A Russian-mediated agreement that halted heavy fighting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh last week was initiated by Azerbaijan, a top Armenian army general said over the weekend.
“We should note that it was Azerbaijan, rather than the Armenian side, which made the ceasefire proposal by appealing to the chief of the Russian Federation’s General Staff,” said General Movses Hakobian, a deputy chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff.
“We must also conclude that once again the Armenian soldier forced the enemy into a ceasefire,” Hakobian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) in an interview.
The fighting broke out early on April 2 when the Azerbaijani army attacked Armenian positions at northern and southern sections of the Karabakh “line of contact.” Baku claims that its troops went on offensive in response to Armenian armed “provocations” against Azerbaijani soldiers and civilians.
The Armenian military insists, however, that the large-scale offensive involving tanks, artillery and helicopters was unprovoked and aimed at seizing at least some territory in and around Karabakh.
On April 3, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said that it has “unilaterally suspended our counteroffensive and retaliatory measures against the enemy.” The Armenian side dismissed the claim as an “information trap.”
Hostilities largely ground to a halt on April 5. It emerged afterwards that an agreement to that effect was reached by Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s top army generals at a confidential meeting in Moscow.
Asked about how long the shaky truce on the Karabakh frontline will likely last, Hakobian said: “It’s hard to tell. What is certain is that the [Karabakh] Defense Army and Armenia’s Armed Forces are prepared to thwart more such assaults by the enemy.”
“I think that the enemy will draw conclusions from its actions. If it again attempts to resolve the Karabakh conflict in such a way, our response will be tougher and stricter,” warned the former commander of the Karabakh Armenian army.
The warring sides continued on Monday to report sporadic gunfire on the frontlines. The Karabakh army said Azerbaijani forces fired more than a dozen mortar shells and rocket-propelled grenades on its positions overnight, while the Defense Ministry in Baku alleged 117 ceasefire violations by the Armenian side at “the line of contact” and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.
Meanwhile, Armenia’s First Deputy Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan made clear that Yerevan will carry on with a military buildup in order to deter Baku from attempting a military solution to the Karabakh conflict. He said the Armenian military adopted recently five-year programs of their “development” and arms acquisitions.
“The development plan envisages the acquisition of advanced weapons,” Tonoyan told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “It doesn’t mean that we are going to acquire them after five years. We are going to acquire them every year.”
In particular, Armenia is due to purchase, at discounted prices, $200 million worth of Russian-made weapons with a loan that was allocated by Russia’s government last year. Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian asked his Russia counterpart Dmitry Medvedev to speed up the implementation of the arms deal when the two men met in Yerevan last week.