Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Armenian News... A Topalian... Azerbaijan threatens to shell Stepanakert

BBC News 
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict: Azerbaijan threatens to shell 

4 April 2016 
Smerch Attack: Azerbaijan unleashes deadly force against Karabakh

Azerbaijan has reportedly used a Smerch heavy multiple rocket launcher
in shelling Armenian positions in Nagorno-Karabakh as fighting in the
region entered a fourth day on Tuesday.

According to Nagorno-Karabakh’s Ministry of Defense, the Russian-made
deadly system was used in the southern direction of the Line of
Contact where fierce clashes have been going on since the latest
outbreak of hostilities on April 2.

The Karabakh military reports no casualties after the application of
Smerch, a weapon designed to defeat personnel, armored and
soft-skinned targets in concentration areas.

The Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Ministry also says that Azerbaijan has
continued to actively use unmanned aerial vehicles against civilian
population and military positions. One of Azeri drones has reportedly
been shot down by Karabakh forces.

Tensions, meanwhile, have also been observed at the
Armenian-Azerbaijani border overnight. Armenia’s Defense Ministry says
the situation has particularly been tense in the direction of the
villages of Berdavan and Koti in Armenia’s Tavush province. One
Armenian serviceman was reportedly wounded in skirmishes. 

Deutsche Welle, Germany
April 4 2016
'No solution in sight' in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh
region has resumed. Caucasus expert Uwe Halbach dates the territorial
conflict back to the Soviet Union era.

DW: Mr. Halbach, in a nutshell: what is the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict about?

Uwe Halbach: It is one of several territorial conflicts that developed
during the transitional period between the Soviet and post-Soviet
eras. This particular conflict broke out in 1988, when the parliament
of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which had been subordinated to
Azerbaijan in 1923, demanded to be assigned to the Republic of
Armenia. This then developed into an intense conflict between the two
republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan. So this is a territorial conflict
which originated from the Soviets' territorial organization.

What is, today, the official status of the Nagorno-Karabakh region?
According to the United Nations, the region continues to be a part of

Indeed. No single nation has thus far recognized Karabakh as an
independent state, not even the Republic of Armenia which, after all,
has close ties to Karabakh and has supported this whole development.

Why not even Armenia?

If it did, Armenia would have torpedoed the whole negotiation process
which surrounds this conflict and which has been maintained within the
OSCE since 1992. Armenia didn't want that. It subordinated itself to
the negotiation process, and official recognition of Karabakh by
Armenia would have disrupted this process - it would have eliminated
Armenia from this process, as it were. However, in various crisis
situations Armenia now and again threatened to recognize Karabakh as
an independent state.

A cease-fire was implemented after the war in the early 1990s. Why was
it broken at this particular point in time?

It is not unraveling just now. Previously, it was broken almost every
year. The 1994 cease-fire never led to a real, lasting armistice. It
put an end to the state of war, but it didn't really bring about a
state of peace. The 1994 cease-fire line has been likened to a World
War I trench, because at this cease-fire line snipers from both sides
are facing each other. Almost every year, it saw gun battles and
incidents of violence which claimed around one or two dozen lives
annually. However, the incident we're witnessing now is the most
serious one since 1994.

To what extent are Russia and Turkey involved in the conflict - both
of them being regional superpowers which regard themselves as
respective protecting powers?

Obviously, the conflict is now being correlated to the Russian-Turkish
conflict in the Syrian crisis, which emanated from Turkey's shooting
down of a Russian warplane at the end of November 2015.

Both nations are involved in the Karabakh conflict. Turkey is clearly
backing Azerbaijan. Russia has close ties with Armenia in the area of
security policy. Russia has a military base there, and it has around
5,000 troops deployed in Armenia. On the other hand, Russia's position
is not one-sided, because Russia is a major arms supplier for
Azerbaijan - Azerbaijan receives 80 percent of its sophisticated heavy
weapons from Russia.

So Russia is playing a rather ambivalent role here, whereas Turkey is
clearly backing the Azerbaijani side and bearing a historical grudge
against Armenia.

Do you see a possible solution, and, if so, who would have to play a part in it?

At this point I don't see a real solution. At the moment, damage
limitation is the name of the game. It is important not to let this
recent incident get out of hand and snowball into a second Karabakh
war. The international community is now working towards this. The
OSCE, which is examining the conflict, will convene on Tuesday, and
currently all external players who were brought in as go-betweens are
in a state of anxiety.

Dr Uwe Halbach, of the Berlin-based German Institute for International
and Security Affairs, is an expert on the Causasus region. 

Letter to The Editor 
The Times 


Mr Tom Parfitt, your Moscow correspondent, in his report, "Dozens 
dead as old conflict flares up again in Caucasus", Apr 4) misquoted 
Thomas de Waal, of the Carnegie Europe think tank, when he says 
at the end of his report, "it was possible that Russia had provoked the
new violence as a means of discrediting the US as a peacemaker". 

For the benefit of your readers, and in the interest of fairness to 
Mr de Waal, may I complete what what Mr Parfitt left out of his report ? 

