A publication close to the administration of the Azerbaijani President hints at a “special operation” in Artsakh.
In an article with an unambiguous title “How can Azerbaijan get rid of Armenian armed formations in Karabakh?” after a long list of what Armenia supposedly has to do, the authors pose the following question: “As a result, the question becomes more and more topical: what should Azerbaijan do in the current situation? And, most importantly, how long must Baku tolerate the presence of illegal armed formations and Armenian servicemen on its territory?” and they give an answer themselves: “Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov ordered during a meeting with the army command to strictly suppress any provocations both on Armenian-Azerbaijani border and in the areas under the control of Russian peacekeeping forces.
It follows that the Azerbaijani army is ready to carry out a special operation to completely neutralize the illegal Armenian formations operating on the sovereign territory of Azerbaijan. If Armenia continues to resort to delaying tactics and not fulfilling its obligations on their disarming and withdrawal from the territories under control of the separatist regime in Khankendi, Azerbaijan has every opportunity and appropriate means to implement a special operation in the shortest possible time”.
Glendale Mayor Ardashess Kassakhian has introduced a resolution in City Council to establish a Sister City relationship with Artsakh’s Martuni.
“As the mayor of Glendale, I decided to establish a symbolic connection between Glendale and the city of Martuni in the Republic of Artsakh. When I assumed the position of mayor in April, I received a letter in which the mayor of Martuni proposed to establish the sister city relation,” Kassakhian told Asbarez’s Nane Avagyan in an exclusive interview. “I presented the proposal at a City Council session, and I hope that it will be approved by October.”
He said that the city of Martuni of the Republic of Artsakh has a special significance, taking into account what the population of Artsakh has gone through and is still going through. “A week doesn’t pass without news that Azerbaijani forces are attacking the peaceful population of Artsakh,” said Kassakhian.
“Just as during the war, when we follow developments from far away, we feel helpless—unable to provide tangible assistance,” said Kassakhian explaining that Glendale Armenians allocated financial assistance during the war and gathered and provided much-needed items. There were also people who traveled to Armenia and Artsakh at the time.
“Several doctors from Glendale were on the frontlines during the war and provided medical assistance to to our soldiers,” Kassakhian said.
He added that, as mayor, he has decided to help Artsakh by establishing a sister city relationship between Glendale and Martuni.
“This effort demonstrates that not only do we have such [sister city] relations with municipalities located with Armenia proper, but also with Artsakh, which I consider to be part of Armenia—our ancestral lands and their heritage,” said Kassakhian.
“The fact that Artsakh is Armenian is beyond doubt. Martuni is an Armenian city that had, has, and should have an Armenian population. By conferring a sister cities status, Glendale, the most Armenian-populated city in America, lights a candle of hope in Artsakh, Glendale, and I also hope in Armenia so that Martuni continues to be an Armenian-populated city,” added Kassakhian.
He assured that after the approval of sister city measure, practical steps will follow, specifically by advancing relations within the education sector by having exchange programs between the two cities.
Avagyan’s exclusive interview with the Glendale Mayor will appear in the Armenian section of Asbarez in the coming days.
Fighting has erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan around the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Both sides have blamed each other; Armenia claims the alleged Azerbaijan attack is a declaration of war.
The two sides resumed open conflict again on Monday morning with the use of heavy artillery. Outbreaks of violence had continued through the night, according to the Armenian Defense Ministry spokesperson Shushan Stepanyan.
“During night battles continued with different intensity. Early in morning, Azerbaijan resumed its offensive operations, using artillery, armored vehicles, TOS heavy artillery system,” Stepanyan wrote on Twitter.
Armenian forces reportedly attacked the town of Terter with heavy artillery, according to the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense.
At least 31 people — both civilians and military — have died in fighting that erupted on Sunday between Azerbaijani forces and Armenian rebels in the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region, officials said.
Separatists reported 15 further military casualties on Monday. The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, announced the death of six civilians, with at least 19 more injured in the violence.
Fear of new war
The worst violence in the region since 2016 has raised the prospect of a new war in an area that has been simmering for decades.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in a televised address that Azerbaijan’s “authoritarian regime has once again declared war on the Armenian people.”
“We are on the brink of a full-scale war in the South Caucasus, which might have unpredictable consequences,” he added. “We are ready for this war.”
Both countries declared martial law. The president of Azerbaijan declared a partial military mobilization in the country as part of a presidential decree on Monday morning. Armenia began a general mobilization on Sunday.
Pashinyan also spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin, with Putin expressing “serious concern” over the escalation. Russia maintains a military base in Armenia, and is seen as an ally to Yerevan. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan are former Soviet republics.
Turkey, meanwhile, is considered an ally of Azerbaijan, and has been vociferously criticizing the Armenian government.
