Nagorno-Karabakh, Pridnestrovian FMs discuss border tension in Nagorno-Karabakh

On April 4, at the initiative of the Transdniestrian party, a telephone conversation took place between Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic Karen Mirzoyan and Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Pridnestrovian Moldovian Republic Vitaly Ignatiev.

The parties touched upon the issues related to the large-scale military hostilities unleashed by Azerbaijan along the Line of Contact between the armed forces of the NKR and Azerbaijan in the early hours of April 2, as well as the unfolding situation.

On behalf of the authorities and the people of the Transdniestrian Moldavan Republic, Vitaly Ignatiev expressed full support and sympathy to Artsakh, as well as hope for the earliest stabilization of the situation.

The parties expressed conviction that the Azerbaijani-Karabakh conflict can be settled by exclusively peaceful means.

Azerbaijan knows Nagorno-Karabakh will never be its part – Vazgen Manukyan

17:32 • 04.04.16

Chairman of the Public Council of Armenia Vazgen Manukyan believes that Azerbaijan’s offensive was to be expected.

“Azerbaijan is well aware Nagorno-Karabakh will never be persuaded into forming part of Azerbaijan by means of negotiations. The only thing it can do is to use military means. However, the point is that they have actually unleashed war, and if they had succeeded it would have escalated into a full-scale war. But they failed,” Mr Manukyan said.

The enemy was thrown back, suffering heavy losses.

“I think that along with this tragedy, with people killed and blood spilled, it has proved to Azerbaijan it cannot resolve the problem in the near future, which leads us to a period of peace. Large-scale hostilities failed,” Mr Manukyan said.

As regards international reaction, he said, “We have both friends and enemies.”

It is common knowledge Azerbaijan launched an offensive because Nagorno-Karabakh did not need such an action at all. However, it is difficult for them to admit the fact and make relevant assessments.

“The most important thing is that our soldiers, commanders and leaders on the frontline succeed,” Mr Manukyan said.

He believes that the armies of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh are the most efficient structures in the countries.

Organization of American States condemns Azerbaijan for attacking Karabakh

11:55 • 04.04.16

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, issued a declaration Sunday condemning Azerbaijan for violating the Nagorno-Karabakh cease-fire, calling it “a serious violation of international law, Asbarez reports.

The Organization of American States is the world’s oldest regional organization, dating back to the First International Conference of American States, held in Washington, D.C., in 1889. The moderns iteration was established in 1948 in Bogota, Colombia.

“The OAS brings together all 35 independent states of the Americas and constitutes the main political, juridical, and social governmental forum in the Hemisphere,” explained the organization’s website.’

Below is the complete text of the declaration

Declaration of the Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, regarding recent events in Nagorno Karabakh

April 3, 2016

Stability and peace, and the achievement of peaceful solutions to conflicts between nations are values that go beyond our hemisphere.

Therefore, the use of military action by Azerbaijan is particularly serious because it constitutes a manifest violation of the ceasefire established in 1994 as well as well as a violation of the principle of good faith negotiations in the framework of the Minsk Group.

We condemn the serious violation of the principles of international law.

Moreover, taking civilian objectives as military targets in these attacks is a complete violation of the most basic rules governing armed conflict. These practices must be banished.

Any act of violence to resolve a territorial dispute is inadmissible and when such acts of violence cause civilian deaths they are acts of barbarism.

We urge the Azeri authorities to resume meetings have been postponed with Minsk Group authorities.

The basic principles for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh are based on the Helsinki Final Act (1975), and are:

– The non-use of force,

– Territorial integrity as well as

– Equal rights and

-the self-determination of peoples.

We demand the fullest respect for these principles.

Nagorno-Karabakh: The death of diplomacy

21:32 • 03.04.16

By Richard Giragosian

With much fanfare, the Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents seemed pleased by the welcome as participants in US President Barack Obama's Nuclear Security Summit in Washington. Joining more than 50 world leaders at the opening of the summit on March 31, both leaders met with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice-President Joseph Biden.

Yet for these two rivals, their own dispute and divide over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict followed them to Washington. And that was also evident by the fact that their meetings with US officials were delicately choreographed as "separate but equal" events.

Further frustrating diplomatic protocol, recent attempts by the US side to facilitate a direct meeting of the Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents failed.

And that failure was especially painful, particularly as the US is a co-chair of the mediating Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OCSE) "Minsk Group", the sole diplomatic body responsible for the Karabakh peace process.

Tarnished summit

At the same time, the success of Obama's summit was much more harshly tarnished by the behaviour of other leaders.

First, Russian President Vladimir Putin belatedly announced that he was boycotting the summit, leaving no chance for salvaging cooperation between the US and Russia over proliferation and nuclear security issues.

For the Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents, the summit was an important opportunity to demonstrate and display the strategic significance of their respective countries, while also garnering a greater degree of legitimacy.

For Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian, the Washington summit was an opportune chance to deepen his country's ties with the US. It was also a chance to meet and greet the sizable and politically well-organised Armenian-American community.

But most importantly, in the face of a Russian boycott of the event, Sarkisian was able to demonstrably defend Armenia's independence and sovereignty despite its close security ties to Moscow.

But for the Azerbaijani president, Ilham Aliyev, the summit was even more significant. It was seen as a chance to reaffirm the strategic importance of Azerbaijan, especially crucial in the wake of a serious crackdown on civil society and an economic downturn driven by the slump in oil prices.

At the time, it was perceived as a way for Aliyev to improve his image and, after a recent release of political prisoners, a way to rebuild ties with the West.

Demise of diplomacy

The launch of the Azerbaijani military offensive in the pre-dawn hours of April 2 means that the president's decision to proceed was made either in Washington or on the flight back to Baku.

That timing only suggests that the Washington visit was in many ways a last chance, or an ultimatum, by the Azerbaijani leader to the US to move more forcefully on the Karabakh conflict.

And perhaps, although it was not clear to the Americans at the time, the Azerbaijanis' sense of frustration over the lack of progress in the peace process may have reached a dangerous tipping point.

Such frustration and willingness to use force to change the calculus over Karabakh has also been mounting, and was evident in the deeper trend of escalation over the past several years.

But it may also hold much wider, more dangerous implications. It may actually present a fresh opportunity for Russian involvement. Although Russia is more directly engaged in Armenia, who hosts the sole Russian base in the region, Moscow has emerged in recent years as Azerbaijan's main weapons provider.

Fragile ceasefire agreement

And as this recent surge in hostilities has intensified, the inherently fragile ceasefire agreement, first brokered in May 1994, is now dubious at best. Even the announcement of a "truce" by Azerbaijan late in the fighting on April 3 was not followed on the ground.

Azerbaijani artillery units remained engaged and even expanded their firing, expanding a new front. This only reaffirmed the challenge of returning to a seeming sense of normality in abiding by the terms of the ceasefire.

For Moscow, however, which has long relied on the Karabakh conflict as an instrument for power and influence, the fragility of the ceasefire may become the key re-entry point. Moscow may now argue that the collapsing ceasefire may be only be remedied by a deployment of Russian peacekeepers.

Such a scenario is clearly a threat to all parties in the Karabakh conflict and may add a new, ever more destructive element to the difficult and challenging equation of resolving this conflict.

It may also mean that no matter what the outcome of military operations on the ground will be, the death of diplomacy may also become the demise of the West as Russia returns as the ultimate determinant of security and stability. And that is a strategic threat ironically shared by Armenia, Azerbaijani and Nagorno-Karabakh itself.

Richard Giragosian is the founding director of the Regional Studies Center, an independent think-tank in Yerevan, Armenia.