Situation has remained volatile in the mountainous Caucasus region between Asia and Europe for the last few days, as Armenia continues violating ceasefire with Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan has claimed that the Armenian armed forces violated the ceasefire along the border 130 times over the weekend. In a statement issued on December 9, the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry said that the Armenians targeted the Azerbaijani Army positions in Kohnagishlag village of Aghstafa district in Kamarli and also in Gizilhajili village of Gazakh district with heavy machine guns. The ministry stated that Armenia violated the ceasefire without any provocation.
However, Armenia rejected the claim, with Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian saying that Azerbaijan’s continued military provocations triggered the fresh tension in the region. He strongly criticised Baku for launching the multi-billion dollar money laundering scheme – ‘Azerbaijani Laundromat’ – in order to ensure Europe’s support.
After holding a meeting with his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov in the Austrian capital of Vienna on December 7, Nalbandian attended the 24th meeting of the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe) Ministerial Council. Addressing the meeting, the minister said: “Armenia has always been a strong advocate for advancing the indivisible security in the OSCE area and has continuously contributed to the discussions aimed at reinvigoration of the framework of arms control and Confidence- and Security-Building Measures (CSBMs).”
Nalbandian further criticised Azerbaijan for not respecting the OSCE commitments and eliminating the OSCE Office in Baku. He once again urged Azerbaijan to abide by the ‘Basic Principles for the Peaceful Settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict’ formulated a decade ago.
Interestingly, Armenia and Azerbaijan traded barbs a day after the US, Russia and France hailed renewed Armenian-Azeri talks. The latest allegations and counter-allegations make clear that the two neighbours are not ready to resolve the decades-old Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which had entered its modern phase way back in 1988 when Armenia (read Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic) made territorial claims against Azerbaijan (read the Azerbaijani SSR), through peaceful negotiation. The two former Soviet republics were involved in a fierce battle the Nagorno-Karabakh region and Armenia forcefully occupied around 20% of Azerbaijani territory. As a result, more than a million of Azerbaijanis – who lived in Nagorno-Karabakh and seven nearby districts – became refugees and internally displaced people all of a sudden. Later in 1994, Baku and Yerevan signed a ceasefire agreement in Bishkek to end the conflict.
Experts are of the opinion that ongoing conflict could put the peace process in jeopardy. They believe direct dialogue between the two parties is the only way to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, although it has failed to produce any positive progress so far. The OSCE member countries, too, have requested Armenia to withdraw troops from Nagorno-Karabakh and to restore peace. However, it seems that Armenia is not ready to accept the request and a full-scale war may break out any moment over the breakaway region.