OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs must exert strong political pressure on Azerbaijan to prevent full-scale war - Vladimir Yevseyev (update)
10:21 • 03.04.16
Strong political pressure should be exerted on the parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, particularly on Azerbaijan, for border fighting to stop, Russia-based military expert Vladimir Yevseyev told Tert.am.
Russia is the only of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing states that is taking practical steps to put an end to the war, while France and the United States are behind it.
- Mr Yevseyev, what are the prospects of the fighting on the line of contact? Could the hostilities escalate into a large-scale war?
- I do not think so. The probability of resumed war is the lowest. Azerbaijan’s attempts to capture posts in Nagorno-Karabakh failed. I do not know about the current situation because no official information is available now. As I have said, last night the Azerbaijani troops were thrown back from the Armenian positions. At least one Armenian village was under fire last night. And the pressure Russia is exerting on but the sides will not allow the conflict to grow. I think a full-scale war is most unlikely, but what is going on now is unprecedented since the 1994 ceasefire agreement was signed. And we hope for the Madrid principle, we will face a full-scale war.
- Russian Defense Minister will visit Azerbaijan today and the meeting of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs in Warsaw is expected, too. What steps should be taken by the Minsk Group and what can Shoygu do in Baku?
- I think that the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, the United States, Russia and France should put pressure on Azerbaijan in order to prevent escalation of the conflict. Minsk Group’s mandate should be changed. The current mandate, unfortunately, does not work and is not enough. The positive thing is that all the co-chairs, the United States, France and Russia are against any escalation of the conflict and are unanimous that the conflict should be resolved peacefully, and, so, the bloodshed on the border will be stopped. If we do nothing, the conflict will likely happen again. In the coming months it is possible that everything will be repeated again, if no steps are taken. These steps should not be based on the Madrid principles, because they are political points and are not functional as long as the war is not over. And now we have to stop the war.
- You say that we need to take steps to stop the war, but no condemning announcements have been voiced by the OSCE Minsk Group, CSTO and other international organizations.
- Strong political pressure should be applied in addition to the announcements, the thing which Russia does. It would be good if the United States also dealt with this case.
- Why is the US not engaged in this?
- They are, but not enough. A strong political pressure is necessary on the parties, first of all, on Azerbaijan. I do not see similar efforts by the United States. Steps taken by the United States, Barack Obama, are more of the imitative character. But instead of imitation definite steps should be taken to stop the escalation. Russia is involved in this, but Washington, unfortunately, is hiding behind Russia for Moscow to do all. This is wrong. The United States, as co-chair of the Minsk Group, should share the responsibility, but France and the United States do not participate in the process, do not put pressure to stop the events.
For all its objections to the continuing status quo over Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan is doing everything possible to contribute to its maintenance, says Vladimir Kazimirov, a former Russian co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group.
“Azerbaijan severely criticizes and objects to the continuing status quo but at the same time, invests maximum efforts in maintaining it,” the diplomat told Tert.am in a recent interview.
According to him, Azerbaijan’s policies have created the vicious circle effect, leading the peace efforts into a stalemate. “On the one hand, they demand that the Armenians liberate the regions but on the other hand, they repeatedly threaten them with a renewed war. So the question is whether isn’t clear that the Armenian sides [Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh] are not likely to liberate those lands under the conditions of constant threats,” he said.
Asked to comment on the possible outcomes of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs’ upcoming talks in Vienna, Kazimirov said he expects only criticism. “I have no doubt that the co-chairs will discuss those incidents, making calls for returning to restraint and peaceful settlement of the conflict,” he said.
The situation remains somewhat tense now, but it is under control, David Babayan, Spokesman for the President of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), told Tert.am.
The enemy tried to intrude into the Nagorno-Karabakh territory and was thrown back in all the directions, suffering heavy casualties. The Armenian side put five Azerbaijani tanks out of action.
Time will show how long the situation will last.
“Aliyev has fallen into a bad trap, sacrificing hundreds of human lives, dozens of pieces of military equipment. He has lost 20 tanks, four or five drones. They have hundreds of wounded servicemen. How are they going to explain the purpose of this gamble to their people?”
Speaking of international calls, Mr Babayan said:
“Of course, we highlight such calls. Bu we are expecting a tougher international approach, particularly by the OSCE Minsk Group, as Aliyev’s conduct is inadmissible and it will be a disgrace unless a harsher reaction follows this all.”
This harsh response may not be in public, but it is necessary.
“But we do not let Azerbaijan to take strategic initiative in its hands,” Mr Babayan said.
President Serzh Sargsyan is now conducting talks with the US, Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, Narek Nikoghisyan, a spokesperson for the Armenian leader’s press office, says in a statement on Twitter.
The only possible way to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is dialogue and the willingness to accept mutual concessions, the Russian parliament speaker has said, commenting on the past days’ frontline clashes.
“To re-establish peace, we need a dialogue and mutual concession,” the news agency TASS quotes Sergey Naryshkin as saying.
The Russian official added that his country continues working intensively to promote a breakthrough.
“Russia is interested in the re-establishment of peace in the South Caucasus more than any other country,” he said.
