Thursday

20th Jul 2017

'Normal' shooting resumes in Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict

The string of recent killings in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict is nothing unusual, EU diplomats in the region say.

Armenia last week accused Azerbaijan of killing four of its soldiers in cross border raids.

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  • Graveyard in Nagorno-Karabakh - a breakaway territory at the heart of the conflict (Photo: www.nkr.am)

Azerbaijan says Armenia killed five of its men in a similar operation. Its media on Monday (11 June) said there is still "intense shooting" from Armenian positions against Azerbaijani targets.

The reports are hard to verify because there are no outside monitors in the 20-year-old war over Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Minsk Group - a body of French, Russian and US diplomats tasked with mediating between Baku and Yerevan - launches investigations from its base in Georgia. But inspectors tend to arrive too late to do the job properly.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton on Friday urged "both sides strictly to respect the ceasefire and exercise restraint on the ground and in public statements."

She added: "These incidents highlight the importance of [creating] a functioning incident investigation mechanism."

Her communique indicates fresh EU interest in the conflict - the Union does not usually get involved in order not to interfere with the Minsk Group.

Meanwhile, EU diplomats based in the region said last week's killings are nothing out of the ordinary.

One contact noted: "Year on year, there is always a spike in incidents after the winter months."

Another source described the reports of ongoing shooting this week by saying: "The situation is normal again on the line of contact."

He added that the banality of the incidents does not mean they are not dangerous.

"It just goes to show the conflict is not stable and there is a need to move forward to a peaceful settlement. It's a reminder of how easily a situation at one point on the border can spread along the whole line," he said.

The foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan are to meet in Paris on 18 June to discuss new - and as yet undisclosed - US peacebuilding ideas.

For his part, Richard Giragosian, a Yerevan-based US analyst who used to advise the Pentagon and the CIA, believes that Azerbaijan sees 2014 as a deadline for the peace process.

"Azerbaijan is following a new military strategy based on a build-up of [arms] procurement and preparations for 'attaining operational readiness' by 2014 - i.e. threatening war by the 20th anniversary of the ceasefire if there is no progress in the ... peace process," he said in a note sent to diplomats and press on Saturday.

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Ankara has recalled its ambassador from Washington in protest over a resolution recognising the Armenian genocide in 1915. The move may also jeopardise a timid revival of Turkish-Armenian relations, one of the few elements of progress noted by the EU in its last Turkey monitoring report.

Opinion

Azerbaijan tests EU credibility

The EU's credibility is at stake as the Azerbaijani President pardons a murderer convicted by the court of an EU member state.

Juncker: Death penalty will end Turkey's EU bid

Turkish president Erdogan said he would reinstate capital punishment, for people behind last year's failed military coup. But European Commission president Juncker says the move would end Turkey's bid to join the EU.

Cyprus talks up in the air

A week after the failure of negotiations to reunite the islands, Greek Cypriots are calling on Turkish Cypriots to reaffirm their commitment to the process.

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