Moscow, Russia – The foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia, who landed in Moscow at the invitation of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, met. But while the meeting was expected, it was announced that Armenia had launched a ballistic missile at Mingechevir. Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan said they were ready to return to peace talks with Baku, while Aliyev’s response was “no matter whose bases you lick, we will take back our land.”
As clashes continued in the Nagorno-Karabakh War, which entered its thirteenth day, eyes were turned on Russia after successive statements. Moments before the foreign ministers of the two countries met, Armenia launched a ballistic missile at Mingechevir in Central Azerbaijan.
Baku’s administration shared images from its official social media accounts of the day when an Armenian convoy carrying equipment to the front line was destroyed by an airstrike. In one day, 13 T-72 tanks and four Grad missile systems were shot down, the official statement said.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry also released video of tanks and armored vehicles seized from Armenian troops in the last 24 hours.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry also denied reports that artillery was fired at the historic Gazançetsots Cathedral in Shusha, Nagorno-Karabakh.
Orla Guerin, the BBC’s famous war correspondent who follows the clashes, shared a photo of the grave of Guliyeva Tevfik, 63, who was killed in the Armenia attacks, on Twitter.
‘A new grave in decades of turmoil in Nagorno-Karabakh,’ Guerin wrote, adding a photo from inside Guliyeva Tevfik’s home on her social media account.
A famous war correspondent who wrote that an Azerbaijani woman was killed by a cannon shot fired by the Armenian army while sleeping in her bed in the house where she lived alone, said that her neighbors shed tears.
Local media report that another ballistic missile was fired by Armenia today in the city of Mingachevir in Central Azerbaijan, and the missile was shot in the air 20 kilometers away. Mingechevir has been hit by many missiles before.
The Reuters news agency reports that a farm belonging to Ilyas Ahmedov in the village of Karachynar near Goranboy was also hit by Armenia. Photojournalist Umit Bektas took pictures of the injured sheep to the world.
Kevork Hadjian, an opera singer who came to Nagorno-Karabakh from Lebanon to fight in the ranks of the Armenian army, was reportedly killed in clashes around Lulasaz.
Local media reported that Hadjian, who was killed by Azeri troops in clashes on October 6, had voluntarily joined the front line. Armenia has officially announced that 26 more soldiers have died in the last 24 hours, bringing their casualties to 376 since September 27.
Armenia has revoked the accreditation of Ilya Azar, a reporter for the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, who wrote that hundreds of militiamen who died in Nagorno-Karabakh were hiding. In an article titled’ The Battle at the southern gate’, Ilya Azar stated that the Armenian troops in Nagorno-Karabakh were in a deplorable state.
Azar announced in Telegram that he was accredited to follow the events in Nagorno-Karabakh on October 8, but “this was later changed in the process”: “the unofficial and main reason was the news I made from the cities of Shusha and Lacin (controlled by ethnic Armeni forces) in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Armenian Foreign Ministry said that I had created a negative public perception.”
In the field of diplomacy, the latest development was the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Moscow on Friday, the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia. Russian media are reporting that planes carrying two ministers have landed in Moscow. Talks are expected to begin shortly.
The meeting, which is expected to start at 15: 00, will mark the first direct talks between Azerbaijani and Armenian officials since the clashes began on 27 September.
Russia, as well as other members of the Minsk Group, the United States and France have also stepped up efforts to prevent a larger war in the region. French President Emmanuel Macron has said he hopes the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will end ‘soon’. Friday, Thursday, and Friday, with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, the president’s office said in a statement that Macron had spoken with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. It was noted that all these conversations were aimed at continuing negotiations in the coming days.
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Ceyhun Bayramov was scheduled to meet with representatives of the United States, Russia and France, which make up the Minsk Group, in Geneva on Thursday.
Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, who said he would not participate in the talks as long as the clashes continue, was not expected to attend the talks. It was announced that Mnatsakanyan would instead meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Monday.
There was no explanation for the results of the meeting in Geneva. The United States, Russia and France co-chair the Minsk Group, which the organization for security and cooperation in Europe established in 1992 to conduct mediation activities to find a solution to Nagorno-Karabakh.
A US spokesman said: “the US position is clear and unchanged. Both sides must urgently end the conflict and return to the negotiating table as soon as possible, working together with the co-chairs of the Minsk Group,” he said.
Sunday (September 27th) clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh began in the morning with Armenia violating the ceasefire. Nagorno-Karabakh is recognized as part of Azerbaijan by the United Nations (UN) and the international community. However, some areas in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, which accounts for about 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s territory, have been under Armenian occupation since the early 1990s.
The region was declared a ‘Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’ in 1991. But no country, including Armenia, has recognized this place internationally.
Nagorno-Karabakh (Upper Karabakh), which covers an area of 4,400 square kilometers in the South Caucasus, has been waiting for a solution for many years as the biggest problem between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
So, what is the history of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, both countries of the former Soviet Union? The word origin of the’ Nagorno-Karabakh ‘ region consists of a mixture of several different languages. Even a few languages found in its name show how the region has been exposed to the transition between different cultures throughout history.
