Aside from intermittent gunfire along the entire stretch of the interstate border by the Azerbaijani military, the last 24 hours have been relatively calm on the Armenia-Azerbaijan state border. Residents of Armenia’s border towns and villages in the Tavush region are trying to return to their normal routines, some having to repair and rebuild their damaged homes. They are steadfast and resilient.
We present a chronology of the day’s events and statements made by a number of leaders and international organizations.
At 8 a.m., Ministry of Defense (MoD) Spokesperson Shushan Stepanyan said that the night before, SMS messages had been sent to a number of Armenian users, purportedly by the Armenian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claiming that the situation is tense and that the army has suffered huge losses. Armenia’s MoD said that this does not correspond to the truth and is a misinformation campaign by the Azerbaijanis and called on the population to be cautious and to not give in to provocations by the adversary. At 8:45 a.m., the MoD reported that the night on the border has been relatively calm, although Azerbaijani forces have fired shots across the entire length of the state border. The situation remains under control, the MoD noted.
Live Press Briefing from Tavush [11 a.m.]
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In EVN Report’s news roundup for the week of July 17: Azerbaijani forces attack Armenian border units that has led to the most severe escalation of tensions since the 2016 April War; Armenia’s government extends the State of Emergency for a fourth time; new details are revealed regarding an illegal adoption ring and more.
Artsrun Hovhannisyan presented the operational situation along the Armenian state borders during a daily briefing from Ijevan, Tavush. He said that yesterday and last night, the Azerbaijani side, utilizing mainly large-caliber firearms, violated the ceasefire over 120 times. Large artillery or other large-caliber armaments were not used. He stressed that Azerbaijani fire was registered not only in the direction of Tavush where most of the fighting had taken place over the last several days, but along the entire Tavush border, up to Noyemberyan; Azerbaijani forces were also firing in the Gegharkunik border where Armenia’s 2nd Army Corps is situated and along the state border of Nakhichevan, where the 4th and 5th Armenian Army Corps are positioned. We can say that despite this, the situation has de-escalated. In terms of our wounded, the number has not changed, there is still one soldier who remains in critical condition.
Last night, an interesting development took place, Hovhannisyan said. Fake SMS’ written in Armenian but using Latin letters were sent to a number of Armenian users. Telecommunication operators have resolved the issue and new SMS’ are being sent to refute the allegations [Azerbaijani hackers were able to crack the system of one of the small providers cooperating with Armenian mobile operators and send fake SMS’ to users from the Defense Ministry’s mil.am website. At the moment, Ucom is in contact with that provider and they are working to strengthen the system’s security. The SMS said that the situation is tense and that Armenian forces had suffered large losses/casualties - EVN Report]. At the moment, there is no fire, the situation is calm, Hovhannisyan said and addressed questions from reporters.
- Question: Yesterday, the investigative committee issued a statement about the number of wounded soldiers. There are some discrepancies in the numbers. You had said 20 wounded, they said 30.
Artsrun Hovhannisyan: There is no discrepancy in reality. There have been 36 incidents of injuries, but many of those soldiers sustained only minor injuries, they were quickly attended to and returned to their positions. Only ten of those soldiers are continuing to be treated; five of them are in serious condition, and one is in critical condition. This is the reality with the statistics. The Investigative Committee, even when there is an incident where the soldier is only very slightly injured, registers this and that is why their numbers are slightly different.
- Question: Did the Azerbaijani side retrieve the bodies of their killed and injured that were left on the battlefield?
Artsrun Hovhannisyan: I do not have updates regarding this issue because this is a very time consuming process and because we are in direct communication with the Azerbaijani side. But the Ombudsman’s Office as well as the Commission working on the transfer of prisoners of war are dealing with this issue.
- Question: Mr. Hovhannisyan, what can you say about the situation on the Artsakh-Azerbaijani Line of Contact?
Artsrun Hovhannisyan: Escalation of the situation on the Line of Contact has not been observed, although the Azerbaijani side used large calibre weapons.
- Question: Azerbaijani drones were very active yesterday during the day, how is the situation now?
Artsrun Hovhannisyan: They seem to have retreated, there has not been UAV activity since yesterday evening.
