Morning Update by Defense Ministry Spokesperson
At 9:30 a.m., the Ministry of Defense (MoD) spokesperson reported that relative calm has been maintained at the Armenian-Azerbaijani state border over the last 24 hours.
Azerbaijani forces, using firearms, violated the ceasefire regime six times, firing approximately 43 rounds in the direction of Armenian positions along different sections of the border. Military positions near the villages of Chinari, Movses and Nerkin Karmiraghbyur came under fire five times. The military position near the village of Zangakatun came under fire once.
Prime Minister Speaks About the Situation at the Armenia-Azerbaijan Border
During a Government session today at 11 a.m., Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan spoke about the situation on the Armenia-Azerbaijan state border. Below is an unofficial translation of his address:
As you know, on July 12, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces launched an attack against Armenian positions in the northeastern part of the Armenia-Azerbaijan state border. The Armenian Armed Forces not only pushed back Azerbaijani forces, but also caused them substantial damage. The Azerbaijani side suffered significant losses including highly advanced military equipment, which heralded the victory of Armenia’s military strength. The attack on the adversary’s morale and psychology was much more severe and the escalation of the situation on the border resulted in an unstable domestic situation in Azerbaijan. This is the reason that the Azerbaijani leadership resorts to new provocations in order to redirect the dissatisfaction of their public against Armenia and Artsakh.
It is important to note that Azerbaijan launched an attack against the territory of a sovereign state, Armenia, and the military positions that came under Azerbaijani attack are in the territory of Armenia. Thereby, Azerbaijan’s allegations that the Armenian side is the aggressor are simply absurd. Azerbaijan launched an attack when Armenia was involved in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict peace process while Azerbaijan refused to negotiate with Artsakh. All of Azerbaijan’s aggressive military moves were repelled and the Armenian Armed Forces further strengthened its positions along the border. The myth usually cited by the Azerbaijani side that their military can defeat the Armenian Armed Forces thus Armenia and Artsakh should make concessions vanished. For a very long time, we have urged Azerbaijan not to dare speak with us in a language of power or with threats of force. And now we can confidently say that the Armenian side not only rejected the threat of force around a diplomatic table but also showed in the battlefield that those claims are groundless and do not reflect the real balance of power. And I do not just mean the number of their armed forces or armaments used against us, but rather the overall quality of their actions and strategy and the level of management
We can now confidently say that Armenia’s Armed Forces, the Armenian Army, did not only exemplify high combat readiness, but reaffirmed that they are the most combat ready and the most intellectual army in the region. This is not merely a proclamation, but the conclusion we have drawn from a detailed analysis of the series of events starting from July 12. Our army, as in the past, today again, is the source for international pride. Its operations in Tavush reaffirmed this status. I consider it important that Armenia’s public illustrated its unanimous support and trust toward the legitimate Government and Armed Forces of Armenia.
I would like to draw special attention to the unity of our compatriots in the diaspora, their readiness, dedication and their wisdom in supporting Armenia. They once again demonstrated that we are one, the same unity, one family, one spirit, and one identity.
In the past days we demonstrated to the international community that our stance is a responsible and confident one. We stayed true to the three ceasefire agreements, all of which were subsequently violated by Azerbaijan and each time with new losses caused the Azerbaijani side. We did not make statements threatening the Azerbaijani nation and its civilian infrastructures even when the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry threatened to target the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant. A threat which should be seriously investigated by the international community because it demonstrates Azerbaijan’s essence as a terrorist state.
After July 12, the international community made announcements condemning the ceasefire violations, calling for a stop to the violence. The OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs and their respective countries have played an important role in reinstating the ceasefire. The involvement of Russia was especially effective which was expressed not only on the level of the Foreign Ministry but also of the Central Command of the Armed Forces.
The only country that was trying to provoke the situation was Turkey. Taking into consideration that country’s aggressive and destabilizing policy along a number of regions on its borders, and its traditional anti-Armenian policy, which is expressed through its justification of the Armenian Genocide, Turkey’s actions, therefore, were not surprising. But the rise of its aggressiveness, convinces us that we need to reassess our own policy and increase our participation in international formats/platforms to raise this issue.