"Any analysis of why the fighting should start at this particular time 
is pure guesswork. One line of thinking is that Moscow may have 
somehow managed to provoke the fighting in order to discredit the 
reputation of the US as a peacemaker. .. the trouble with this theory 
is that Russia... does not control the situation on the ground. It is 
not powerful enough to make the Armenian or Azerbaijani forces 
do as it wants. Russia's ability to shape events is probably smaller 
than it looks. It is more likely that the Azerbaijani side, which has 
a stronger interest in the resumption of hostilities - is trying to alter 
the situation in its favour with a limited military campaign." 

Mr de Waal concludes his analysis by saying, "An unpredictable 
conflict environment combines with a tough macho political culture 
where it is seen as a sign of weakness to compromise. And, as 
the Prussian general Helmuth von Moltke said, "No battle plan ever 
survives contact with the enemy." * 

H. Vartanian 
Artsakh Government Appeals for Assistance 

STEPANAKERT—The government of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic 
issued an appeal to all Armenians who have contacted the authorities 
to offer assistance as Azerbaijani aggression against Artsakh intensified. 

The Government, headed by Prime Minister Arayik Harutunyan, has 
formed a task force to address these requests, as well as to ensure 
that the Defense Army’s needs are met. The task force includes: 

Vice- Prime Minister of Nagorno Karabakh Republic – Artur Aghabekyan 
Minister-chief of the NKR Government Staff – Levon Grigoryan 
NKR Minister of Economy – Andranik Khachatryan 
NKR Minister of Urban Planning – Karen Shahramanyan 
NKR Minister of Labour and Social Affairs – Samvel Avanesyan 
Director of the NKR State Service of Emergency Situations – Artur Harutyunyan 
Director of the NKR Village and Agriculture Support Fund – Ashot Bakhshiyan 
Director of Artsakh Investment Fund – Artak Mirzoyan 

Ashot Bakhshiyan, who is the director of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic 
Village and Agriculture Fund, has been placed in charge of food supplies. 
Director of the Artsakh Investment Fund, Artak Mirzoyan is responsible 
for procurement of materials. 

The government staff has been tasked to address issues related to 
civilian evacuations from border regions and resolving other social 

The public is urged to make monetary contributes to the following 

With US Dollars 
Аcquiring bank- “Artsakhbank” CJSC 
Address- Kievyan St.3, Yerevan, Armenia 
The account number- 22300110153200 
Recipient – The Ministry of Finance of Nagorno Karabakh Republic 

With Armenian Drams 
Аcquiring bank- “Artsakhbank” CJSC 
Address, Kievyan St.3, Yerevan, Armenia 
The account number-22300612211100 

Institute for War and Peace Reporting, UK
April 4 2016
Karabakh Crisis Mounts
Analyst warns that latest violence may mean conflict has 
reached new ‘tipping point’.

Fierce fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over the
disputed region of Nagorny Karabakh have led to the worst bloodshed
for many years.

Richard Giragosian, the director of the Regional Studies Centre in the
Armenian capital Yerevan, talks to IWPR about the potential
consequences of the latest round of violence and how international
actors have influenced the conflict.

He began by looking at how the ongoing fighting differed from previous
periods of friction between the two sides.

IWPR: How would you describe the latest developments regarding 
Nagorny Karabakh?

Giragosian: What is most significant now is that the fighting has 
not stopped.  The Azerbaijani offensive was very significant, for 
several reasons, ranging from the coordinated attacks against three 
different areas of the Karabakh “line of contact” to the increased 
intensity in fighting, which used much more dangerous, offensive 
weapons.  But another key difference from earlier rounds of escalation
is that the clashes are now entering a third consecutive day.

Is the international community’s response adequate? Have statements
made by US, Russia and EU officials had an impact?

To be honest, there is little that the international community can do
at this point beyond issuing statements and warning “all sides” to
cease and desist. Yet there needs to be a more nuanced and not
artificially balanced approach in recognising who is the aggressor in
these attacks.  In other words, there needs to be a punitive approach,
where such egregious behavior is tolerated less.

Even if the fighting stops immediately, what has changed? Can we
expect greater interference from external powers?

Once the fighting stops the question is not interference from external
powers but the need for greater international engagement.  Clearly,
there is no military solution to the Karabakh conflict, but Azerbaijan
seems to be unable or unwilling to accept that reality. Azerbaijan’s
sense of frustration and anger over the lack of any progress in the
peace process has culminated in a new tipping point, whereby the
Azerbaijanis have decided that the time has come to use force to alter
the situation.  Although their frustration is justified, their
manifestation of this through force of arms is both deadly and

Are Turkey and Russia transferring their differences and tensions from
the Turkish-Syrian border to the South Caucasus?

