According to the information of Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan, on April 2, 2016 Armenia targeting civilians densely residing in the territories adjacent to the frontline area opened intensive heavy weapons fire at the positions of Azerbaijan’s armed forces along the line of contact. As a result of artillery attacks of Armenian armed forces, a number of civilians were killed and seriously wounded. Substantial damages were also inflicted upon the private and public properties. The armed forces of Azerbaijan have taken the necessary counter measures within its internationally recognized borders to ensure the safety of civilian population, to stop the provocations of Armenia and to deter it from further acts of aggression.[i]
International community reacted immediately to the escalation of the situation at the region. The first reaction came from Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered his condolences to Ilham Aliyev over the Azerbaijani servicemen martyred during the armed clashes along the contact line of Azerbaijani and Armenian troops, criticized OSCE for his duble standart policy and declared his full support to Azerbaijan.[ii]
The United States Secretary of State John Kerry condemned in the strongest terms the large-scale ceasefire violations along the Nagorno-Karabakh Line of Contact.[iii]
French President Francois Hollande said that the conflict in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in southwestern Azerbaijan might be settled only through negotiations.[iv]
To show the solidarity of Pakistani people to Azerbaijan, Ministry of Defense od Pakistan changed its Facebook’s cover page to Azerbaijani flag.[v]
International organizations also expressed their concerns. Deeply disturbed by the recent reports of large-scale ceasefire violations along the Line of Contact in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged all relevant parties to put an immediate end to the fighting and take urgent steps to de-escalate the situation.[vi]
OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President Ilkka Kanerva and the OSCE PA Special Representative on the South Caucasus, Kristian Vigenin called for an immediate cessation of hostilities.[vii] OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was very concerned about the military escalation along the Line of Contact in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone and about the casualties, including among civilians. He called upon the sides to end hostilities immediately and to respect the ceasefire in full. There is no military solution to the conflict. The sides must now show the necessary political will to return to the negotiations in the framework of the Minsk Group. The Minsk Group Co-Chairs enjoy my full support in their task”.[viii]
The Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group expressed grave concern over the reported large-scale ceasefire violations that are taking place along the Line of Contact in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone. They strongly condemned the use of force and regret the senseless loss of life, including civilians. The Co-Chairs called upon the sides to stop shooting and take all necessary measures to stabilize the situation on the ground.[ix]
EU High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini said she was deeply worried by reports of heavy fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh and called for an end to hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan.[x]
Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland called on the parties of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to cease fire and resume negotiations.[xi]
Pedro Agramunt, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, worried at the reports of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh and deeply saddened at the loss of life, called on both sides to honour the cease-fire and swiftly resume negotiations towards a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He also called for “the withdrawal of all Armenian armed troops from occupied Azerbaijani territories in compliance with the UN Security Council resolutions”.[xii]
NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for the South Caucasus James Appathurai called on the parties to cease fire on Twitter.[xiii]
President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, immediately after finishing his visit to the USA, convened Security Council’s meeting, where he was very clear: As long as Armenia does not stop its provocative actions, it will continue to suffer heavy losses. He declared that Azerbaijani heroic soldiers not only managed to prevent the provocation, but also were able to liberate some strategically important heights which further increased Azerbaijan’s advantage on the contact line. He congratulated the Azerbaijani army and people over the victory. His message was very clear: if Armenian soldier doesn’t want to die, then let him leave Azerbaijani lands.[xiv]
Azerbaijan activated its diplomatic service to inform international community. In his statement[xv], MFA of Azerbaijan declared that Azerbaijan has repeatedly brought to the attention of the international community that the illegal presence of Armenian armed forces in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan remains a main cause for the escalation of situation and continues to pose threat to the regional peace and stability. Armenia, by consistent provocations and escalation of the situation, strengthening of its military build-up in the occupied territories, illegally changing the demographic, cultural and physical character of the seized lands, engaging in unlawful economic and other activities, including transfer of Armenian population into these territories pursues an apparent goal of annexation of Azerbaijan’s territories and consolidating the status-quo, which is unacceptable and unsustainable as it was also stated by the Heads of States of OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs. It is Armenia that also blocks all initiatives of OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, including the recent proposals of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to derail the negotiation process. It once again proves that the official Yerevan is not genuinely interested in seeking a political settlement of the armed conflict.
MFA of Azerbaijan repeated that the fundamental basis for the settlement of the conflict is laid down in the United Nations Security Council resolutions 822(1993), 853(1993), 874(1993) and 884(1993) and the U.N. General Assembly resolution 62/243 (2008), which condemn the use of force against Azerbaijan and occupation of its territories and reaffirm the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and the inviolability of its internationally recognized borders. In those resolutions, the United Nations reaffirmed that the Nagorno-Karabakh region is an inalienable part of Azerbaijan and demanded immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of the occupying forces from all occupied territories of Azerbaijan.
MFA of Azerbaijan underlined that the military occupation of the territory of Azerbaijan does not represent a solution and will never produce a political outcome desired by Armenia. The sooner Armenia reconciles with this reality, the earlier the conflict will be resolved and the countries and peoples in the region will benefit from the prospects of cooperation and economic development. So, it called the international community to demand from Armenia to cease the illegal occupation of Azerbaijan’s territories, to withdraw its troops from all seized lands and to engage constructively in the conflict settlement process in accordance with the requirements of relevant resolutions of the UNSC and the norms and principles of international law.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Elmar Mammadyarov talked on the phone with Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany and the acting OSCE Chairman, as well as Herbert Salber, Special Representative of the EU for the South Caucasus.[xvi]
Azerbaijani counterattack was rapid and destructive for Armenia- according to the information of MOD of Azerbaijan, six Armenian tanks, 15 gun mounts and reinforced engineering structures have been destroyed and more than 100 servicemen of the Armenian armed forces were wounded and killed during the shootouts.[xvii] President of the Republic of Armenia and National Security Council Serzh Sargsyan convened a meeting of National Security Council[xviii] to discuss the situation.
Taking into account the appeals from international organizations and the peaceful policy pursued by the Azerbaijani state, the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan have unilaterally suspended the counter-attacks and response measures in the territories occupied by Armenia, declaring that if the Armenian armed forces do not stop provocative actions and continue shelling Azerbaijan’s populated areas and army positions, the Azerbaijani armed forces will continue offensive operations to destroy the enemy with the purpose to liberate the occupied lands and ensure the territorial integrity by using all available military equipment.[xix]
But while Azerbaijan decided to suspend unilaterally the counter-attacks and response measures, Armenian army continued shelling Azerbaijani positions.[xx]
At the same time, in regards with the provocative and subversive acts from armenian side, criminal cases were filed by Prosecutor General’s Office and Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan, in accordance with the relevant Articles of the Criminal Code and necessary investigations are being carried out.[xxi]
This attitude shows again the true face of Azerbaijan and Armenia-Azerbaijan wants peace and cooperation, but Armenia is looking for war. But it is time for Armenia to understand the reality- this combat showed clearly that psychological motivation and military training of Azerbaijani army are very high. While Azerbaijani people are ready to combat for the liberation of their territories, Armenians don’t want to stay at the occupied territories. By the way, according to the Armenian press, Armenian army killed 15 Armenians for desertion. Indeed, they are right- they have nothing to do at the territories that don’t belong to them.
Dr. Turab Gurbanov