the “de-occupation” of those villages in a phone call with European Council President Charles Michel last month. His demands came amid lingering fears in Yerevan that Azerbaijan may invade Armenia after regaining control over Nagorno-Karabakh. “Armenia has not handed over to Azerbaijan the eight Azerbaijani villages that are still under occupation,” the Foreign Ministry in Baku said on Tuesday in a statement on the third anniversary of a Russian-brokered ceasefire that stopped the six-week war in Karabakh. Armenia - Parliament deputy Gevorg Papoyan. Gevorg Papoyan, a parliament deputy and leading member of Armenia’s ruling Civil Contract party, responded by saying that Yerevan has never pledged to unilaterally give those enclaves back to Azerbaijan. Echoing statements by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, he said that the Armenian government can only discuss mutual troop withdrawals or territorial swaps. “But as a result of that process, Armenia’s total area must remain 29,800 square kilometers,” Papoyan told reporters. “This must be enshrined in an [Armenian-Azerbaijani] peace treaty. So we need to sign the kind of peace treaty that could not create problems or leave the possibility of a new war.” Armenian opposition leaders have repeatedly condemned Pashinian’s stated readiness to consider the return of the enclaves, saying that they all are adjacent to highways leading to Armenia’s strategic Syunik province and Georgia. One of them, Tigran Abrahamian, claimed on Wednesday that the Azerbaijani demands are the result of Pashinian’s “unilateral commitments.” G7 ‘Gravely Concerned’ About Displacement Of Karabakh Armenians Japan - The foreign ministers of the G7 nations attend a working dinner as part of their meetings in Tokyo, November 7, 2023. The foreign ministers of the Group of Seven nations on Wednesday expressed serious concern at the mass exodus of Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian population and called for a “lasting peace” between Armenia and Azerbaijan. “We are gravely concerned over the humanitarian consequences of the displacement of Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh after the military operation conducted by Azerbaijan,” they said in a joint statement issued after their meeting in Tokyo. “We urge Azerbaijan to fully comply with its obligations under international humanitarian law and welcome international efforts to address urgent humanitarian needs for those who have been displaced,” added the statement signed by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the top diplomats of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan as well as the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell. It stopped short of explicitly urging Azerbaijan to allow the safe return of more than 100,000 Karabakh Armenians who fled to Armenia following the September 19-20 offensive condemned by the EU. Blinken also criticized it when he spoke to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on September 19. The G7 statement came as Aliyev reviewed an Azerbaijani military parade staged in Stepanakert. In a 30-minute speech, he again defended the assault that restored Baku’s full control over the territory. “We underline our support for advancing a sustainable and lasting peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan based on the principles of non-use of force, respect for sovereignty, the inviolability of borders, and territorial integrity,” said the G7 ministers. One of them, Germany’s Annalena Baerbock, urged Yerevan and Baku to resume EU-mediated talks when she visited the two South Caucasus countries late last week. Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian were twice scheduled to hold such talks last month. But the Azerbaijani leader withdrew from one of those meetings and delayed the other. A senior Armenian lawmaker suggested last week that Aliyev is now reluctant to finalize an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace accord backed by the EU and the United States. The deal would commit Baku to explicitly recognizing Armenia’s current borders. Russia has been very critical of the EU and U.S. peace efforts, saying that their main goal is to drive it out of the South Caucasus. The secretary of Russia’s Security Council, Nikolay Patrushev, claimed on Wednesday that the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict can be resolved only if the Western powers avoid any “interference” in it. Another India-Armenia Arms Deal Reported India - Anil Chauhan (left), chief of India's Defense Staff, meets his Armenian counterpart, Eduard Asrian, New Delhi, March 4, 2023. Armenia will reportedly buy $41 million worth of anti-drone military equipment from India in a fresh arms deal between the two countries that have significantly deepened bilateral ties in the last few years. Citing unnamed “officials,” the Indian news website Euarasiantimes.com reported on Wednesday that Yerevan has already signed a supply contract with the Indian company manufacturing the Zen Anti-Drone System (ZADS). The deal calls for not only the delivery of an unspecified number of ZADS units to Armenia but also their maintenance and training of Armenian military personnel, the publication said, adding that the company, Zen Technologies, will open an office in Armenia for that purpose. ZADS is a new system that can detect combat drones and neutralize them through communication jamming. The Indian army is due to receive the first such systems next March. “Armenia realizes that once Indian armed forces induct it, it must be good,” Eurasiantimes.com quoted an Indian official as