Portugese newspaper refers to Azerbaijani aggression against Armenia
YEREVAN, JULY 22, ARMENPRESS. Diário de Notícias (DN) Portugese periodical (published since 1864) published an article headlined ‘’The return of fire between Armenia and Azerbaijan’’.
ARMENPRESS presents the key parts of the extended article.
The level of tension in the Caucasus, between Armenia and Azerbaijan, remains high, although in the last few hours the situation can be described, according to official sources, as "relatively calm". Still, at a press conference on Monday morning in the Yerevan capital, Artsrun Hovhannisyan, a member of the Armenian armed forces and spokesman for the crisis office, stressed that the country is "ready to defend its borders from any attempted invasion or violation of territorial integrity ".
Despite the relative tranquility, between Sunday night and Monday morning - according to what the Armenian Ministry of Defense spokeswoman, Shushan Stepanyan, told DN - the Azerbaijani armed forces violated the fragile ceasefire firing and throwing grenades towards military positions, having forced the Armenian side to return fire.
Until the recent escalation of violence last week, the situation was more peaceful than previous years. June had even been the quietest month of all, with no record of incidents, according to data from the International Crisis Group.
On the 12th, in the province of Tarvush, in northwestern Armenia, a military vehicle from Azerbaijan approached the border, which was considered provocative. That was the fuse for the confrontations that followed, considered the most serious since what became known as the April War in 2016. To date, there have been 17 fatalities - 12 military personnel and one civilian from Azerbaijani side and four Armenian military personnel. According to the Armenian news agency, the Azerbaijani bombings also damaged 50 homes along the border between the two countries.
The bellicosity of the declarations has been rising in tone, namely with Azerbaijan threatening with an attack on the Metzamur nuclear power station, located about 35 kilometers from the capital Yerevan. "May the Armenian side not forget that we have weapons capable of accurately targeting the Metzamur power station, which would be a tragedy for them," said Azerbaijan Defense Ministry spokesman Vagif Dargyakhly on Thursday.
"We regard these statements as terrorism, as well as a manifestation of the genocidal intentions on the part of Azerbaijan", underlines to DN Anna Naghdalyan, spokesman for the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "On the one hand, Azerbaijan has on several occasions been concerned about the safety conditions of our nuclear power plant, on the other hand, now, it threatens to destroy it", adds the same official.
For Olesya Vartanyan, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, an eventual attack on nuclear facilities would, for obvious reasons, be a kind of "suicide" for Azerbaijan and put the entire region at risk. "Often the statements are made to please internally. This is one of those examples," adds, in statements to DN, the specialist in matters of the Caucasus. It is not the first time that Ilham Aliyev, president of Azerbaijan, has been accused of sparking conflicts in order to divert attention from internal problems.
At the political level, recent hostilities have also rolled heads. Elmar Mammadyarov, who has held the post of head of Azerbaijan diplomacy since 2004, was fired and replaced by Jeyhun Bayramov, formerly responsible for the Education portfolio. Olesya Vartanyan regrets the changes in the Azerbaijani Executive: "It is not good that the Minister of Foreign Affairs is removed in the midst of very serious tensions, precisely when it was necessary for a diplomat with experience who could dialogue with the international community".
For some time now, Mammadyarov's position seemed at risk, after Hikmet Hajiyev, President Ilham Aliyev's chief foreign policy advisor - who in 2017 gave an interview to DN - has come to assume more and more prominence. Something unexpected, however, was the attack made public by Hajiyev, last Wednesday, July 15, toasted his now ex-minister during an Executive meeting. "In the past few days, everything has happened under my command. I've been talking to my adviser Hajiyev probably about ten times a day to give directions. And what has the Foreign Minister been doing? Where has he been? On the 12th, when it started, we were all working in our offices, but I was unable to find him ".
According to reports by international information agencies, the president will then have turned to the prime minister to clarify the matter. Ali Asadov, chief executive, reported that Mammadyarov had told him that he was working from home.
The DN tried to contact the Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs by email, but received no response. Tensions between President Aliyev and Mammadyarov had been made public in recent times. The minister had already been criticized by the head of state after, in recent months, the dialogue with Armenia was reestablished, partly due to health issues raised by the covid-19 pandemic. "Unfortunately, our diplomacy has been involved in useless negotiations. What kind of covid negotiations can we have with an enemy country that is at war with us. It is absurd. Does this mean that we will start to cooperate with Armenia? ", can be read in an article published on the Eurasianet news site.
To what extent can the changes in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs be interpreted as a policy change by Azerbaijan? "It is difficult to say and you will have to wait and see. As a rule, Baku's attitude towards the peace process is the result of the ideology and preferences of the country's leader and not of his officials. It has been like this for decades," explains Olesya Vartanyan.
Speaking to DN, Anna Naghdalyan, spokeswoman for the head of Armenian diplomacy, shares the same forks: "Azerbaijan's foreign policy is defined by its highest leadership". "We do not exclude the possibility of war" In the wake of the recent conflicts, last Wednesday, the streets of the capital of Azerbaijan were filled with thousands of protesters, calling for an open war against Armenia and a military solution to the conflict between the two countries over Nagorno- Karabakh.
Contrary to what happened in 2016, this time the clashes took place far from what is known as the contact line, the border that separates Nagorno-Karabakh from Azerbaijan. Still, this is not a new fact, in the past, there was an exchange of fire and fatalities on the official border between the two nations. "In view of Azerbaijan's rhetoric, we do not exclude the possibility that the clashes will escalate to an open war," explains to DN Shushan Stepanyan.
"The conflict can only be resolved by peace. This is something we have said many times," adds Anna Naghdalyan.
The peace process between the two countries is carried out in the sidelines of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chaired by Russia, France and the United States. The Baku government continues to assert that it will never give up Nagorno-Karabakh and the United Nations does not recognize the region's independence. One of the issues that has also worked as an obstacle to the negotiations is the fact that Azerbaijan does not accept that the government officials of Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, sit at the negotiating table.
The international community, namely Russia, the United States and the European Union, reacted to the recent fighting once again by calling for restraint and dialogue between the two countries. On the other hand, Turkey quickly sided with Baku. "I strongly condemn the attack that Armenia launched against Azerbaijan, our friendly and brother country. We will always be ready to rise up in response to attacks against the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan," said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Following an appeal by the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, at the end of June, 170 countries signed an appeal for a global ceasefire at a time when the world is struggling against the health crisis caused by the COVID-19. Azerbaijan has not signed the document.
Peacekeeping in the Caucasus is of great importance for the international community, since the region serves as a corridor for the supply of oil and natural gas between the Caspian Sea and the global markets. This energy issue and the existence of numerous civilian communities along the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, in contrast to what happens at the Nagorno-Karabakh contact line - a much less populous area , leads the analyst Olesya Vartanyan to devalue the possibility of large-scale armed confrontation.