Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on Saturday called for a new international mechanism to maintain the ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone and said Armenia and Azerbaijani should continue peace talks after the latest deadly clashes on their border.
Pashinian met with Armenia’s Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan and top army generals to discuss the situation at a volatile border section where at least 16 Azerbaijani and Armenian soldiers were killed in heavy fighting that broke out on July 12. The military authorities in Yerevan and Baku reported no serious ceasefire violations there for the second consecutive day.
In his opening remarks at the meeting, Pashinian again blamed Azerbaijan for what was the worst escalation of the Karabakh conflict since 2016, saying that it was sparked by a failed Azerbaijani attempt to seize an Armenian border post.
Pashinian noted that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev stepped up his “bellicose rhetoric” and threatened to pull out of Karabakh peace talks in the weeks leading up to the flare-up. The Armenian army proved this week that Azerbaijan cannot resolve the long-running conflict militarily, he said.
Pashinian also condemned as a “crime against humanity” an Azerbaijani threat to launch a missile attack on Armenia’s Metsamor nuclear power plant.
“We all must finally get out of the whirlwind of continuous statements about ceasefire violations and create an international system of credible monitoring of the ceasefire regime,” said the Armenian premier. “Also, the negotiating process within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group presidency should continue, and Azerbaijan should at last adopt a constructive position.”
Baku maintains that the Armenian side itself provoked the hostilities by attacking Azerbaijani army positions in the western Tovuz district bordering Armenia’s Tavush province.
On Thursday, Aliyev again threatened to withdraw from peace talks with Armenia, saying that they have been “meaningless” so far. He said the U.S., Russian and French mediators co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group should do more to make the talks “substantive” in addition to trying to prevent truce violations.
In a joint statement issued on Wednesday, the mediators stressed the “importance of returning OSCE monitors to the region as soon as circumstances allow.”
Aliyev and Armenia’s former President Serzh Sarkisian reached agreements on bolstering the shaky ceasefire regime during a series of face-to-face meetings held after the April 2016 hostilities in Karabakh. They specifically agreed to allow the OSCE to deploy more field observers in the conflict zone and investigate truce violations occurring there.
Baku subsequently refused to implement these safeguards against deadly fighting, however, saying that they could cement the status quo. Pashinian did not clarify whether he now wants to revive Aliyev’s confidence-building agreements with Sarkisian brokered by the mediators.
Serious skirmishes along the Tavush-Tovuz section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border appear to have largely ground to a halt on Thursday afternoon. A spokesman for Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said on Saturday morning that the situation there remains “relatively calm.”
An Armenian military spokesman, Artsrun Hovannisian, said Azerbaijani forces “sporadically” fired small arms overnight. He spoke of a lingering “potential” for renewed attacks on Armenian troops deployed in the mountainous area.
“If they resort to large-scale provocations they will get an adequate answer,” Hovannisian warned at a news conference.
Meanwhile, Karabakh’s Armenian-backed army claimed to have shot down an Azerbaijani military drone early on Saturday. It released photographs of what it described as an Israeli-made Orbiter-3 drone lying in a field.
Hovannisian said that the reported destruction of the unmanned aerial vehicle does not necessarily mean that fighting could also break out soon at the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” around Karabakh. No major ceasefire violations have been reported from there in recent weeks.