By Armen Zakarian
Armenian Armed Forces Chief of General Staff Colonel General Mikael Harutiunian told RFE/RL that the situation on the frontline in Nagorno Karabakh is calmer now than it was several months ago. In February-March, the Armenian Foreign Ministry informed the
international community that Azeri military units were moving their
positions closer to the Armenian positions on the Karabakh frontline.
"The positional advancement by Azeris has stopped, the command of the Azeri armed forces understood that it would give them nothing," General Harutiunian told RFE/RL. Besides, he said, while advancing the Azeris would incur heavy casualties "because of our steps to check their progress".
In General Harutiunian's opinion, it is also possible that the Azerbaijani public had its say in the halt of Azeri advancement along the border.
In this regard, Harutiunian also spoke highly about the efforts of OSCE Special Representative Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk, whose constant frontline monitoring helped considerably reduce the number of incidents of exchange of fire.
"I would be happy if the command of the Azeri army understands that they were wrong and should not resort to such actions in the future," said Harutiunian. He officially pledged: "On our part we will take all measures not to allow further violations of the ceasefire regime along the border." He advised Azeri commanders to follow the example of their colleagues in Nakhichevan, where no major incidents have been reported on the border with Armenia.
"Of course, it happens so that a cow goes astray or a shepherd crosses the border by mistake," he said, adding that these cases are immediately addressed by commanders on both sides, who meet and settle matters peacefully.
Last year 19 cows crossed the border into Nakhichevan in a single isolated case. Sixteen of the cows were transferred back to the Armenian side immediately, while, according to Harutiunian, not to aggravate the situation, Azeri commanders bought three cows in Nakhichevan and gave them to the Armenian side.
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan continues to voice its dissatisfaction over the planned transfer of Russian military hardware from Georgia to Armenia. But Harutiunian says Azerbaijan itself exceeds the limits on various types pf weaponry allowed by the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe. According to the Armenian general, Azerbaijan's tanks exceed the number permitted by the CFE Treaty 1.5-2 times, whereas artillery 2-2.5 times exceed the admissible limit. Only the number of Azerbaijani military aircraft is below the allowed limit, he added.
Harutiunian said the Armenian peacekeeping contingent in Iraq will undergo rotation in mid-July. The general said he is in touch with the unit almost every day and according to him, "everything is normal and there is no dissatisfaction with the operations of the Armenian contingent."
"Our engineering troops conduct operations together with their colleagues from Salvador, and U.S. instructors help them in their duties," he said.
He also said that Armenian drivers came from Kuwait a few days ago bringing humanitarian cargoes with them. "They have good relations with the local Armenian community which gave them a warm welcome," Harutiunian said.