There is no doubt that we have come out of this experience victorious, and confident in our strength, our people, and the fortitude of our society. But it is necessary that we draw certain conclusions. We cannot ignore that which took place. We cannot ignore the fact that after April 2016, Azerbaijan resorted to force, when there was a process in place, when there was the call by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairs to refrain from provocative actions and war rhetoric. Azerbaijan resorted to violence when the whole world was focusing its energy and resources on overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic. And therefore, our position after the July victory has been strengthened and this position is reflected in the following:
1. The security structure of Armenia and Artsakh need to be further fortified. In this regard, our close collaboration with the Republic of Artsakh is of utmost importance and we need to add new context to this already existing collaboration in light of the existing threats.
2. The Republic of Artsakh should be a side to the negotiations.
3. Azerbaijan should publicly denounce the use of force and take reassuring steps in putting an end to anti-Armenia rhetoric.
4. The negotiations should be meaningful, Azerbaijan’s insistence that the negotiations are a continuation of the war and that their aim is to address military issues around the negotiation table, deprive the negotiation process of its meaning. The negotiations will be meaningful if Azerbaijan steps back from its maximalist approach and prepares for mutual concessions. The right of the people of Artsakh to self-determination, the security of the population of Armenia and Artsakh are not subject to concessions.
5. In recent days, Azerbaijan targeted the civilian population and infrastructures of Armenia’s border villages in the Tavush region. Countries supplying arms to Azerbaijan should clearly register that the use of those arms against a civilian population is a crime because there is an impression that it is not Azerbaijan fighting Armenia’s Armed Forces and civilian population but rather international corporations that produce deadly military weapons along with their professionals.
This conflict that is already in its third decade has serious consequences for the population of Armenia’s border settlements and the population of Artsakh; it violates their political, economic, ecological and other rights. The approach saying that these rights can only be practiced after the settlement of the conflict is not acceptable. The right of the people living in the conflict zone should be a primary component of the negotiations agenda.
6. The monitoring mechanism of the ceasefire regime which was in place before the pandemic was, in fact, very limited. It is necessary to have effective international monitoring, which would be permanent and have mechanisms in place to register when and which side violates the ceasefire.This can be implemented by the office of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, which has years of experience working in the region and can secure the permanent presence of OSCE observers on the State Border as well as on the Contact Line.
7. Armenia will continue to work with the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairs toward a peaceful settlement of the conflict. We have and will continue to reject Turkey’s attempts to destabilize the region through the manipulation of this conflict.
The July victories showed that as a result of the 2018 Velvet Revolution, the democratization process, the fight against corruption, the reforms, the new vision for the development of the army that followed have resulted in a new level of resilience and unity in the country. We should be encouraged by this fact but this excitement should also be transformed to daily productive work to further the country’s political, economic, military and diplomatic potential. We will be victorious because our victory is the victory of justice, of the truth, of humanity.
During the cabinet meeting, the Government approved the allocation of 25 million AMD emergency funding to the regional administration of Tavush. While presenting the proposal, Suren Papikyan, the Minister of Infrastructures and Territorial Administration said that considering the recent escalation on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, it is necessary to make changes in Armenia’s 2020 state budget. According to estimates, approximately 150 million AMD worth of damage was caused to the border communities since the escalation of the situation on July 12. Papikyan also said that the funding will allow damages to be recovered in a short period of time.
PM Pashinyan reaffirmed that at this stage the Government will allocate money so that all the necessary reconstruction activities start as soon as possible, this will be followed by large-scale activities. He also noted that a conceptual change is required in the Government’s policy in border villages – the Government should not just reconstruct infrastructure in border communities but rather have specific strategies and policies for their development. “It is important to note that the Republic of Armenia does not end at border villages, instead the Republic of Armenia starts from border villages,” Pashinyan said adding that the Government’s policies on border villages should be the strongest indicator of the country’s competitiveness, resistance and combat readiness. According to the PM, this is a long process, which will require significant efforts but the residents of border communities should feel that this practice is being consistently applied. And this decision is an indicator of the process, he said.
Arayik Harutyunyan, the Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport said that he visited some of the villages of border communities with the regional governor of Tavush and they agreed to conduct thorough monitoring of schools in all of the border villages and will allocate resources for the construction of bunkers or the improvement of already existing ones, where children can shelter in case of escalation of the situation.
PM Pashinyan noted that the Government priority should be ensuring that people living in border villages are able to properly organize their life and work and have opportunities to prosper. The Government’s goal is to develop such opportunities.
