Russia has expressed its concern over the escalation of tensions around Nagorno-Karabakh and warned about ‘negative consequences’ after a series of reported truce violations that Armenia and Azerbaijan have blamed on each other.
Skirmishes on the Karabakh frontline and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border dramatically increased after an Armenian soldier was shot dead in the line of contact on January 19-20 overnight in what the Armenian military said was an Azerbaijani commando raid. The Karabakh Defense Army said another ethnic Armenian serviceman was killed by sniper fire from Azerbaijani army positions northeast of Karabakh on January 28.
At least two Azerbaijani servicemen, both of them officers, have reportedly been killed by Karabakh Armenian forces over the past two weeks or so. The military and political authorities in Yerevan and Baku have accused each other for violating the truce that has largely held since 1994.
In a statement issued on Thursday the Russian Foreign Ministry warned that “negative consequences for the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process will be inevitable in the event of a further escalation of tensions.” It said the implementation of the agreements reached at the Azerbaijani-Armenian summit in Vienna, Austria, last November may get “seriously complicated” due to this latest flare-up of tensions in the conflict zone. It did not elaborate.
“We call upon the parties to the conflict to take additional measures aimed at stabilizing the situation, including the use of mechanisms stipulated by the Agreement on the Strengthening of the Ceasefire Regime signed on February 4, 1995,” the Russian Ministry said.
Answering a question from RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) during his visit to the Czech capital of Prague on Thursday regarding why Armenia is so keen on expediting its accession to the Russian-led Customs Union given that Russia, as its major military ally, remains indifferent to the ceasefire violations and shootings on the Armenia-Azerbaijani border, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian, in particular, said: “The Customs Union is an economic and not a military structure. One should not question Armenian-Russian military cooperation.”
President Sarkisian also emphasized that the Armenian military fully controls the situation and is capable of defending the country’s territorial integrity and inviolability of its borders. “By the way, I should tell you that these capabilities have been created and now are being replenished also through the efforts of the Russian Federation,” Sarkisian added.
Russia, along with the United States and France, is a co-chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group that spearheads international efforts on Karabakh conflict mediation.
Armenian President Sarkisian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev met on November 19 for the first time in nearly two years to resume their search for peace based on a set of principles proposed by the mediating troika. The Armenian and Azeri leaders are expected to meet again in February after two rounds of talks conducted on the level of their top diplomats in December and January.
After the latest meeting of Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and his Azeri counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov in Paris, France, on January 24 the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group issued a statement expressing their deep concern over continued violence in the region and stressing that the recent incidents in the Karabakh conflict zone “undermine negotiations and diminish the prospects for peace.” The peace brokers called on the sides to “fully and unconditionally” respect the terms of the ceasefire agreement.