25 June 2022

Saturday, 12:38

GAMES WITH THE FIRE

Armenia provokes skirmishes on the border with Azerbaijan trying to disrupt the delimitation process

Author:

01.08.2021

Back in 1980, the Soviet television released a TV mini-series Государственная граница (State Border). The first episodes provided a sort of historical background on the re-establishment of the border service after the revolution in Russia. The series was followed by a sequel – with the same characters, but in a new geography, showing the next generations of border guards... The last part of the franchise was released in 1988. The title for this part was borrowed from the famous song Katyusha – On the Far Frontiers. The plot takes place on the Armenian section of the USSR state border. Back in the Soviet times, especially if you look from Moscow, it was really one of the far frontiers of the country. But today, in South Caucasus, the borderline is so close that it can serve any time as a real scene of action not only in the cinema, but in reality. Most importantly, the potential danger of border incidents that Armenia regularly provokes on the state border with Azerbaijan is much higher.

 

Haunting Fire...

The dangerous growth of such incidents is clearly visible. Border authorities receive daily reports of violations of the ceasefire and skirmishes at the border. The incident has already claimed the live of an Azerbaijani warrant officer Farman Yagublu killed by an Armenian sniper.

The latest incidents on the border can hardly be called "minor incidents" inevitable after the war. First, eight months have passed since the ceasefire came into force. On the first day, cars with loudspeakers drove along the front line, announcing that a ceasefire agreement had been signed, the beginning of the withdrawal of Armenian troops from Azerbaijan, and messages like "your resistance has lost meaning" and "your death will not change anything." But today it is hardly possible that there is someone in Armenia who did not know about the order to cease fire. Pashinyan, of course, has strained relations with the army, but it is unlikely that he does not control them so much that he is unable to ensure silence on the border. In other words, the incidents clearly show that the situation is deliberately heated up, thus disrupting the process of delimitation and demarcation of borders.

 

But why?

In his interview to the state-run local television channel AzTV, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev touched the issue of delimitation and demarcation of state borders: “We have reached our frontiers. Why did we do it in May? Because the snow had melted. Earlier there was 2-3 meter thick snow. It was impossible to get there. As soon as the snow melted, we took control over the necessary control points, settled down, strengthened and will strengthen there. I understand the disappointment of Armenians because they still live in illusions. They cannot come to terms with the post-war realities. I believe that the psychological factor also plays a role here. Apparently, they need time to get used to the new realities from a psychological point of view, because our victory ruined all their ideological foundations."

 

Some necessary details

Demarcation and delimitation of borders is really a painful process for Armenia. After all, it causes noticeable territorial losses for the country, which they prefer not to talk about aloud. But they must return the lands that belong to others, there is no other way. Back in the time, when the large section of the state border with Azerbaijan in the districts of Zangilan, Gubadli, Lachin and Kalbajar was under the Armenian occupation, Armenians have noticeably shifted the borders in many places. Now, when these areas are liberated and the de-occupation is underway, the land must be returned - along with dozens of farmer houses, gold mines, power plants and strategic roads.

Yet, it is not only and not so much the demarcation and delimitation of borders that scares Armenia the most. Yerevan is well aware that the completion of this process will be followed by preparations to sign a peace treaty, which will be based on the principle of the mutual recognition of state borders. President Ilham Aliyev has repeatedly noted that Azerbaijan was ready to start preparing a peace treaty based on mutual respect and recognition of borders. But, as it became known to Azerbaijan through confidential channels, Armenia is still not ready to make this step.

As explained by the expert community of Yerevan, the peace treaty based on the recognition of borders will also mean that Yerevan recognises Garabagh as part of Azerbaijan.

In this context, it is easy to understand the military and political manoeuvrers of Yerevan, including Pashinyan's initiative to ensure a "parallel withdrawal of troops" in disputed areas and the deployment of international peacekeepers or someone else on the border line.

 

Anatomy of the initiative

Neither the ideas on the withdrawal of troops, creating a buffer zone, nor the fact of voicing such phrases are new to Azerbaijan. Ombudsman Arman Tatoyan, who is rapidly gaining political weight in Armenia, was the first to speak on this issue. A few months ago, he made statements that the residents of Armenian border villages were allegedly getting nervous by Azerbaijani posts and flags on the dominant heights. Therefore, he offered a buffer zone to ensure the safety and tranquillity of those Armenian residents. Moreover, he offered to create the zone at the expense of Azerbaijan.

Pashinyan went even further and proposed in addition to place peacekeepers in the buffer zone. Some in Yerevan even said that these peacekeepers could be not only from Russia, but also, for example, from France. This caused understandable bewilderment in Moscow: Armenia is a member of the CSTO and, to put it mildly, it is not supposed to enter into such relations with Western countries. The answer from the Kremlin came exclusively from the media, but the signal to Yerevan was clear enough.

We can only guess whether Armenia really expected that France, after several of its unsuccessful cross-border operations and the curtailment of military activity in many regions, would decide to meddle in the situation in the South Caucasus. Or maybe they wanted to provoke Russia this way? But the Armenian logic is well understandable. That’s how they solved a very painful issue in Yerevan. After the defeat in Garabagh, Armenia simply did not have the strength and resources to cover its borders, but they could achieve this with the assistance of external forces. But most importantly, it would give Armenia a chance to ‘freeze’ the conflict status of the region and postpone the signing of the peace treaty with Azerbaijan for indefinite future.

However, the existing balance of power in the region is not for the advantage of Armenia, nor does it give Armenia a chance to play games with fire. As well known, any state begins with borders, while the civilised behaviour begins with the recognition of these borders. Armenia has already had a chance to see what might be the consequences of underestimating the military potential and determination of Azerbaijan.



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