Collective Security Treaty’s Chief Discusses Armenian-Azerbaijani Border Tension

Rahim Huseynli Feature 10 August 2021
Collective Security Treaty’s Chief Discusses Armenian-Azerbaijani Border Tension

The head of the Moscow-led military bloc Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), Stanislav Zas, has discussed border tensions between Baku and Yerevan with senior Armenian officials. 

Zas who is paying a working visit to Armenia on 9-10 August, discussed the situation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, latest developments and the possibility of using existing CSTO mechanisms in the peace process between Armenia and Azerbaijan, in a meeting with Hayk Petrosyan, a senior official at the Armenian Security Council. 

In a meeting with the CSTO head, Armenia's acting Foreign Minister Armen Grigoryan, spoke about the current tension on the border which started in mid-May after the movement of Azerbaijani troops into two sections of Armenia's state border. 

The two sides stressed the need to de-escalate the situation, and called for a comprehensive and lasting settlement of the Karabakh conflict within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs. 

The visit happens when Armenia and Azerbaijan are continuing to exchange accusations of cross-border truce violations. Armenian troops fired from their positions in Yeraskh in Armenia's Ararat Region on Azerbaijani army positions located near Heydarabad in Sadarak District in the Azerbaijani exclave Nakhchivan on 9 August.

Armenia opened fire on Azerbaijani army positions in Sadarak District on 7 August, and neither side reported injuries or casualties following the skirmish.

On 6 August, Armenian troops in Yeraskh fired on Azerbaijani army positions in Sadarak District, and also fired from Armenia's Vardenis on Azerbaijan's Kalbacar District on 5 August. 

On 28 July, three Armenian soldiers were killed, and several Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers were wounded in a cross-border firefight in Gegharkunik Region.

Russian, Azerbaijani talks

In a phone conversation on 9 August, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov discussed the normalisation of the situation at the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. 

The ministers also discussed important issues related to bilateral relations and regional and international agendas, and stressed the importance of a speedy resumption of the work of the trilateral working group (Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia) to unblock economic and transport communications in the region.

They also confirmed both side's intention to implement agreements reached during the Azerbaijani president's 20 July working visit to Russa. Azerbaijan insists on the simultaneous opening of all transport communications, and it is possible that the two presidents reached agreement on this at their meeting in Moscow on 20 July.

Deployment of Russian troops

On 5 August, Russian border guards were deployed in Voskepar village in Armenia's Tavush Region and were stationed on the road linking Armenia with Georgia. 

"Construction work is under way to build rear support facilities for the border guards. The process is being carried out within the framework of Armenian-Russian cooperation," the Defense Armenian Ministry of Defence said in a statement

On the same day, Armenian Defence Minister Arshak Karapetyan and Rustam Muradov, the commander of the Russian peacekeeping force deployed to Azerbaijan's Yerevan-backed Karabakh region, discussed the Russian peacekeeping mission and the situation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. 

According to the Azerbaijani Telegram channel, the setting up of a Russian checkpoint should be viewed as part of the process of delimitation of the Azerbaijani-Armenian border, which would happen irrespective of Yerevan's "whims". 

MP Vahe Ghalumyan from the Armenian ruling party said on 6 August that Azerbaijan and Armenia might exchange territories on the border, adding that "there are some Armenian lands of Tavush Region that are under Azerbaijan's control, and similarly there are Azerbaijani lands under Armenian control. 

He went on to say that a border delimitation and demarcation commission should be set up in order to establish lasting peace.

An Armenian political expert, Taron Hovhannisyan, said that Azerbaijan wants to delimit the border with Armenia and at the same time it wants to stay in the territories that it has seized from Armenia after 12 May. 

He said that Armenia has two things to do. "First, to carry out best possible management and concentrate its resources on ensuring border security, i.e. reinforcing infrastructure as soon as possible. Second, to consolidate its Foreign Ministry and carry out intensive work with international players and our partners," the expert said.

Frozen conflict

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a border standoff since mid-May after the reported movement of Azerbaijani troops into two sections of Armenia's state border - one in Syunik Region and the other in Gegharkunik Region.

The two neighboring nations clashed in the second-largest war in Karabakh, which took place September 27- November 9, 2020.  The Azerbaijani army reclaimed 300 settlements with successful counter-attack operations that came in response to Armenia’s non-stop artillery shelling of military posts and civilian settlements in Azerbaijan. Five major cities in Karabakh, including Fuzuli, Jabrayil, Zangilan, Gubadli, and Shusha returned to Azerbaijan’s control. The war ended in a Russia-brokered ceasefire agreement on November 10. Armenia withdrew from three more districts – Aghdam, Kalbajar, and Lachin under its obligations outlined in the ceasefire deal.

Armenian authorities have long been seeking a so-called “status” to the separatist regime deployed in the once occupied Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. They have been demanding a “right to self-determination” of the Armenian people living within Azerbaijan’s borders.

Azerbaijani authorities offered Armenians cultural autonomy inside Azerbaijan similar to what is seen in Scandinavian Aland Islands and Italian South Tyrol district. However, they rejected everything calling for independence and Azerbaijan’s recognition of the separatist regime as an independent entity. President Ilham Aliyev explained that what the Armenian authorities call the “Nagorno-Karabakh region” did not exist anymore in the territory of Azerbaijan, and added that Baku was not going to recognize any “status” for such an illegal formation.  

Azerbaijani authorities have refused to use the term "Nagorno-Karabakh” after Azerbaijani forces won a decisive victory in a bloody war with Armenia in the Karabakh region last year. The war brought an end to Armenia’s decades-long illegal occupation of the Azerbaijani lands and its refusal to withdraw its forces despite international calls. Twenty percent of Azerbaijan’s sovereign territory fell under Armenia’s occupation in the wake of a war that ensued shortly after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991-1994.