Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian has put down the relative calm recently observed at the border with Azerbaijan as well as along the Line of Contact in Nagorno-Karabakh to improved observation systems put in place by Armenian armed forces.
Speaking at a press briefing in Yerevan on Wednesday, Ohanian also partly attributed reduced tensions to a more active negotiation process conducted recently.
“It can be said that the border situation today is relatively calm because the Armenian Army and the Defense Army of the [unrecognized] Nagorno-Karabakh Republic have for years worked on improving their combat duty services,” the Armenian defense minister said. “Today we have improved our observation system, which makes it possible to conduct observations, detect [the enemy], make decisions and implement them more efficiently.”
In Ohanian’s opinion, the more active efforts of international mediators also contribute to reducing the tensions.
“I think that the political atmosphere, the meetings, the activity of the three co-chairs [of the OSCE Minsk Group], the corresponding efforts that should be made within the framework of a meeting of the two countries’ presidents also have an impact on the situation,” he said. “We, military leaders, have always urged international political institutions to raise this issue – either we observe the ceasefire or not.”
After the latest tour of the region on February 16-19, the American, Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, Ambassadors James Warlick, Igor Popov, and Pierre Andrieu, issued a joint statement, saying that the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev, had agreed to consider their proposals aimed at strengthening the ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.
They did not elaborate on the proposals, but said that they discussed with the Armenian and Azerbaijan presidents and the two countries’ foreign ministers “next steps towards a settlement, as well as preparations for a future Presidential meeting later this year.”
Since the 1994 ceasefire agreement, dozens of soldiers on both sides have been killed in border skirmishes in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone every year. The latest upsurge in violence was observed at the beginning of this year. Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh reported more than a dozen casualties in January alone. Azerbaijan also acknowledged a number of casualties during the same period. The conflicting sides blamed each other for the ceasefire violations.