Nagorny (or Nagorno) in English is Karabakh. The word’ Nagorny ‘means’ mountainous ‘ (нагорный), in Russian. In Azerbaijani, just like in Turkish, it is referred to by the words ‘dağliq’ or ‘yuxarı’, which means ‘mountainous’. Karabakh, on the other hand, is a common word in Turkish and Persian, meaning ‘black garden’.
When Azerbaijan and Armenia joined the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1922, Nagorno-Karabakh developed into a structure that seemed accepted, but was not adopted by Armenians. In Nagorno-Karabakh, which was granted autonomous region status under the Republic of Azerbaijan in 1923, the status quo was maintained until the end of the 1980s, when the Soviet system came to a standstill, although ethnic Armenians living in the region raised their discomfort with the Azerbaijani administration from time to time.
Along with the process of openness (glasnost) and reconstruction (perestroika), which Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, initiated in 1985 to pave the way for a blocked system, Nagorno-Karabakh, like all the problem areas of the Caucasus, came to light. Evaluating the ever-weakening authority of the Soviet administration, the Autonomous Administration of Nagorno-Karabakh demanded annexation to the Republic of Armenia in 1988. While this demand was not reciprocated, after Azerbaijan and Armenia declared their independence in 1991, the secession attempts of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh also intensified.
During this period, the Azerbaijani population in Karabakh had fallen by up to 20 percent due to forced migrations. In a referendum held on December 10, 1991, which was boycotted by Azerbaijanis remaining in the region, Armenians voted to leave Azerbaijan. After the referendum, the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh was declared, but this initiative did not find a response in the international community. Tensions between the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, supported by the Armenian army, and the Azerbaijanis living in the region increased with the declaration of independence. In 1992, the conflict turned into a hot war between the Armenian army and the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Azerbaijani army.
At the end of the war, the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh took control of the entire region, as well as occupied seven neighboring regions (Rayons). Thus, the direct contact points of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan were quite limited. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has been described in academic circles as a ‘frozen conflict’ for years. Despite the ongoing settlement negotiations at intervals, violations of the mutual ceasefire are frequently repeated both on the Nagorno-Karabakh-Azerbaijan contact line and on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border. August 2014 saw the bloodiest clashes in 20 years. Two days of fighting on the Nagorno-Karabakh border left 13 Azerbaijani soldiers dead. The Armenian Defense Ministry also announced that 20 soldiers were killed.
Half a million refugees took refuge in Azerbaijan and Armenia, and about a million people were forced to relocate. Some towns and villages that existed before the beginning of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict were completely abandoned and destroyed. More than 14 percent of Azerbaijan’s territory is still under occupation. Azerbaijanis claim that the region has historically been under their control and therefore belongs to them, while Armenians claim that Armenians have always lived in the region and that Azerbaijani rule is illegitimate.
Other states were reluctant to intervene because it was seen as a domestic issue. Since 1992, the conflict has become interstate due to the fact that it took place between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Defense spending in Azerbaijan has increased by about 50 percent every year since 2003. In 2012, defense spending accounted for a fifth of Azerbaijan’s total public spending. Armenia also expanded its arsenal with the help of Russia.
Although the exact numbers are not known, it is believed that the population of Lachin and Kelbajar with small settlements totaled about 14 thousand people. According to the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, there has been no significant increase in the population since 2005. Ethnic Armenians settled in the region have limited access to infrastructure, economic activities and public services. Many of them are also missing identity documents.
The weakest part of the problem is the contact line, which is 175 kilometers long. This line, filled with minefields, resembles the trenches of the first World War. 30 thousand soldiers have been deployed to the contact line by the Armenian side and slightly more than this number by Azerbaijan. The negotiations, conducted through the OSCE Minsk Group, have been difficult, as leaders are approaching a compromise, but are backing down out of concern that their country may not meet the demands of the public.
Azerbaijanis and Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh cannot influence the process. Armenian and Azerbaijani public opinion has more influence on the process than the locals of the region. The Minsk Group Co-Chairs have no spokespersons or media secretaries. For this reason, the talks have little media coverage.
Russia, having previously taken a position close to Armenia, now prefers to stand at an equal distance from Azerbaijan and Armenia. This strategy strengthened after the war with Georgia in August 2008. The strategic priority has become the isolation of Georgia. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is less important to the United States than the conflicts in the Middle East. The Armenian Lobby in Congress, the energy security of the Caspian Sea Basin, the ‘fight against terrorism’ and the ability to use Azerbaijani airspace on flights to Afghanistan are priority issues for the United States.
Azerbaijan’s expectation of a possible agreement is the return of the occupied territories. Armenia’s expectation of a possible agreement is to guarantee security for the Armenians of Karabakh and hold an independence vote. A worrying aspect of the agreement for Azerbaijan is that the option of ‘independence’ will be put to a referendum. A concern for Armenia is that the Lachin Corridor, which connects Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, cannot be protected, and international security guarantees reduce their influence in the region.