- Question: You said there was shooting all along the Armenian-Azerbaijani state border, can you please specify what kind of action the adversary took in Nakhichevan and Gegharkunik?
Artsrun Hovhannisyan: There was no specific action taken, they were simply shooting using firearms.
- Question: Could you please provide details regarding the situation in Nakhijevan? Did the Azerbaijani side launch any action in the direction of Gegharkunik?
Artsrun Hovhannisyan: The Azerbaijani side did not launch any operations in the direction of Gegharkunik, but there were shots fired.
- Question: Do you have updates about the health of the civilian injured in Chinari village?
Artsrun Hovhannisyan: My updates are from late last night, his health is stable, he is being transferred to Yerevan, there is no danger to his life. He has approximately 11-12% burns on his body.
Live Briefing from Tavush [9 p.m]
During the live briefing from the Crisis Information Center in Ijevan, Tavush, Artsrun Hovhannisyan said that the situation on the northeastern border of Armenia-Azerbaijan was relatively calm during the whole day. He said that he visited one of the military units of Armenia’s Armed Forces and said “the fighting spirit of both the officers and soldiers was high and they are in full control of the situation.” Hovhannisyan went on to say that the Armenian military is closely following the actions of the Azerbaijani side and in case of any provocation, they are ready to respond.
- Question: Looking back at the events of the past several days, we can say that the adversary is at times more active and at times more calm. What does this mean as far as military strategy goes, how you do interpret this?
Artsrun Hovhannisyan: It is a well known military strategy, one that Azerbaijan has been known to use, when they tend to leave the impression that there is a de-escalation, a ceasefire, while they prepare for military action. It is also aimed at decreasing our vigilance, while they target another area. This is not a new tactic.
- Questions: Conscripts who have completed their military service are now in the process of being sent home, and new conscripts are being called up. Under what circumstances would the process of return for those conscripts be postponed?
Artsrun Hovhannisyan: We are continuing those processes as previously planned; there are no plans to postpone either one.
- Question: The Deputy Defense Minister of Azerbaijan is in Turkey, where he is having meetings with high ranking officials. The Turkish side says that they are ready to support Azerbaijan with military equipment. Also, military exercises were launched in the northern part of Russia. What can you say about these developments?
Artsrun Hovhannisyan: Today, I was also asked about the Turkish military aircraft that arrived in Baku. But I’m not authorized to comment on the regional political developments and draw conclusions about them. I do hope that we will have a panelist who will be able to answer such questions. But I can say that Turkey’s support to Azerbaijan is not something new and the recent statements coming from Turkey are an illustration of that. So, the Turkish military aircraft was probably brought to Azerbaijan for that purpose. At the same time it is ironic, since Azerbaijan claims that it has necessary military equipment. And if they are already in need of additional equipment, it raises certain questions.
Russia is a big country with a strong army and usually conducts large-scale military exercises on its territory. I cannot comment on whether the exercises are somehow connected with the regional political developments. But I can say that the Armenian Armed Forces have joint exercises with Russian military forces (102 Military Base of Gyumri) as part of the ongoing military exercises.
- Follow up question: We know that there is a joint Armenian-Russian military unit and it has often been stated that in case of an external threat, that military unit can take action. We had the CSTO experience when the organization’s secretariat only offered a statement. I think the Armenian public would like to know: What is the function of the Armenian-Russian military unit when Armenia is de facto in military operations?
Artsrun Hovhannisyan: The Armenian-Russian military unit has its own plan of action, its own direction and its own theater of operations. In essence, my answer is the same as it was in regards to CSTO, whether that is action from CSTO or from the Russian-Armenian Military unit, in the given situation, given the intensity and the volume of ongoing military action, the Armenian Armed Forces are more than capable of completing the task before them and there is no need for external interference.
