The Escalation along the Armenian-Azerbaijani Border Is Measured by the Number of Casualties
The escalation in Karabakh conflict zone and along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border dramatically increased within the previous year. The ceasefire violations have geographically expanded, with the tension remaining so heightened that it is measured with the number of casualties.

Such opinion was expressed by experts at the panel discussion on regular ceasefire violations along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.

The tension in Karabakh conflict zone and along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border has dramatically been increasing for nearly half a year. Ceasefire violations since summer 2014 have been accompanied with deaths, military and common people, from both sides. A total of ten Armenian Armed Forces personnel, according to the official statistics, have been killed since the beginning of 2015. The Azerbaijani official statistics regarding casualties is not fully available.

The press department of the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army reports that during the first half of January “the aggressive enemy had at least 14 deaths, over 20 soldiers were injured, one command car, along with one SADCO passenger car transporting soldiers, was destroyed.”

The press department of the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army also reports the Azerbaijani side following President Ilham Aliev’s order on some security measures on the contact line between the Armed Forces of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia signed on September 24, 2014 totally stopped any negative “publication over failures” of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, especially in the contact line.

No drastic changes have occurred from a military perspective, Richard Giragosian, Founding Director of the Regional Studies Center, believes. The tension has actually increased and geographically expanded.

“When we assess and analyze this recent escalation, there are two specific factors most important. First, from a military perspective this escalation per se is not new. What is new, however, is an expanded battle space, the geography of attacks are much broader and include parts of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, and an expansion in intensity of the attacks. We were used to measuring ceasefire violations by the number of shots. Unfortunately, now the escalation is so serious that we measure the number of ceasefire violations by the number of casualties,” said Giragosian.

Giragosian believes Armenia’s joining the Eurasian Economic Union since January 2, 2015 – which was presented as a step taken to ensure Armenia’s security – made Armenia less secure instead of strengthening security. “We are less secure now than we were before joining the Eurasian Economic Union,” said the analyst.

The Media Center, in cooperation with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting Armenia Branch, held a panel discussion entitled “Recent Political Developments and Heightened Tension along the Armenian-Azerbaijani Border.” The panelists included: Richard Giragosian, Founding Director of the Regional Studies Center; Tevan Poghosyan, MP, the Heritage Faction at the National Assembly; Stepan Grigoryan, Head of the Analytical Centre on Globalization and Regional Cooperation; and Shahin Rzayev, journalist, media expert.

The response of the society in Azerbaijan to the increasing number of casualties, Shahin Rzayev believes, is rather adequate because the total war is not over. “The number of deaths has evidently increased. People in Azerbaijan, however, unlike Armenians, think the war to be continuing and, to them, soldiers die in a war,” noted Rzayev. He added Armenia’s joining the Eurasian Economic Union has somehow affected the Russia-Azerbaijan relations, and subsequently, Moscow came up with a “non-adequate response” to certain accidents in the conflict zone. Particularly, Rzayev recalled “the restrained response” of the Kremlin which followed the Armenian helicopter shoot-down accident.

Shahin Rzayev noted Azerbaijanis – who see the inefficiency of negotiations - mostly believe there is nothing to discuss with Armenians. Moreover, the tension is unlikely to decrease since Azerbaijan is preparing for upcoming parliamentary elections.

The Armenian military units were ready for the escalation observed in the early 2015, Tevan Poghosyan believes. Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan’s statement that Armenian officers may undertake warnings, make decisions without a prior permission and respond to Azerbaijan is the evidence of their readiness.

Armenians, especially the military and political elite, should admit that the war is not over, there can be deaths, various scenarios and developments, Poghosyan said.

The panelist pointed out the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide as another possible reason for the escalation. “Azerbaijan is helping its Big Brother (ed. - Turkey). Secondly, world oil prices have plunged which cannot but disturb the oil exporting Azerbaijani Government and they are concerned over shifting the society’s attention away. Baku is getting less attractive for Europe,” said the MP.

Stepan Grigoryan believes Azerbaijan to be sparking tension along the border. “Azerbaijan seeks to show the world community that the Karabakh conflict is not settled,” said the political analyst. He added Baku must understand that with escalations they are destroying any attempt to settle the conflict without a war.

The panelists noted the tension is likely to be increasing year by year, and, thus, the conflict settlement is far from its “success.” The experts believe though discussions involving civil society representatives may drive the Armenian-Azerbaijani relations into a more positive phase, from a conflict settlement perspective it is the political will and decisions made by both governments that matter.

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