NATO’s Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow called for an urgent “de-escalation” of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on Thursday after discussing it with Armenia’s First Deputy Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan in Brussels.
According to the Armenian Defense Ministry, Tonoyan briefed Vershbow on Azerbaijan’s “preplanned offensive operations” around Karabakh on April 2 which nearly resulted in a full-scale Armenian-Azerbaijani war. A ministry statement said Tonoyan also presented evidence of “violations of international humanitarian law” allegedly committed by Azerbaijani troops during the four-day heavy fighting.
“The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict urgently requires de-escalation and diplomatic progress under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs,” Vershbow tweeted after the meeting.
“There can be no military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” the former senior U.S. diplomat said in a separate tweet.
Tonoyan was reported to tell Vershbow that military action by Azerbaijan cannot stop the Karabakh Armenians from exercising their “right to self-determination.” “Armenians of the world have been mobilized and will defend that right by all means,” he said. “The people of Nagorno-Karabakh also have the right to defend themselves and improve their security environment.”
The ministry statement added that Tonoyan will meet other NATO officials on Friday for an annual “planning and review process” on Armenia’s relations with the U.S.-led alliance. Those ties have deepened considerably in the past decade, leading to increased Armenian participation in NATO-led peacekeeping missions and exercises and NATO assistance to defense reforms implemented by Yerevan.
As recently as on March 31, a 32-strong unit of Armenian military medics joined U.S.-led exercises in Germany involving some 5,000 troops from 16 NATO member and partner states. The annual drills codenamed Saber Junction will end on Sunday.
The Defense Ministry in Yerevan said on Wednesday that the Armenian participants are simulating evacuation and treatment of wounded military personnel at a mobile field hospital that was deployed by them outside Armenia for the first time ever. The U.S. military donated the hospital to an Armenian peacekeeping brigade in 2007.
In another example of closer Armenia-NATO cooperation, military instructors from NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command in Brunssum, the Netherlands completed on Thursday a four-day training course organized in Yerevan for a group of Armenian army officers.