Regional Governor of Tavush Hayk Chobanyan said the situation in the region has been relatively peaceful and people were able to return to their normal lives to a certain extent. Cobanyan said they plan to first repair the houses that do not need much work or construction to make the space comfortable for living again as quickly as possible. Today, active work has begun in the village of Aygepar, tomorrow they will begin in Nerkin Karmiraghbyur. Chobanyan said that many residents were concerned that construction work had begun too soon, and asked what if the shelling resumes? He said his answer has been to disagree, insisting that reconstruction start immediately and that these kinds of questions are the result of long-lasting stereotypes. Chobanyan said people should know that they deserve to live in civilized conditions, regardless of the situation on the border. Moreover, the citizen living on the border should have other privileges to be motivated to continue living on the border.
Chobanyan said the family whose house they started renovating is a large one, with ten members. Two of the sons are in the military and they both, with their families, live in the same house as their parents. Chobanyan said he wants to thank the residents of the border villages for their modesty and for asking such a question.
Speaking about the ongoing work of the Commission and the auxiliary working groups that were created to provide necessary assistance to the residents of the affected communities, Chobanyan said that the hot lines of each specific working group is available on the official page of the provincial administration. He went on to say that all those who want to support the efforts of the Commission, can contact the hot lines for additional information. Also, the regional administration has posted the list of fundraising efforts for the affected communities that it has identified and are credible. So, all those who want to help, can also consider donating to those fundraising drives.
Speaking about the priorities of Tavush region, after the tensions on the border start easing, Chobanyan noted that the priorities remain the same. Security of borders, which includes the protection of soldiers’ lives and ensuring good quality of life for those living in border communities (including good infrastructures, educational institutions, proper working conditions, cultural life) are among the most important priorities for the region. Despite the ongoing tension on the border, construction activities are continuing in the region (including construction of roads and water lines). The activities stopped temporarily only during yesterday, when the shelling was especially strong.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s Statement at the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council Meeting in Minsk
During a regular meeting of the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council in Minsk, Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, spoke about the situation at the Armenia-Azerbaijan state border:
“I cannot help addressing a topic that is vital for us and for regional stability.
“As you may know, ignoring the numerous calls for an end to armed conflict amid the ongoing pandemic, including those reflected in the Joint Statement of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council on April 14 and the UN Secretary-General’s statement of March 23, Azerbaijan resorted to military action on the northeast borders of the Republic of Armenia.
“The armed forces of Armenia could not help but respond to these provocative actions of Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, provocations continue to this day, fostering tension and unpredictability.
“Azerbaijan’s aggressive policy in the region leads nowhere. It will not succeed in breaking our people’s resolve and force us to make unreasonable and unilateral concessions in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. There is no military solution to the conflict and there is no alternative to peace negotiations, which is in the interests of all peoples in our region.”
Putin, Russian Security Council Ready to Mediate
According to Tass, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the permanent members of the Russian Security Council discussed the situation at the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, stating Russia’s readiness to provide mediation efforts.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that during a video conference, there was an in-depth discussion regarding the situation. "The participants expressed extreme concerns in regards to the ongoing escalation; they emphasized the pressing need for ceasefire and [Russia’s] readiness for mediation actions," Peskov said.
Erdogan: “Turkey Will Not Abandon Its Brother Azerbaijan”
On July 17, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, speaking to journalists said, Armenia is an occupier and has been for decades now. Erdogan said that the OSCE Minsk Group has left the issue pending for 25-30 years. The issue was not solved and it was obvious that it would reach the current point. “As you know Armenia is continuously shooting at civilian regions of Azerbaijan and as a result of these attacks, Azerbaijan is doing what it should do when it comes to protecting its own territory or people,” said Erdogan. According to the Turkish president, Turkey will not abandon its brother Azerbaijan and “just like we did during the Caucasus conflict, we are siding with our Azerbaijani brothers and sisters.” Erdogan said he is in constant contact with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Meanwhile a delegation from Azerbaijan arrived in Turkey [on July 16] and held meetings with the Turkey’s Minister of Defense and Chiefs of Armed Forces.
After receiving the commander of the Azerbaijani Air Forces and Deputy Defense Minister Ramiz Tahirov in Ankara on July 16, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Armenia was responsible for starting military operations on the border with Azerbaijan, and that Armenia would be "drowned under the plot that they initiated." Akar told reporters, “The pain of the Azeri Turk is our pain,” and that Turkey “condemns this villainous attack,” adding that the blood of Turkey’s Azerbaijani brothers will not remain unavenged.”
