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AZERBAIJAN’S MILITARY OPERATION IN NAKHCHIVAN: LESS THAN MEETS THE EYE

The Azeri Times

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Originally published by Eurasianet

Officials in Azerbaijan have been lauding a “historic” military operation, demonstrating the “professionalism,” “heroism and courage,” and “fighting spirit” of their soldiers.

It remains unclear, however, exactly what sort of operation has taken place.

In late May, reports emerged that Azerbaijani forces had advanced within a no-man’s-land between the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan and Armenia. They set up new positions on a number of mountaintops and hilltops which gave them a greater ability to target Armenia’s main north-south highway. But Baku, rarely shy about trumpeting any sort of military advance, initially remained uncharacteristically reticent.

They are no longer reticent. The “Nakhchivan Operation,” or sometimes the “Günnüt Operation” (after a village in the contested area), has quickly entered the annals of Azerbaijani military glory. The Azerbaijan Ministry of Defense on June 20 released a 31-minute video devoted to it, and it has quickly become a staple of Baku’s military rhetoric.

“The Nakhchivan operation was carried out with high professionalism. Azerbaijani servicemen once again showed heroism and courage. We liberated strategic heights,” President Ilham Aliyev said in an address at a June 26 military parade in Baku. “The Nakhchivan operation once again showed that the Azerbaijani army is a strong army.”

Azerbaijani officials have been talking about the Nakhchivan “operation” in the same terms as the territorial gains it won during the heavy 2016 fighting with Armenia along the line of contact in Nagorno-Karabakh, the territory disputed between the two sides.

Eurasianet
Eurasianet.

“The success achieved in Agdere, Fizuli and Jabrayil directions in April 2016, and also in May this year in Nakhchivan, became possible as a result of comprehensive reforms conducted thanks to the care and attention given by the supreme commander-in-chief of our army,” Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov said on June 22. “Both historical moments that I noted clearly demonstrate that the Azerbaijani army exceeds the Armenian army in terms of combat readiness, high fighting spirit, moral and psychological state and professionalism.”

While the details of the Azerbaijani advance remain unclear, the lofty rhetoric seems to be a significant exaggeration. Whatever new territory Azerbaijan controls militarily was never claimed by Armenia, and it’s not clear if there was any fighting. Armenian Defense Ministry Spokesman Artsrun Oganesyan told TASS on May 20 that one Azerbaijani soldier was killed as he was taking part in “engineering works.”

“Azerbaijan’s armed forces conducted active engineering works at certain sections of the border with Armenia seeking to improve their positions,” Oganesyan said. “Invigoration of engineering works and other provocative actions entail shootouts and, as a consequence, human casualties.”

Azerbaijan claimed to have “liberated” 11,000 hectares in the operation, and published photos of what it said were former residents of Günnüt visiting their family members’ graves for the first time since 1992.

In the face of the Azerbaijani PR offensive, Armenia has responded mockingly. “Why such modesty?” tweeted the spokesman for Armenia’s Foreign Ministry, Tigran Balayan, to the territorial claims from Azerbaijan. “Go ahead and claim 110,000 hectares. There are those who can’t wait to confirm and like.”

From Tigran Balayan's Twitter feed @tbalayan
From Tigran Balayan’s Twitter feed @tbalayan.

Armenian officials also released video on June 11 that they claimed showed Armenian military officers escorting the Azerbaijani villagers to the Günnüt cemetery in an effort to prove that Armenia still held the strategic high ground there.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has sought to downplay the advance. “In the strategic and tactical sense there have been no significant changes in Nakhchivan,” he said in a June 25 Facebook live video. “In fact, we have the same situation that we had several months ago.”

Some skeptical Azerbaijanis also saw the operation as more PR than military victory. “Even the liberation of a single hilltop is broadcast to the nation as a ‘great victory,’ and the nation generally agrees,” wrote Shahin Rzaev, a Baku-based journalist, in an op-ed for the website JAM News. “It is possible that this is why the Azerbaijani media is making such a ruckus and creating euphoria over the establishment of control over a village which is hard to find even on a map.”

Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.

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Armenia

Zoya Tadevosyan: We call them liberated, but in fact these are occupied territories

The Azeri Times

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The territories liberated during the Karabakh war are not the territories of Karabakh. We call them liberated, but in fact – these are the territories that were occupied, member of the Armenian National Congress Zoya Tadevosyan said at a press conference in Yerevan.

Such a statement caused great resonance both within Armenia and beyond its borders. Political analysts are sure that such a bold statement by a member of the national congress was made in connection with the arrests of the most prominent representatives of the “war party” – General Manvel Grigoryan, ex-president Robert Kocharian and dozens of criminal authorities – certain politicians and intellectuals begin to comprehend the reasons of sticky situation in Armenia.

We, in fact, witness a sensation. Armenia experiences a kind of revolution in public consciousness that could eventually lead to a search for a more real effective compromise between Armenia and Azerbaijan, member of Public Chamber of Russia Sergei Markov said.

Political analysts are sure that Zoya Tadevosyan’s bold statement is the first spark in the formation of a new public opinion in Armenia. This statement gives new hope for a peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The fact that some politicians are ready to talk about Armenia’s fault in this conflict publicly can lead to a serious change in public consciousness. The most important thing is that people would have the freedom to express such positions. In this case, a very serious transformation of the public consciousness of Armenia is possible. However, perhaps part of the Armenian population is tired of this artificial dispersal of ultra-patriotism and would be ready to adopt a more self-critical stance that would create more realistic opportunities for seeking a peaceful compromise around the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, member of Public Chamber of Russia Sergei Markov said.

This is certainly a message, an intellectual message that gives hope that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict would be settled peacefully. Now, there is a real chance to check whether the parties to the conflict are ready for real peace talks and for real steps in order not to kill each other, but somehow through mutual compromise to agree and try to live in peace, rather than in war, political analyst Oleg Kuznetsov said.

Tadevosyan’s statement caused a violent reaction in Karabakh. Assistant to the separatist leader David Babayan called this statement “a political betrayal of national interests and a manifestation of moral degradation.” Former deputy commander of the Karabakh forces Arthur Aghabekyan and former head of the Security Service of the separatists Arshavir Garamyan made similar statements. The latter urged the population of Karabakh to take to the streets and protest against the idea of returning the territories to Azerbaijan.

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Armenia

PASHINYAN TO ALJAZEERA: WE ARE READY TO TALK KARABAKH PEACE – VIDEO

The Azeri Times

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Armenia

IF IT WEREN’T FOR RUSSIAN BASE IN ARMENIA, THERE WOULDN’T BE ANY ARMENIANS IN KARABAKH’

The Azeri Times

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LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky in the program ’60 Minutes’ aired on Wednesday evening on Russia 1 TV channel said that without Russian bases in Gyumri and Yerevan, Armenians in Karabakh would no longer exist. He said that while commenting on Armenia’s desire to move away from Russia.

‘Only because our army is in Armenia, the Armenians of Karabakh live calmly, in a peaceful atmosphere,’ Zhirinovsky added.

Responding during the talk show on the question of Russia’s participation in inter-ethnic conflicts in the post-Soviet space, the leader of the Liberal Democrats said that Russia ‘protects and saves the population of the entire former USSR.’

‘In Transnistria, people were cut out, a Russian militiaman was quartered, girls were raped in 1992,’ Zhirinovsky said. ‘There was a genocide, a civil war. The Russian army stopped everything, you have to kneel before the Russian army.

If in the Donbas they did not press the Russians and kill them, there would not be such a thing today…

We saved Ossetians and Abkhazians… We will protect and save the population of the entire former USSR. We will not get into Canada and Africa, but we will defend everyone who was in the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire, regardless of nationality.’

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