PKK’s involvement in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict would jeopardize European security

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has warned that Armenia’s political and military leadership will “bear the entire responsibility for the provocation.” His comments come after the latest deadly clashes between the two sides.

The clashes occurred some 300 km from the mountainous enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh which Armenia and Azerbaijan have been fighting over for decades.

The fighting, which broke out on July 12, is now the deadliest since the “April War” of 2016  but that conflict took place on the line of conflict between the Armenian-controlled de facto republic of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan proper, where clashes have been more common. The more recent battles have been on the international border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, where there have been occasional exchanges of fire in recent years, but not fighting this serious since the 1990s

The total number of Azerbaijani killed since Sunday has risen to 11 since border clashes at the weekend reignited the simmering Azerbaijan-Armenia territorial conflict.

Azerbaijan says one of its generals and five other officers were killed in a third day of fighting with Armenian forces on the countries’ border. Among the six Azeri officers killed were Maj-Gen Polad Hashimov and Col Ilgar Mirzayev.

Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said a 76-year-old man was also killed in the village of Agdam, by Armenian shelling.

All eyes are now on Russia, which helped negotiate a ceasefire in 2016 after the so-called “April War” – in which some 200 soldiers and civilians were killed, and the two sides came close to all-out war.

President Aliyev has also accused Armenia of dragging its feet in the peace process designed to end the conflict in order to maintain the status quo.

Azerbaijan is frustrated that after nearly three decades there has still been no progress towards settling the conflict over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, and seven adjacent Azeri territories currently under Armenian control.

The two neighbours in the South Caucasus are locked in conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia.Both countries were part of the Soviet Union until its collapse in the 1990s.

They fought a bloody war over a disputed territory, which remains unresolved. Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but is controlled by ethnic Armenians.

The fresh clashes this week, however, took place north of this disputed territory.

Azerbaijan says heavy fighting is continuing in Tovuz district, bordering on Tavush in north-eastern Armenia.

Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Russia was “deeply concerned” about the outbreak of violence.

An Azerbaijan government spokesman said, “The armed forces of Armenia have flagrantly violated the ceasefire regime and used artillery mounts to fire on the positions of Azerbaijan’s armed forces.”

The armed forces of Azerbaijan, he said, had responded with counter fire and launched counteroffensive measures, preventing the advancement of the Armenian armed forces.

The attack by Armenia, with the use of artillery, against the positions of the armed forces of Azerbaijan, along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, “constitutes aggression, an act of the use of force” says the government spokesman.

The recent bloody attacks by Armenia are branded “direct provocation”, partly because Armenia has long wanted to turn the military power of its ally Russia against Azerbaijan, says the spokesman.

Further comment comes from Hikmat Hajiyev, Head of Foreign Policy Issues in the  Department of the Administration, who said, “Such military recklessness on the part of Armenia pursues an objective of drawing the military-political organizations to which it is a party to into the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, and evade the responsibility of occupation and aggression against Azerbaijan. Armenia’s aggression against Azerbaijan that has lasted for nearly 30 years and provocations perpetrated along the border also contravene the legal documents of the military-political organizations to which Armenia is a member.

The Secretariat of Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) has also voiced concern at the perceived Armenian motives. It has reminded Armenia that it is a member of CSTO and called for an immediate restoration of the ceasefire in the so called CSTO responsibility zone.

Quickly after the fighting broke out, Armenian officials began to publicly call for the CSTO to get involved but the CSTO’s response has been lacking. It first called, and then abruptly canceled, an emergency session of the organization’s security council, putting it off until an undetermined date.

The region, he noted, is circled by Iran with Turkey an immediate neighbour and both the EU and US as interested regional and global actors.

This tension, created by Armenia is in the interest of a third side to stop all existing energy and connectivity projects with Europe in region and to prevent full implementation of Southern Gas Corridor, which is in final stage.

During COVID-19 cargo transportation via Azerbaijan’s territory doubled, when lines on North and South from AZ suffered.

Tensions in the south of the EU , with Libya, Syria , refugees in the Mediterranean etc all  impact on the southern logistics of the EU. And now the Eastern logistic system is being targeted.

Azerbaijan has international support.  Delivering remarks following the meeting of the Presidential Cabinet, President Erdoğan said: “Turkey will never hesitate to stand against any attack on the rights and lands of Azerbaijan, with which it has deep-rooted friendly ties and brotherly relations. It is our duty to accordingly mobilize all our political, diplomatic and social ties in the region and the world.”

Armenia, presenting themselves as military ally of CSTO,  is trying to use it as part of the Pashinyan provocation to consolidate his support.

But it is very dangerous for Europe’s interests in the region. The EU should deliver necessary messages to Armenia that it acts against EU’s vital interests in the region and EU’s large financial support to his country will be reconsidered if Armenia will not stop harming EU interests and values.

An EU source said, “Russia’s involvement in these clashes would be catastrophic not only for the region but for the wider European area as well.

Drawing Russia into the conflict would also be devastating for Armenia itself, which, after all, has caused the current crisis due to its aggression and occupation policy.”

The Brussels-based Paul Saunders, an expert on the region, condemned the “aggressive and terrorist nature of Armenia’s action.”

“The leadership of Armenia shouldn’t think that their actions will go unpunished,” he says.

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