On July 17, following a meeting with Azerbaijani Deputy Defense Minister Ramiz Tahirov and Army Commander of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic Kerem Mustafayev, İsmail Demir, the head of Presidency of Defense Industries, an affiliate of the Turkish Presidency tweeted the following statement, “Our armed unmanned aerial vehicles, ammunition and missiles with our experience, technology and capabilities are at Azerbaijan’s service.”
Armenian Foreign Ministry on Azerbaijan’s Threat to Quit Negotiations
In response to a question from Interfax News Agency regarding Baku’s announcements that the peace process has stalled [in fact, a few weeks earlier, President Ilham Aliyev had called the process meaningless], MFA Spokesperson Anna Naghdalyan said:
“The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has three parties that have signed the ceasefire agreement. In the past, Azerbaijan negotiated with both Nagorno-Karabakh and the Republic of Armenia.
“Then Azerbaijan refused to negotiate with Nagorno-Karabakh. And now if Azerbaijan refuses to negotiate with Armenia on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, it is not clear with whom this country will negotiate. We don’t know whether Azerbaijan intends to resume negotiations with the Nagorno-Karabakh side or not. Recently, Azerbaijan has been trying to resort to the threats of war presented in different wrappings. If this recent threat to withdrawal from the negotiations is yet another manifestation of those threats, then it neither surprises nor impresses us.
“Armenia rejects the language of threats and stands for a peaceful solution of the issue.”
French Parliament in Support of Armenia
The representatives of all political factions of the French Parliament have issued a joint statement condemning Azerbaijani provocations at the Armenia-Azerbaijan state border. “We, the representatives of all factions of French Parliament, express deep concern about the resumption of fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” the statement reads, adding that the resumption of clashes is a “direct consequence of the ongoing policy of aggression from Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliyev.” The statement notes that instigating a war is a convenient mechanism to shift attention from the domestic issues Azerbaijan is facing including trampling fundamental freedoms, corruption, nepotism and robbery and says Turkey’s support of the Aliyev regime against Armenia threatens stability in the whole region. The statement concludes by saying that supporting Armenia against Azerbaijan means supporting the right to life. [EVN Report will publish an official English-language translation of the statement when it becomes available].
Anti-Armenian Motion Tabled in British Parliament
A Motion was tabled in the British Parliament calling the House to note the actions of Armenia as an aggression against Azerbaijan on July 13 by Conservative MP Bob Blackman and signed by three other parliament members from different parties - Martin Vickers from the Conservative Party, Jim Shannon from the Democratic Unionist Party and John McDonnell from the Labor Party.
Below is the text of the motion:
That this House notes the acts of aggression by Armenia overnight on 12 July 2020 which further escalates the armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan which is rooted in Armenia's military control over Azerbaijan's Nagorno Karabakh region and adjacent seven districts that in the early 1990s led to the death of 30,000 people and the fleeing of more than 1 million internally displaced persons from their homes; calls on the UK Government to condemn the recent actions of Armenia which represent a serious hindrance to the progress of the peace process and which have violated international law as well as the ceasefire agreement signed in 1994; further notes that the military flare up along the international border between Armenia and Azerbaijan with the involvement of heavy artillery is a flagrant violation of international law as well as the ceasefire agreed in 1994 and represents a serious hindrance to the progress of the peace process; urges the UK Government to support the call for the OSCE Minsk Group to investigate thoroughly to prevent the current military action escalating into an all-out war; and further calls on the UK Government to urge for the withdrawal of Armenian military forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan as stated in UN Security Council resolutions adopted in 1993.
Andranik Kocharyan Responds to NATO PA President
On July 15, NATO Parliamentary Assembly (PA) President Attila Mesterhazy had commented [see below] on the ongoing military clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan on their common border. Today, Chair of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defense and Security, MP Andranik Kocharyan responded to those comments.
Dear Mr. Mesterhazy,
On behalf of the Armenian parliamentary delegation to the NATO PA I would like to extend my deep gratitude for the statement you made earlier on ending the military operations on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. Armenia highly appreciates the attention of the international community and, in particular, the peaceful messages of the NATO leadership.