Armen Ghularyan, the Chair of the Urban Development Committee, said that the issues of the affected border communities were categorized into short-term, mid-term and long-term ones. He noted that as of today seven houses are already being reconstructed and ten more are being prepared for the renovation activities to start.
Joint Armenian-Russian Air Defense Exercises
MoD spokesperson Shushan Stepanyan reports that the information regarding Azerbaijani air strikes on Armenia’s northeastern Tavush region has all been documented and is currently being analyzed within the framework of the ongoing Armenian-Russian joint air defense system exercises. Stepanyan said the Armenian Armed Forces is analyzing Azerbaijan’s air strategy as well as the response from the Armenian side.
Stepanyan said over the course of these joint exercises strategy, countering UAV-s will be improved.
Critically Wounded Soldier Dies
At 2:55 p.m., the Defense Ministry reported that Private Arthur Muradyan, who was critically injured on July 14 while serving at one of the military posts in Tavush passed away. “Unfortunately despite the efforts of the medical staff of the Central Military Hospital, Arthur Muradyan’s life was not possible to save. The Ministry of Defense expresses its heartfelt condolences to Arthur Muradyan’s family, friends and fellow soldiers.” Muradyan’s death brings the death toll to five.
Morning Update by Defense Ministry Spokesperson
At 8:15 a.m., MoD Spokesperson Shushan Stepanyan said that since last night [after the attack at 10:30 p.m.], the Armenian-Azerbaijani state border has been relatively calm. Azerbaijani forces violated the ceasefire seven times on different parts of the border, firing about 20 rounds at Armenian positions using firearms: once toward military positions situated near Jil; twice toward positions near Aygepar; once toward positions near Chapni, Paruyr Sevak, Yeraskh and Zangakatun.
At 8:30 a.m., MoD Spokesperson Shushan Stepanyan wrote: “Following an unsuccessful attack by a special unit of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces on the ‘Fearless’ position in the northeastern part of the Armenian-Azerbaijani state border on July 21, at approximately 10:30 p.m., a search is currently being carried out.”
Ministry of Defense Asks People to Refrain From Discussing the Military
At 1 p.m., Defense Ministry Spokesperson, Shushan Stepanyan wrote: “We call on everyone to refrain from discussing issues pertaining to the military onmobile phones and the Internet, in particular on social media platforms. Such discussions can become accessible to the adversary, something which can pose a real threat to the defenders of the homeland.”
Prime Minister Pashinyan Speaks with UN General Secretary
On July 22, Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan held a phone conversation with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on the latter’s initiative. Below is the official statement on the Prime Minister’s website:
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan underscored that Armenia highly appreciates the constant attention the Secretary General pays to peace and security in the South Caucasus. The Prime Minister of Armenia presented the escalation at the Armenian-Azerbaijani border as a result of the provocations undertaken by Azerbaijan, emphasizing that those actions have been carried out regardless of the call of the Secretary General for a global ceasefire amid the pandemic.
“I want to inform you that Armenia took every possible step to cease hostilities and de-escalate the situation on the border,” Nikol Pashinyan noted.
Touching upon Azerbaijan’s violations of the arrangement reached on the cessation of hostilities, Prime Minister Pashinyan added that in the current situation we are observing contradictory statements and actions by the political-military leadership of Azerbaijan.
“We understand that there is a difficult domestic situation in Azerbaijan. But we cannot be hostage to a trap to which President Aliyev pushed himself into. Years of spreading hatred towards Armenians and war threats created an illusion of military superiority which is now painfully collapsing. We don’t know whether the Azerbaijani leadership lacks capacity or willingness to prevent ceasefire violations and provocative rhetoric,” Nikol Pashinyan said.
The Prime Minister reiterated Armenia’s commitment to the peaceful settlement of the conflict, underscoring the ultimate importance of expanding the OSCE monitoring capacities and implementing previously reached agreements on that.
“It is necessary for the authorities of Azerbaijan to publicly renounce the use and threats of use of force. The Azerbaijani leadership should recognize that there is no alternative to the peace talks,” the Prime Minister noted.
The UN Secretary-General expressed concern over the escalation in the region, stressing the need to take immediate steps towards the reduction of escalation, including through the implementation of agreements aimed at consolidation of the ceasefire. Antonio Guterres reiterated his support to the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmanship.
Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia: Stabilizing the Situation is in Everyone’s Interest
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said that the settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict is in the interests of all countries in the region and the countries participating in the negotiation process. He noted that whatever the international community has worked out within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group should remain on the negotiating table. “The current crisis should not lead to a retreat from the progress that has been made,” he said adding that the settlement of the conflict will significantly improve the situation in the region, including improving bilateral relations between all partners.
