“The 2016 April War, One Year Later: Assessing the Outcomes of Karabakh Negotiation Process”
The Institute for War and Peace Reporting in conjunction with the Public Journalism Club hosted a discussion entitled “The 2016 April War, One Year Later: Assessing the Outcomes of Karabakh Negotiation Process” at Media Center on March 29.

Richard Giragosian, Director of the Regional Studies Center; Ara Papyan, former Ambassador to Canada and Director of Modus Vivendi Center; Thomas de Waal, a senior fellow with Carnegie Europe and Magdalena Grono, Regional Director at International Crisis Group, participated in the discussion.

A year has passed since the four-day war in April but the agreements obtained during the Vienna and St. Petersburg meetings have not yet been implemented and the cases of violation of the ceasefire regime and the tension on the contact line of Nagorno-Karabakh continues.

The situation dramatically escalated Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone in the night of April 2, 2016, and full-scale military operations were launched. The four-day war took hundreds of lives on the both sides of the conflict. A cease-fire agreement was reached on April 5, which became possible as a result of the meeting of Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Moscow.

After the April war in the Karabakh conflict zone, which was unprecedented since the ceasefire of 1994, the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Vienna for the first time on May 16. A number of agreements on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict were reached with the participation of French, US and Russian foreign ministers during the Sargsyan-Aliyev meeting. In particular, the presidents reaffirmed their commitment to the ceasefire and the peaceful resolution of the conflict. To reduce the risk of further violence, they agreed to introduce OSCE investigation mechanisms on the front line in the shortest possible time and increase the number of international observers in the conflict zone, extending the powers of the Office of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman.   

The next meeting of the Presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia was held on June 20, 2016, in St. Petersburg during which the agreements reached in Vienna were reaffirmed.

A year later no measures were taken to realize the agreements and the violations of the ceasefire still continue.

Richard Giragosian described the actions of the war in April as the first military success of Azerbaijan since the ceasefire of 1994.

At the same time, he stressed that the April war glorified the myth of military invulnerability of the Armenians.

“Armenia was not involved in the war completely, certain military systems, particularly iskanders were not involved in the conflict. The president attempted to interfere which led to the agreement signed in Moscow. This was a verbal agreement that would end the armed conflict at some point,” Giragosian said.  

According to him, the risk of new hostility is quite high in military terms.

“The war for Azerbaijan was a deviation from its domestic social and economic problems,” he said.

Giragosian said that nobody impeded or prevented new hostilities.

“Despite the context of new actions risk, times have changed, there are two factors compared with last April, they bring forward major changes. Any such action will not be surprising compared with April last year. Second, Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh defenders have been much better armed and equipped with new facilities. This means that a new armed conflict could become much larger, can be more fatal, because it is a temp for Azerbaijan to use heavy artillery, air force and weapons and even attacks on civilians. Therefore, the outline as such is very distorted and demonstrates the need for escalation,” Giragosian highlighted.   

Ara Papyan said that there is not any hope in peace talks.

“I do not see any political will from the Azeri side. I do not agree with Richard that it was a success for Azerbaijan. Success depends on how we define it. If we are talking about the 800 hectares of land, maybe yes, but what was the main objective of Azerbaijan? In that sense, it was a failure. I think Azerbaijan was trying to access, to break through the defensive lines and go forward in the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh,” Papyan said.

He added that on the third day of April war the control was in the hands of the Armenian forces.

“Let us not forget that the ceasefire request was submitted by Azerbaijan. The risk, the danger is rather high and the probability of the use of mass weapons is also high. Unfortunately, I see the issue of targeting civilians. For the last two months, we've heard that the Armenian side is eager to use iskander if the goal of Azerbaijan is to keep them under control and force them to enjoy the self-determination right only in the territory of Azerbaijan. But we can also look at the situation from the Armenian side. The Armenian side also said that it is ready to hand over some lands,” Papyan said.  

Tom de Waal, who joined the discussion via video call, said that it could be even more dangerous this year, much more serious military force can be used and in this case, there is no alternative to diplomacy.

“We have no grounds for passing to diplomacy at that point, particularly the Vienna agreement. Rather serious international diplomats sought to support this process and the basis of that agreement was the following: first of all, the strengthening of the mandate of the ceasefire, which was a requirement of the Armenian authorities and the desire of the government of Azerbaijan, which was a serious resumption of political negotiations. I think it was a serious basis for an agreement, at least for preventive policies,” de Waal said.

He says it is obvious that some mistakes were made and underlines that sufficient international diplomacy predisposition may lack to perform this work.  

“Serious international player is necessary, for example, Lavrov, who should be committed. He is a serious diplomat but does not take a commitment for the implementation of this work. The main issue is to strengthen the Minsk format and return to his position. Let them begin their review of the Vienna Convention. That is the main focus if they do not want the conflict to escalate,” de Waal said.  

Magdalena Grono says that the April events were tragic and there were some elements that aimed at abolishing the willingness of the international community's commitment.

“ One of the goals was to keep away the international community from this process. Thus we have seen that there are opportunities in Vienna and St. Petersburg, there are attempts to do it again. I agree with the point that there were specific requirements of security and confidence building measures, the possibility of investigative mechanisms was introduced but also the direction of creating a platform for the complete dialogue was discussed,” Magdalena Grono said noting that chicken and egg story is in the context of this conflict.

She points out that there are problems of lack of confidence in the whole process. The process is such that there is no hope for any progress.

“There are no confidence-building measures, on the other hand, the process should be accelerated. We now hear that it is likely that another meeting will take place, but these meetings must create the base for further progress,” Grono added.  

Lilit Arakelyan, editor/events coordinator at “Media Center"

To contact the author please send an email to [email protected].


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