It’s true that under the conditions of the pandemic that the world is currently facing, the entire planet should fight together against the healthcare-related and socio-economic problems caused by the invisible enemy.
The mandate of the peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict is reserved to the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs and requires a negotiated solution. Armenia is against the military solution of the conflict and aggressive rhetoric.
Sadly, despite the appeals of the international community Azerbaijan not only does not stop military actions, but with its statement on striking by missiles the Armenian Metsamor nuclear power plant at state level threatens through nuclear terrorism, targeting the peaceful population.
This is nothing else but a threat to universal and regional security.
I strongly hope that the statements of the leading international institutions aimed at maintaining peace will eventually make the Azerbaijani military and political leadership have a sound assessment of the difficult global healthcare situation and return to the negotiating table.
Mr. President, once again I would like to thank you for your just words and hope that after the pandemic is over, we will enjoy an opportunity to make acquaintance and work together towards future steps aimed at maintaining global peace and security.
Statement by NATO PA President Attila Mesterhazy [July 15]:
Commenting on ongoing military clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan on their common border, NATO PA President Attila Mesterhazy (HU) urged both parties to urgently de-escalate tensions, return to full respect of the ceasefire and recommit to resolving their differences through peaceful means.
“Armenia and Azerbaijan are two valued partners of NATO and of the NATO PA. That they would engage in the kind of armed confrontation we have seen in recent days is therefore deeply concerning. Our broad Euro-Atlantic family is committed to the promotion of good neighbourly relations and the resolution of differences through peaceful means. I therefore urge both countries to rapidly de-escalate the situation at their common border, recommit to the ceasefire, refrain from aggressive and provocative rhetoric and re-engage in dialogue under the auspices of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs. Armenian and Azerbaijani people do not need more suffering at a time when they and all our countries continue to struggle with the profound health, economic and social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The parliaments of Armenia and Azerbaijan have been associate members of the NATO PA since 2002. As such, their delegations participate in a broad range of NATO PA activities, and both countries have hosted numerous NATO PA visits and seminars over the years.
World Council of Churches Issues Statement
World Council of Churches (WCC) interim general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca issued a statement over the recent military aggression launched by Azerbaijan against Armenia.
In the statement Ioan Sauca called for urgent de-escalation of the confrontation on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border, where renewed fighting since July 12 has cost the lives of at least 16 people and resulted in destabilization.
“The WCC is deeply concerned by reports that artillery exchanges have imperiled civilians and essential infrastructure, including a factory in the Tavush region of Armenia making personal protective equipment essential for the COVID-19 response,” said Sauca. “Particularly in the context of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has badly affected both Azerbaijan and Armenia, WCC calls on both sides to observe the global ceasefire called for by the UN secretary-general to enable all necessary resources to be deployed in the fight against the virus. While Armenia has expressed commitment to the global ceasefire, the WCC regrets that Azerbaijan has not,” Sauca said.
“The WCC calls for renewed engagement in diplomatic efforts to find a solution to this issue,” said Sauca.
European Ombudsman Institute Statement
The following is a statement by the Secretary General of the European Ombudsman Institute Mr. Josef Siegele:
“Human Rights Have No Borders
“The European Ombudsman Institute is gravely concerned by the violence towards civilian settlements along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border.
“The European Ombudsman Institute guided exclusively by human rights principles strongly urges both sides to protect peaceful settlements and to refrain immediately from using fires and shelling towards civilian populations, without political acting.
“We are especially concerned by yesterday’s official statement of the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan that they may launch missile attacks on the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) of Armenia.
“This statement is a clear threat to civilians and it may cause a humanitarian disaster. These kinds of statements undermine the international human rights system. The international humanitarian law has absolute prohibition for this kind of intimidation towards the civilian population.
“Human rights are universal; they should be protected globally - whether Europe, Asia, Americas or any other place in the world!
“The European Ombudsman Institute will continue closely following the situation for human rights protection purposes.
“Mediations of Ombudspersons with political decision-makers of their countries should have continuous aims to protect civilian populations of both countries and to act in the sense of executing human rights in this difficult situation.”