15 August 2020

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TARGETING THE PIPELINES

Armenia endangers Europe's energy security and the global communications hub

Author:

01.08.2020

There is relative silence along the state border of Azerbaijan with Armenia in Tovuz. Experts continue to analyse and comment on invisible factors and possible consequences of the outbreak of hostilities between the conflicting parties.

Many analysts claimed the intentional nature of the incident provoked by Armenia since the first hours of fights in Tovuz. Almost unanimously did they note that Azerbaijan simply had no reason to start the fire in Tovuz, which is far from the occupied Azerbaijani lands; along the state border of Armenia, where the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) security guarantees apply. Meanwhile, the Armenian political elite would very much like, firstly, to distract the people from the growing problems and internal crisis. Secondly, to involve third countries in the war, and above all its allies in the CSTO. Obviously, Yerevan’s plans were a complete failure. Even the planned emergency meeting of the CSTO was cancelled. And even in the planned format, Yerevan's allies could only “take a note" of the incident, nothing more, despite Armenia’s incredible diplomatic activities, including the telephone conversations of Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan with the CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and many others.

 

Territorial appetites

To better understand what exactly happened, more precisely, what should have happened in the Tovuz region, let us pay attention to the telephone conversation on July 13 between Armenian Defense Minister David Tonoyan and the personal representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office Andrzej Kasprzyk. Tonoyan assured that "the command and personnel of the Armenian army unit have been instructed to maintain restraint for the time being, and in case of enemy provocations in the direction of the RA borders, to react as necessary - right up to the occupation of new favorable positions." That is, he bluntly stated that the Armenian armed forces intend to advance and "take more favorable positions."

At the same time, David Tonoyan openly spoke about the Armenian authorities' plans to seize new territories in the spring of 2019 at a meeting with representatives of the Armenian community in New York. He stated that the military leadership of Armenia has rephrased the formula of the Karabakh settlement "territory for peace" into the following principle: "New war - new territories." Then he added: “We will surely get out of the permanent state of defense. We will increase the number of units that can shift hostilities to enemy territory." It is difficult to imagine a more transparent hint of plans to seize new territories. Back in 2015 Mr. Tonoyan, when he was still the Deputy Minister of Defense of Armenia, said: “In this context, I would like to ask a rhetorical question: who says that the security belt created in 1994 with the current level of armament of Azerbaijan is sufficient to do what it should do? Who says that the security belt formed around Karabakh Is sufficient for us? Whose rating is this? According to our assessment, in the current conditions, considering the level of armament of Azerbaijan, it is no longer enough." Note that under the “security belt”, Yerevan authorities mean the occupied districts of the Lower Karabakh surrounding the former Autonomous Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh. This was announced in May 2015, and at the beginning of April 2016 Armenia begins shelling the front-line cities and villages of Azerbaijan. This led to an outbreak of fighting, a targeted operation of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan and an adjustment of the front line not in favour of Armenia. Further events are also known - David Tonoyan became the Minister of Emergency Situations of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan's regime soon "fell down". However, the new Armenian authorities led by Nikol Pashinyan, having organised a parliamentary investigation into the April failure, nevertheless, preferred to return Tonoyan to the Ministry of Defense, and even to the post of minister. Where, judging by many indirect indications, he arranged a new dangerous adventure, but at a different point. Moreover, the choice of this point for knowledgeable people speaks volumes.

 

Away from Karabakh, closer to pipelines

Perhaps, in the near future, when the outcome of the Tovuz incident is studied in more detail, the fake news of Armenian PR specialists will be analysed in detail too. This includes an American UAV shot in Afghanistan presented as a "shot down Azerbaijani drone", a video on the official YouTube channel of the Armenian Ministry of Defense, where the air defense forces are targeting a civilian airliner calling it an "Azerbaijani drone", etc. Also, quite a big number of fake news were focused on the Garagay height. At first, they loudly announced in Yerevan that they had taken the control over the height, but then had to admit that Armenia had not established control over any new positions and heights.

But behind the scenes there are some local “geolocation features”. Quite recently, Baku began to replace army units with border guards on the undisturbed sections of the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Many experts then regarded this as a possible step towards peace and normalisation of relations. On the contrary, Armenian authorities decided that this move would make it easier to break through the border.

As can be seen on the map posted by Azerbaijani expert Ilgar Velizade on his Facebook account, Armenian army decided to attack exactly from the location very close to an impressive communication facilities along the border line, including the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil export pipeline and, most importantly, the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC). SOCAR Vice President for Investment and Marketing, Elshad Nasirov, during online discussions of the Caspian Political Center on the impact of COVID-19 on the energy sector, raised the question bluntly: “Now we observe military operations not in Nagorno-Karabakh, which is recognised by all international organisations and countries as the territory of Azerbaijan, but on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. After the meeting, I invite everyone to look at the map of the region. You will see that the entire infrastructure for the export of Azerbaijan's energy resources to Western countries and to the world market is located in this region. Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, Southern Gas Corridor, Baku-Supsa pipeline, Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, Baku-Tbilisi highway are located in close proximity to the place of the outbreak of hostilities. Again, I invite our colleagues from the US and other countries to think about how vulnerable the Ganja corridor and the Trans-Caspian region are and how to ensure the military and physical security of the corridor ensuring the energy security of Europe."

Obviously, Mr. Nasirov’s statement increases the extent of public danger primarily for the EU countries. Incidentally, the incident took place just three months before the SGC reached serious capacity volume and when Turkmenistan is very close to make a decision on joining the new pipeline. And then Armenia decided to play with fire near the export pipelines - the very ones that it regularly promised to strike with either missiles or multiple launch rocket systems.

Certainly, it is a question for military experts to analyse possible links between the attacks on the Garagay Height and the above plans of Armenian authorities. But for politicians, especially in European countries, it is time to seriously think about the fact that the irresponsible behaviour of Armenia threatens not only Azerbaijan. It is already necessary to react to this at a different level...



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