Armenia-Azerbaijan clash reveals Russia’s failure in Nagorno Karabakh

Armenia and Azerbaijan on Saturday accused each other of breaching a peace deal and reported casualties openly for the first time since the November 10 midnight deal signed by the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia to end the 44-day Nagorno Karabakh War.

The 9-point agreement also called the tripartite statement essentially says Azerbaijan holds on to areas of Nagorno-Karabakh it regained during the war; Armenia agrees to withdraw by December 1 from the remaining 3 of the 7 adjacent districts (Azerbaijan took back 4 districts  during the war); Russia deploys 1,960-strong peacekeeping forces in the Nagorno Karabakh area in parallel with with the withdrawal of the Armenian military; civilian transport/communications/ infrastructure are restored; prisoners of war are exchanged; refugees/displaced people from the both sides are returned to their homes under the UN commissioner’s supervision.

In separate statements, Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan all confirmed on Sunday that the clash happened in two villages both of which on the Google maps appear to be well inside the area under the control of Azerbaijan.

Image: Wikipedia.

What’s more, the statement by Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defence reveals something extraordinary: there had been other clashes during the week (note Russia claimed it was the first violation of the ceasefire) but for some reason none of the parties wanted to go public.

The new clash and revelations raise several questions, particularly two concerning Russia’s role:

  • All parties confirm there was at least one clash between the armed forces of Azerbaijan and Armenia. Under the November 10 agreement, “The peacekeeping forces of the Russian Federation shall be deployed concurrently with the withdrawal of the Armenian troops”.
    How come both the Russian peacekeepers and Armenian troops are there?
    After having chaired a Security Council meeting on Sunday, Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan’s warning about other possible tensions also reveals that Armenia hasn’t withdrawn its troops. It is not clear if this is in coordination with Russia or Armenia has refused to withdraw.  Media reports and footage also indicate there still is Armenian military presence and stranded troops (insurgents?) even in the areas which are under Azerbaijan’s control as in the case of this incident.
  • Why is there a secrecy about the ceasefire violations and agreement implementation? Perhaps  not surprisingly both Armenia and Azerbaijan have had to swallow hard to let Putin save face as he personally brokered and signed the deal in the middle of the night to cement Russia’s power-broker role, effectively sidelining the U.S. and France – the two other OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs in the 30 years long negotiations.

It is difficult to answer these questions but one thing is certain: whatever is happening either is not what Russia likes or is part of Russia’s political games.