Three Armenian Soldiers Killed on Border after Surprise Azeri Attack; CSTO Chief Slams Armed ‘Provocation’ against Armenia
YEREVAN (Combined Sources) — The secretary general of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) on December 29 condemned as “provocative” an armed incident on Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan which left three Armenian soldiers dead.
“We regard these actions in the territory of a CSTO member state as provocative, especially against the backdrop of the quite serious fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, involving heavy weaponry, in April this year,” Nikolay Bordyuzha said, blaming Baku for the incident.
The Armenian Defense Ministry said that the three soldiers were killed during an Azerbaijani incursion near Chinari, a village in Armenia’s northern Tavush province. The Azerbaijani military claimed the opposite, saying that an Armenian commando unit was ambushed by its forces while entering Azerbaijani territory.
In a written statement, Bordyuzha said that the CSTO Secretariat in Moscow reacted to news of the fighting on the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontier with “particular alarm.”
“Given the efforts made by both sides as well as the leaders of several states [after the April escalation,] it looked as though the process of the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem will move forward more actively,” he said. “However, reports coming from the region lately about regular ceasefire violations and especially yet another incident on December 29 … are a cause for serious concern.”
Armenia has repeatedly criticized other ex-Soviet states aligned in the CSTO for not blaming Azerbaijan for ceasefire violations in the conflict zone. Speaking at a CSTO summit in December 2015, President Serzh Sargsyan said they should “learn” from NATO member states’ unanimous support for Turkey shown after the downing of a Russian warplane near the Syrian-Turkish border.
Speaking shortly before Bordyuzha’s statement, a senior lawmaker from Sargsyan’s ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), Gagik Melikian, said the CSTO “must definitely react” to the Tavush fighting. “Let’s wait and see,” Melikian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The HHK’s chief spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, welcomed Bordyuzha’s reaction later in the day. “By pointing out that the attack took place near Chinari, Bordyuzha affirmed that Azerbaijani carried out an incursion,” he said.
Sharmazanov also praised the Russian head of the CSTO for referring to Karabakh as a “republic.” “I don’t think this was a slip of the tongue,” he said. “I think it’s a clear signal addressed to Azerbaijan. For the first time ever, a structure like the CSTO uses the term ‘Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.’”
“I think that this statement should serve as an example for other international structures,” added the Armenian official.
Shortly after the incident Prime Minister Karen Karapetian visited an undisclosed military position of the defense ministry ahead of New Year and Christmas holidays. The premier reviewed the living conditions of the servicemen and chatted with them over a cup of tea. Karapetian congratulated the servicemen of the Armenian Army on the upcoming holidays and thanked them for their devoted service
“We are going to have a very good country, don’t ever have doubts, regardless of what difficulties we have, what problems we have. We are extremely concerned for you to carry out your service, your duty, with pride, because there can’t be a greater satisfaction for a man who loves his country,” he said.
Speaking with the soldiers and touching upon the latest attempt of Azerbaijani sabotage forces to infiltrate the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, Karapetian said the personnel of the position carried out their service with heroism and selflessness.
Foreign Ministry Statement
The Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement strongly condemning the Azeri infringement attempt.
“Under the conditions, when the serious damage caused to the negotiation process as a result of the Azeri aggression unleashed against Artsakh in April, Baku resorts to new adventurism, harshly violating the agreements reached in Vienna and St. Petersburg and ignoring the commitment to solve the issue in a peaceful way. This is the way Baku responds to the requirement of the Foreign Ministers of the [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing countries to unconditionally respect the ceasefire agreements of 1994 and 1995,” the Ministry said in a statement.
“The international community, in the face of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs, has on many occasions urged to respect the ceasefire, especially on holidays. By resorting to an act of sabotage at the threshold of the New Year and Christmas, Baku goes against universal human values,” the Ministry said.
“The international community, the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing countries should sober the Azerbaijani leadership, which stubbornly ignores their calls and requirements and which has lost the sense of reality,” the statement reads.