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.
10 people were detained in Yerevan on the case of clashes between police and protesters at the intersection of Demirchyan and Proshyan streets, the press service of the Investigative Committee of the Republic of Armenia informed NEWS.am.
On 3 June, there was a clash between law enforcers and supporters of the Resistance Movement at the intersection of Demirchyan and Proshyan streets. The law enforcers used stun grenades against the protesters. In addition, 15 people were brought as defendants. They were charged with organizing mass riots.
Ten of them were placed under arrest as a preventive measure. Four more persons were taken to a non-custodial measure. Apart from the 15 people in question, one more citizen was detained. A petition for his arrest has been filed. The preliminary investigation is continuing.
The neighbours are at odds over various issues, primarily the 1915 mass killings of 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
Published On 14 Jan 202214 Jan 2022
Envoys from Turkey and Armenia will hold the first round of talks aimed at normalising ties in Moscow on Friday, in a move Armenia expects will lead to the establishment of diplomatic relations and reopening borders after decades of animosity.
Turkey and Armenia have had no diplomatic or commercial ties for 30 years and the talks are the first attempt to restore links since a 2009 peace accord. That deal was never ratified and ties have remained tense.
The neighbours are at odds about various issues, primarily the 1915 mass killing of 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
Armenia says the 1915 killings constitute a genocide. Turkey accepts that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War I, but contests the figures and denies the killings were systematically orchestrated or constitute a genocide.
During the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Ankara supported Azerbaijan and accused ethnic Armenian forces of occupying Azeri territory. Turkey began calling for a rapprochement after the conflict, as it sought greater influence in the region.
Russia’s TASS news agency cited Armenia’s foreign ministry as saying on Thursday that Yerevan expected the latest talks to lead to the establishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of frontiers closed since 1993.
With borders closed, Turkey and Armenia have no direct trade routes. Indirect trade has risen marginally since 2013 but was just $3.8m in 2021, according to official Turkish data.
Thomas de Waal, a senior fellow with Carnegie Europe, said in November opening borders and renovating railways between Turkey and Armenia would have economic benefits for Yerevan, as the routes could be used by traders from Turkey, Russia, Armenia, Iran and Azerbaijan.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last year the two countries would also start charter flights between Istanbul and Yerevan under the rapprochement, but that Turkey would coordinate all steps with Azerbaijan.
The flights are set to begin in early February.
No easy breakthrough
Despite strong backing for normalisation from the United States, which hosts a large Armenian diaspora and angered Turkey last year by calling the 1915 killings a genocide, analysts say the talks would be complicated.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday Armenia needed to form good ties with Azerbaijan for the normalisation effort to yield results.
Emre Peker, a London-based director at Eurasia Group, said a cautious approach focusing on quick deliverables was expected on both sides because of the old sensitivities, adding the role of Russia, which brokered the Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire and is the dominant actor in the region, would be key.
“Talks are likely to pave the way for more discussions in the coming months. But delivering a comprehensive, long-term pact will prove difficult due to the multifaceted nature of the talks and domestic political constraints in both countries,” he said.
“The bigger challenge will come from the question of historic reconciliation.”
The fate of talks will depend on “Ankara’s recognition that it must right-size its ambitions”, he said.
While fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan escalated into a full-scale war, both local and international media reported about Turkish-backed mercenaries from Syria being transported to Azerbaijan. Up till now, most reports relied on the testimonies of soldiers and sources in Syria. But on October 3, a video showing Arabic-speaking men listening to the chants of the Turkish-backed Sultan Murad division has been geolocated to theAzerbaijani Horadiz military base.
Evidence shows mercenaries are being transported from Gaziantep to Baku
The first reports about mercenaries from Northern Syria in Azerbaijan appeared back in July when Armenia and Azerbaijan clashed near the Tavush/Tovuz borderline. Turkey and Azerbaijan both denied the information. In September, reports became more frequent, and as the situation escalated, videos and photos of alleged mercenaries appeared on social media.
On September 22, journalist Lindsey Snell published a photo that showed alleged mercenaries being transported to Azerbaijan. Days later, journalist Youri van der Weide tweeted about a military A400M aircraft flying on September 22 from the Turkish city of Gaziantep (near the Syrian border) to Ankara. The interior of the A400M is similar to the one in the photo published by Snell.
Russian Novaya Gazeta recreated the route of the mercenaries from Syria to Azerbaijan based on the evidence of a local source. NG writes that fighters are first sent to the Turkish border town of Killis, where they change uniforms. Then they are taken to Gaziantep airport to fly to Baku via Istanbul. The flight passes the airspace of Georgia (note that Georgia temporarily prohibited the transport of military cargo through its airspace on October 3).
Soon, many other photos claiming to show mercenaries in Azerbaijan appeared on social media. Men in those photos are wearing the military uniform of the State Border Service of Azerbaijan. This was pointed out by Washington-based analyst Emil Sanamyan (here and here) and Baku-based journalist Khadija Ismayilova (however, Ismayilova claimed that proves nothing, as those could be real Azerbaijani soldiers).
The uniforms on the photos indeed look similar to the one that Border Service uses. Moreover, the round sign on the jacket’s arm can be seen on both Border Service and mercenaries’ photos.
Mercenaries filmed themselves in the Azerbaijani military base
Another piece of visual evidence of Turkey-backed mercenaries in Azerbaijan is a video with Arabic-speaking men dancing and listening to Sultan Murad Brigade chants.
The video was soon geolocated to be in Horadiz – a town not far from the line of contact where an Azerbaijani military base is located. The geolocation was done both by Armenian Razminfo and by German conflict analyst Julian Röpcke.
Third-party countries also report the presence of mercenaries in Azerbaijan. French President Emmanuel Macron said that France has reliable information about jihadist groups being transported through Turkish Gaziantep to the warzone in Artsakh/Nagorno Karabakh. Additionally, the United States warned its citizens not to travel to Azerbaijan due to “COVID-19 and terrorism concerns.”
Most sources agree that militants from the Sultan Murad division are fighting for Azerbaijan
Most reports agree that the Sultan Murad division has been recruiting mercenaries. Named after 16th century Ottoman Sultan Murad II, the division is part of Syrian Turkmen Brigades – groups of Turkmen and Turkish militants that fight against the state army of Syria. The Sultan Murad division is also part of the so-called Syrian National Army (SNA, known also as the Free Syrian Army), which is a unity of different armed groups supported by Turkey. Turkey supplies weapons and provides military training to SNA.
Not all mercenaries in Azerbaijan are professional fighters
It should be noted that while mercenaries are recruited by armed groups and include long-term militants, not all people transported from Syria to Azerbaijan are professional soldiers. Some are regular civilians that signed up as mercenaries driven by poverty: years of war have crashed the Syrian economy. For example, The Guardian spoke to a tailor displaced from Aleppo to Azaz, who said he cannot make living practicing his craft and had to sign up as a mercenary.
Information about the amount of the mercenaries’ salary varies from 1,000 to 2,500 USD which is significantly higher than what those men could make in Northern Syria. Novaya Gazeta writes that Turkey promises not only a high salary but also Turkish citizenship for mercenaries and their family members, as well as 30,000 USD to the family in case of the fighter’s death.
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.