Mr Naryshkin noted that the Russian foreign and defense ministers had separate talks with their counterparts in Armenia and Azerbaijan as part of the country’s efforts to return peace to the South Caucasus region. He also referred to President Vladimir Putin’s statement calling for end to hostilities.
The continuing clashes over Nagorno-Karabakh are not likely to erupt into a full-blown war, according to Alexander Sobyanin, a Russian analyst who heads the Association for Cross-Border Cooperation.
In an interview with Tert.am, the expert said he finds that the conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh is over, with the only disputed issue remaining the continuing status quo.
Sobyanin said he doesn’t think that Azerbaijan has sufficiently powerful resources to trigger a war. “Azerbaijan, as a proactive side, has a serious advantage when it comes to the weapons supply, but the Armenian side has the highest military efficiency, a better program of military operations and an army. So Azerbaijan is not likely to decide on resuming the war,” he said.
Azerbaijan reports more losses in frontline clashes
Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense has reported more military casualties on the Nagorno-Karabakh frontline.
According to APA News Agency, three Azerbaijani servicemen were killed in the past days’ clashes along the Line of Contact.
The frontline tensions escalated into a large-scale violence on the night of April 2, as Azerbaijan launched full-blown raids targeting not only Nagorno-Karabakh’s defense positions, but also civilian-populated areas.
Heated clashes are now reported along the Line of Contact. The armed forces of Nagorno-Karabakh have regained control over the situation, inflicting human and material losses on the adversary in the north- and south-eastern parts of the frontline.
According to the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Ministry’s press service, Azerbaijan lost three tanks in the north-east and two tanks in the south-east.
US Congressman calls for cutting aid to Azerbaijan
Congressman Brad Sherman calls for cutting all aid to Azerbaijan until it "it ceases its aggression, renounces violence, and commits to a purely peaceful resolution of the conflict."
Below is the complete statement issued by the Senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
"The Azerbaijani aggression we have seen over the last few days is deeply disappointing. There are a number of news reports indicating that more than 100 Armenians have been killed as a result. Chairman Royce and I urged that Azerbaijan use the opportunity provided by the Nuclear Security Summit to advance the peace process.
"Instead, it appears that Azerbaijan's President Aliyev launched new attacks against Nagorno-Karabakh. I strongly condemn this aggression and believe that US assistance to Azerbaijan be cut off until it ceases its aggression, renounces violence, and commits to a purely peaceful resolution of the conflict."
The Armed Forces of Armenia have destroyed three Azerbaijani tanks, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense says in a post on Facebook.
“Fresh good news,” reads Artsrun Hovhannisyan's status, “the Armenian subdivisions have neutralized three tanks.”
Fighting continues along the Line of Contact.
“The Defense Army destroyed one tank in the north-eastern direction. The Defense Army also destroyed one Grad (Hail) truck-mounted multiple rocket launcher, one drone and one piece of engineering equipment in the direction of Martakert.
“Further information will be available,” reports the press service of the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army.
A statement on a “unilateral ceasefire” by Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense is disinformation, reports the press service of the Defense Army of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR).
“On the night of April 2, Azerbaijan launched a large-scale offensive against Nagorno-Karabakh, using almost all the types of military equipment at its disposal. Moreover, after issuing the statement, Azerbaijani armed forces shelled Armenian settlements, particularly Martakert, using BM-21 "Grad" (BM-21 "Hail") truck-mounted multiple rocket launchers and 152-mm cannons.
“The aforementioned facts, as well as such terms as ‘counter-offensives’ and ‘consolidation of liberated territories’ demonstrate the document is false, its real aim being imitated ceasefire full of overt preconditions.
“The NKR Defense Army is ready to discuss and support the proposal for ceasefire in the context of return to the initial positions.”
Severe fighting is going on in the south-eastern and north-eastern directions of the Line of Contact.
The press office of the Nagorno-Karabakh ministry of Defense reports that in retaliation for the enemy’s massive shelling at dawn the NKR Defense Army launched a counter offensive and seized an important strategic post in the Talish direction, which was previously captured by Azerbaijani armed forces. The enemy suffered severe losses and retreated.
“Two servicemen of the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army were wounded during the military operations. The Nagorno-Karabakh forces are taking successful actions in the southern section of the frontline.
“Rebuffing the enemy’s missile and tank attacks, the units of the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army put out two Azerbaijani tanks and one infantry fighting vehicle out of action,” the report reads.
Further information will be available.
On April 3, at 6:00am, Azerbaijan continued its aggressive actions in the southern direction of the Line of Contact, using missile launchers and armored vehicles.
The advance forces of the Defense Army are taking necessary measures to neutralize the enemy’s offensive actions, the press service of the Nagorno-Karabakh Ministry of Defense reports.
Further information on the situation will be available.
The UN Security Council adopted four resolutions between April and November, 1993, calling for “effective and permanent” ceasefire, as well as “immediate implementation of the reciprocal and urgent steps” in that direction.
Armenia has been under effective land blockade not only by Azerbaijan since the early days of fighting in Nagorno Karabakh, but also by Turkey – a staunch ally of Azerbaijan and a NATO member -- since April 1993.