saying. The Armenian Defense Ministry did not confirm the report. It normally does not comment on its arms acquisitions. The Azerbaijani army heavily used Turkish and Israeli-manufactured drones during the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh and subsequent clashes along Azerbaijan’s border with Armenia. The Armenian military is therefore keen to boost its air defenses. India and Armenia have stepped up defense cooperation since the Karabakh war during which India’s arch-foe Pakistan strongly supported Azerbaijan. In September 2022, the Armenian Defense Ministry reportedly signed contracts for the purchase of $245 million worth of Indian multiple-launch rocket systems, anti-tank rockets and ammunition. Indian media reported afterwards that the two sides signed in November 2022 a $155 million deal to supply Indian 155-milimeter howitzers to the Armenian army. An Indian defense publication, idrw.org, reported in September this year that Armenia is due to receive a total of 90 ATAGS howitzers. Six of them have already been delivered to the South Caucasus nations while the 84 others will be shipped over the next three years, it said. Russia has long been Armenia’s principal supplier of weapons and ammunition. But with Russian-Armenian relations worsening and Russia embroiled in the large-scale war with Ukraine, Yerevan has been looking for other arms suppliers. Armenian leaders have implied over the past year that Moscow has failed to supply more weapons to Yerevan despite Russian-Armenian defense contracts signed after the 2020 war Late last month, Armenia signed two arms deals with France. One of them entitles it to buying three sophisticated radar systems from the French defense group Thales. The French and Armenian defense ministers also signed in Paris a “letter of intent” on the future delivery of French short-range surface-to-air missiles. No financial details of these agreements or delivery dates were made public. France, which is home to an influential Armenian community, has become in recent years Armenia’s leading Western backer in the international arena. India also supports the country in the conflict with Azerbaijan. Former Karabakh Army Chief Cleared In Armenian War Probe • Naira Bulghadarian Nagorno-Karabakh - General Jalal Harutiunian (left) oversees a military exercise. Armenian law-enforcement authorities have dropped one of the two criminal charges against a former commander of Nagorno-Karabakh’s army prosecuted for serious military setbacks suffered during the 2020 war with Azerbaijan. Armenia’s Investigative Committee indicted Lieutenant-General Jalal Harutiunian in September 2022 on two counts of “careless attitude towards military service” One of the accusations stemmed from an Armenian counteroffensive against advancing Azerbaijani forces launched on October 7, 2020 ten days after the outbreak of large-scale fighting. Its failure facilitated Azerbaijan’s subsequent victory in the six-week war. The Investigative Committee said at the time that Harutiunian ordered two army units to launch an attack southeast of Karabakh despite lacking intelligence and the fact that they were greatly outnumbered by the enemy and had no air cover. It also blamed the general for poor coordination between the units which it said also contributed to the failure of the operation. The committee confirmed on Wednesday that Harutiunian has been cleared of this charge. It said a prosecutor overseeing the criminal investigation made this decision based on the findings of a report submitted by unnamed military experts. According to Harutiunian’s lawyer, Arsen Sardarian, the 11 “experienced” experts concluded in the 306-page report that the general acted competently during the botched counteroffensive. Sardarian declined to go into details, saying that he will hold a news conference soon. An ethnic Armenian soldier fires an artillery piece during fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, October 5, 2020. Sardarian claimed in June that the counteroffensive in question was not necessarily a failure because the Karabakh and Armenian forces killed some 300 Azerbaijani soldiers and suffered only 20 casualties. The lawyer also argued that the counteroffensive was authorized by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and the then chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff, Lieutenant-General Onik Gasparian. He said that if his client is indeed guilty of mishandling that operation then so are Pashinian and Gasparian. Pashinian has denied Armenian opposition allegations that he is the one who ordered the October 2020 operation. “That operation was proposed by a general and that proposal was deemed acceptable by a general and the possibility of putting that proposal into practice was assessed by a general,” he told lawmakers in 2021. Harutiunian was not arrested pending investigation, unlike his successor Mikael Arzumanian, who is facing separate charges in Armenia stemming from the disastrous war. Arzumanian too denies them. Opposition leaders maintain that Pashinian is primarily to blame for Armenia’s defeat in the war which left at least 3,800 Armenian soldiers dead. They claim that he ordered the criminal charges against Harutiunian, Arzumanian and other senior military officers to try to dodge responsibility. The premier has blamed the country’s former leaders for the outcome of the war stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire. Reposted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL Copyright (c) 2023 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc. 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.