“If we look at the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, we believe that not only Russia, but also other states concerned with the establishment and strengthening of stability in the region should make statements that will encourage the parties to establish peace,” he noted.
Armenia’s Foreign Minister Speaks with Josep Borrell
On July 22 Minister of Foreign Affairs Zohrab Mnatskanyan had a phone conversation with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell. The newly appointed Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Jeyhun Bayramov also joined the conversation.
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan commented on the recent developments concerning escalation across certain parts of the Armenia-Azerbaijan border as a result of the hostilities instigated by Azerbaijan since July 12.
Zohrab Mnatsakanyan also emphasized the importance of implementation of the previous agreements on reducing tensions, restoring and strengthening the ceasefire. In this context, Zohrab Mnatskanyan stressed the priority of denouncement of bellicose rhetoric and war threats by the political-military leadership of Azerbaijan.
Referring to the format of the phone conversation, Zohrab Mnatsakanyan particularly underlined the exclusive role of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmanship in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.
Minister Mnatsakanyan also highly appreciated the unequivocal support of the EU High Representative/Vice President to the format of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmanship, as well as his remarks that the regional countries should refrain from any actions aimed at destabilization of the situation.
Donations to the Soldier’s Support Fund
Donations from 48 countries were made to the Soldier’s Support fund for a total of 192,000,000 AMD (approx. $400,000 US) between July 17-22, 2020.
At 12:47 a.m., Shushanyan wrote that there is no shooting on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, however, “the leadership of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces is not in control of the situation.”
11 p.m.: Ministry of Defense Spokesperson Shushan Stepanyan said that at 10:30 p.m., special forces of the Azerbaijani military launched another attack in the direction of the Armenian “Anvakh” [Fearless] position. According to Stepanyan, the Armenian Armed Forces was able to stop the attack “causing significant losses.”
According to tentative information, Azerbaijani special forces, apart from suffering casualties, “have servicemen left trapped.” The Armenian side suffered no losses.
Aliyev’s Assistant About Threats to Target Armenia’s Nuclear Power Plant
Hikmat Hajiyev, Assistant to the President of Azerbaijan and Head of the Foreign Policy Department of the Presidential Administration, said during a press conference that Azerbaijani Armed Forces never planned to shell Armenian infrastructures of strategic importance, including civilian objects.
On July 16, Colonel Vagif Dargahli, Azerbaijani Defense Ministry spokesperson said that their latest missile systems have the ability to hit Armenia’s Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant with accuracy, threatening that it “could lead to a major disaster for Armenia.” Dargahli also said that their modern air defense equipment is in place to protect the Mingachevir Reservoir, which he claimed was a potential target for Armenian forces. According to Armenpress, Armenia has never targeted civilian objects nor has it ever claimed that the reservoir was a target.
Hajiyev also noted that the position of the Defense Ministry’s spokesperson does not reflect the official position of Azerbaijan.
Lavrov Meets with the Armenian and Azerbaijani Ambassadors to Moscow
Sergey Lavrov, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia met with the Armenian and Azerbaijani ambassadors to Moscow. According to the official statement, the three discussed questions related to security in the Caucasus, stabilization of the situation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani state border, and the prospects of strengthening the efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs.
U.S. House Passes an Amendment Putting Defense Transfers to Azerbaijan In Question [July 20]
The U.S. House of Representatives adopted an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) requiring the Defense Department submit a report to Congress on a U.S. military aid program (known as Section 333 Building Partner Capacity Program) that has sent over $100 million worth of defense assistance to Azerbaijan in fiscal years 2018 and 2019. The amendment was co-sponsored by four Democratic congress members, Frank Pallone, Co-Chair of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, Adam Schiff, the head of the House Intelligence Committee, Brad Sherman, and Jackie Speier.
“The United States has long stood as a beacon for the rights of every person, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, or nationality. We must continue to lead by example and ensure that American foreign aid does not contradict our values at home or abroad,” said Congressman Pallone. “This amendment is especially important now as Azerbaijan threatens Armenia’s safety and sovereignty with offensive attacks staged by Azeri armed forces in Armenia’s Tavush region. The United States should not be aiding and abetting reckless, autocratic states with appalling human rights records for any reason,” he added.