Saturday, 23 June

Minsk Group Co-chairs Again Incite War in Karabakh

It took the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairs twelve days to release a statement regarding the December 29 Azerbaijani attempted military incursion along the border with Armenia’s Tavoush Province near the village of Chinari.

The statement basically accused Armenia for not returning the body of an Azerbaijani soldier would was killed in the ensuing firefight.

“Armenia’s military still holds the body of an Azerbaijani soldier killed in the battle,” the statement reads, followed by the most important assertion, the crux of the statement.

The Co-Chairs also urge the return, without delay, of human remains, in accord with the agreements of the Astrakhan Summit of 2010, bearing in mind the exclusively humanitarian nature of this issue. We call upon the Parties to cease mutual accusations and undertake all necessary measures to stabilize the situation on the ground.

The Co-chairs have nothing specific to say as to why the body of the Azerbaijani soldier wound up on the Armenian side in the first place.

For example, they note: “Baku and Yerevan continue to accuse each other of a December 29, 2016 attempted incursion on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border resulting in casualties.”

They avoid any mention of which country attempted the incursion, into which country, and the situation on the ground resulting in loss of life. Then too, following their traditional line of displaying equality towards the sides in the conflict, the Co-chairs again urge the leaders of the two countries to adhere to the agreements reached at the 2016 Vienna and St. Petersburg summits, including “obligations to finalize in the shortest possible time an OSCE investigative mechanism.”

However, they avoid specifying which side is violating these agreements and hindering the process of creating an investigative mechanism. Such a failure only leads the side responsible for such incursions to feel even more unpunishable, with all the ensuing consequences.

Thus, the statement of the Co-chairs does not directly relate, at all, to the attempted Azerbaijani incursion attempt. The statement has just one goal – to pressure the Armenian side to return the body of the Azerbaijani soldier, without conditions, to Baku as soon as possible. This is why the statement was released twelve days after the incident, and not immediately after, when it became clear that the Armenian side was deliberately postponing the return of the body for political reasons.

Two things are evident as a result. First, the Co-chairs are more open to hearing the demands of Baku rather than Yerevan. In this case, they conceal such an approach in the guise of humanitarianism. Second, this statement of the Co-chairs is the fruit of Azerbaijani diplomacy. It both confirms the inactivity of Armenia’s foreign ministry, its toothless ineptitude, and the failure of Armenian diplomacy as a result.

After the December 29 Azerbaijani incursion attempt, Armenia’s foreign ministry declared that it was taking all necessary steps in regarding the incident. The first and fundamental result of these “steps” would have logically been for the Minsk Group Co-chairs to have immediately issued a statement condemning and warning the side responsible for the assault. Nothing of the kind happened, even after Armenia’s defense ministry announced that it had evidence proving that Azerbaijan was the aggressor.

The fact that the Co-chairs said nothing regarding this latest violation by Azerbaijan of its agreements, but rather focused on the return of the dead Azerbaijani soldier, leads us to conclude that either Armenia’s foreign ministry didn’t demand that the Co-chairs point fingers at the aggressor, or else the Co-chairs simply brushed aside such a demand by the ministry.

This is confirmed by the reaction of Armenian foreign minister Edward Nalbandian to the Co-chairs’ latest statement. Nalbandian, commenting to ArmenPress, continues his same tired line of agreeing with the opinion of the international community and the Co-chairs, and expressing hope that the three Co-chairs “will immediately and severely react to every display of force, or the threat of force, in the conflict zone, especially when ceasefire violations lead to loss of life.”

In these conditions, when the Co-chairs basically seem to overlook the dangerous and provocative tactics of Baku leading to loss of life, for Armenia’s foreign ministry to react merely by “expressing hope” raises serious doubts regarding the ministry’s capabilities. In addition, Minister Nalbandian also notes: “when an Azerbaijani scout is destroyed in Armenian positions, it is clear to all, without any mechanism, as to who is the aggressor.” As to whom he means by “all” is unclear. Nevertheless, it doesn’t necessarily follow from the Co-chairs’ statement that this is how they view the situation.

With their clearly ill-timed statement, the Co-chairs are encouraging Azerbaijan to take new and even more provocative military action. The Co-chairs are strengthening the confidence within the Aliev regime that, regardless of the scope of the provocations, they will not change their tactics of overlooking Baku’s violations of its obligations.

The Co-chairs, just like official Yerevan, are committing the same mistakes they made prior to the April 2016 war. Those mistakes actually led to the war.

The Co-chairs, by neglecting the causes and only looking at the effects and proposing situational solutions, are continuing their failed and dangerous tactics. In this light, they assume full responsibility for any possible future warfare and for any possible flare-up along the Line of Contact.

Official Yerevan, with its unjustified circumspection and passivity, is feeding this irresponsible policy of the Co-chairs. The unsuccessful diplomatic jugglery after the April 2016 war, and the self-deception of taking the lead, by hiding under the overall mood of the international community, no longer can be viewed as rational.

Rather than asserting that the NKR must again be a full-fledged participant at the negotiating table, starting the process of international recognition for the NKR, or raising the issue of signing a joint military assistance treaty with Artsakh, Armenia’s foreign ministry is busy trying to delude its people in order to cover up its own failures.

The April 2016 war already proved what such an approach can lead to.


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