In a statement posted on Twitter following a phone call with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on the Armenian people to stand against leaders who he said were “dragging them to catastrophe,” before adding that Ankara’s solidarity with Baku would “increasingly continue.”
Armenia’s Defense Ministry accused Azerbaijan of launching a bombing campaign against civilian targets. Yerevan said the military responded by shooting down four of Azerbaijan’s military helicopters, as well as 15 drones and 10 tanks, a claim Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry denied.
“The entire responsibility for this lies with the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan,” insisted an Armenian Defense Ministry spokesperson.
Azerbaijan, meanwhile, accused Armenian forces of launching “deliberate and targeted” attacks on Nagorno-Karabakh.
“There are reports of dead and wounded among civilians and military servicemen,” Azerbaijan’s president said.By the afternoon, Azerbaijan claimed to have taken several villages in the region. “We have liberated six villages — five in Fizuli district and one in Jebrail district,” a ministry spokesman told AFP.
Iran has offered to mediate between the two sides. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Tehran was following the violence in the south Caucasus with great concern, news agency ISNA reported.
“We call on both sides to exercise restraint, end the conflict immediately and resume negotiations,” he said, while offering Tehran’s support in working towards a resolution.
This image, from footage released by the Armenian Defense Ministry, purportedly shows Armenian army tanks destroying vehicles belonging to Azerbaijan
Authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh said the city of Stepanakert has been shelled and urged residents to get to safety. Numerous houses in villages have been destroyed, with injuries reported.
The breakaway region immediately declared “martial law and total military mobilization,” Karabakh’s president Araik Harutyunyan told an emergency parliament session. He said that those liable for military service had been called up for duty.
European Council President Charles Michel said the renewed violence was “of most serious concern” and called for an end to the fighting.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also urged a return to diplomatic channels.
“I call on both parties to the conflict to immediately cease all fighting and especially the shelling of villages and towns,” he said, according to the Foreign Ministry in Berlin.
Months of tension
Silvia Stöber, a journalist and expert on the Caucasus region, told DW that both sides had been preparing for an escalation like this for months.
She blamed the deteriorating economic situation in both countries for the flare-up but said international involvement probably played a role.
“The leadership of Azerbaijan may feel more motivated to escalate the whole situation” due to increased support from its ally Turkey, while the importing of Russian arms into Armenia means that it “looks like a conflict that [will go] further,” Stöber added.
During his noon blessing from St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis asked both sides to make “concrete gestures of goodwill and brotherhood” in order to resolve their differences without the use of force.
Violence first erupted in the region when ethnic Armenians seized Karabakh from Azerbaijan in the 1990s. An estimated 30,000 people were killed during the war.
A ceasefire, which was signed in 1994, largely put an end to the full-scale conflict, but peace talks mediated by France, Russia and the United States collapsed in 2010.
Azerbaijan has made repeated threats to take back the region by force. Although the region declared independence, it is heavily reliant on Armenian support and Armenia has stated that it would defend the territory militarily.
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has lambasted the U.S., Russian and French mediators trying to broker a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and said the most recent Armenian-Azerbaijani talks were fruitless.
In an interview with Azerbaijani television aired on Tuesday, Aliyev denounced the mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group for reiterating last week that “there is no military solution to the conflict.”
“Their main point is that the problem cannot be solved militarily,” he said. “Who said that? We expect more serious, clear and targeted statements from the mediators.”
“In essence, no negotiations are held right now,” claimed Aliyev. “The video conferences of the [Armenian and Azerbaijani] foreign ministers are meaningless and are only leaving the impression that the Minsk Group exists.”
“As I have said before, we will not negotiate for the sake of negotiating and we want substantive negotiations without any change in their format. In that case, we will participate in them. Otherwise, I see no need for pointless negotiations.”
Foreign Ministers Zohrab Mnatsakanian and Elmar Mammadyarov as well as the three mediators most recently talked via video link on June 30. They reported no progress towards a Karabakh settlement.
In a joint statement issued right after the talks, the Minsk Group co-chairs said they urged the conflicting parties to “take additional steps to strengthen the ceasefire and to prepare the populations for peace.” They also said the two ministers agreed to hold another video conference in July and to meet in person “as soon as possible.”
Yerevan and Baku traded bitter recriminations both before and during the latest round of peace talks. Speaking at a June 25 meeting with Azerbaijani army officers, Aliyev described Armenia’s post-Soviet history as “shameful,” saying that his country’s arch-foe was for decades ruled by “criminals and thieves.” He also said that the 2018 popular protests that brought Nikol Pashinian to power were not a democratic revolution.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry hit back at Aliyev, saying that he leads one of the world’s most corrupt and repressive regimes which feels threatened by “democratic changes taking place in Armenia.”