No, at this point Turkey and even Russia are limited to being
secondary factors and marginal actors.  It is the aftermath of the
clashes that may be the time for Turkey and Russia to react and
respond diplomatically, which will also be driven by their own rivalry
and conflict.  In terms of Moscow, with the West having such little
leverage over Azerbaijan and in light of the lack of political will to
return to the negotiations, Baku sees Moscow as the key to any change.
And with Russia as the number one arms provider to Azerbaijan, there
may be some grounds for that perception.  Yet Russia is the only one
in a position to benefit and to exploit the conflict to even further
deepen its power and influence in the region.

Turkey has declared today it will stand with Azerbaijan until the end.
What does that mean for the South Caucasus?

It should mean much less than [at first it] it appears. Turkey is not
able to support Azerbaijan beyond such rhetorical commitments and the
escalation actually harms Turkish interests in the region.

What do you think about the OSCE Minsk Group? What can realistically
be done to achieve a permanent peace?

The lack of political will and the fact that Azerbaijan has nearly
resigned from the peace process are the real challenges, and the 
OSCE mediators are not to blame directly  - and realistically, they can’t
do much in the face of reality. Clearly, it seems unlikely that anyone
except the parties to the conflict themselves can climb down and step
back from the brink.  But a return to normalcy and a real
de-escalation seems unlikely, especially given the rhetoric and the
domestic constraints.

To what extent has Azerbaijan’s financial crisis affected its actions?

The economic crisis within Azerbaijan is of course a key component of
their need to leverage the Karabakh conflict and the attacks
themselves to distract from the domestic crisis and to garner greater
domestic political dividends for the regime in Baku. 

The Moscow Times
April 4 2016
What’s Behind the Flare-up in Nagorno-Karabakh? (Op-Ed)
By Magdalena Grono

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has long been regarded as a tinderbox in
the heart of the South Caucasus — with serious implications for the
wider region including Russia, Turkey and Iran.

Each spring, when low-level violence tends to break out, policymakers
worry about incidents spiraling out of control due to miscalculation
or escalation by leaders in Azerbaijan or Armenia. But familiarity
breeds complacency, if not contempt, which is why the international
community was largely unprepared for the heavy fighting that erupted
in Nagorno-Karabakh on April 1, claiming dozens of lives.

There still is little verified information about the fighting and how
it was unleashed. Each side claims it has inflicted heavy losses on
the other. Azeri authorities say they have reclaimed control of some
strategic heights, and declared a truce on April 3. Ongoing fighting
has been reported.

This is the most serious escalation since the 1994 cease-fire in the
conflict in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory fought over in a
war between Armenia and Azerbaijan after the Armenian majority
community of this former autonomous region of Soviet Azerbaijan sought
to unite with Armenia.

For more than 20 years, the cease-fire arrangement has been fragile,
with a symbolic presence of six unarmed monitors from the Organization
for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The monitors are
deployed in support of the Minsk Process, an OSCE-led effort to
resolve the conflict, co-chaired by France, Russia and the United

Meanwhile, the past decade has witnessed a dramatic arms race between
Azerbaijan and Armenia. Emboldened by its oil and gas windfall,
Azerbaijan increased its military expenditure more than twenty-fold
between 2004 and 2014.

Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has boasted that the 2014 defense
budget was twice as large as Armenia’s overall state budget. Most
significant arms acquisitions came from Russia. Armenia, Russia’s
traditional ally, has tried to keep up, despite being economically
squeezed by a lack of development and closed borders with Turkey and

But ethnic Armenian forces have maintained control of strategic
heights in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, which has given it a strong
advantage and rendered the overall imbalance less acute. If Azerbaijan
has now taken some of these positions, this could change the balance.

European policymakers have decried the absurdity of the parallel
armament. According to a high-level diplomat, Moscow seems to have
been selling arms at a higher rate to Azerbaijan to effectively
subsidize the lower-cost supplies to Armenia — a member of the
Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and the Collective Security
Treaty Organization, host of a Russian military base in Gyumri, and
close partner on air defense and other military arrangements, which
include a commitment by Russia to defend Armenia’s international
border, if necessary.

Since summer 2013, security incidents have become significantly more
frequent and more serious in intensity, including the use of artillery
in and around civilian areas.

To understand the security situation, one has to scrutinize both the
local and the regional politics. As in other conflicts in the European
Union’s eastern neighborhood, they are closely intertwined.

Azerbaijan has been desperate to regain control over Nagorno-Karabakh,
or at least the surrounding seven districts also controlled by ethnic
Armenian forces since the 1990s. Hard hit by the drop in oil prices
and the devaluation of its currency, Azerbaijan faced protests last
winter registering a level of dissatisfaction among ordinary citizens.
The government may feel the need to rally support around the flag.
Baku is also less and less convinced that diplomatic solutions will
deliver results: its frustration with the Minsk Group is no secret.

Armenia itself has been under serious economic strain, especially
given the economic downturn in Russia, a key trading partner, and the
drop in remittances. However, for Yerevan, the status quo on the
ground has been advantageous. Any diplomatic efforts to change the
situation, such as via the return to Azerbaijan of at least some of
the districts under Armenian control, would have to be accompanied by
significant security guarantees and gains toward determining
Nagorno-Karabakh’s future political status.

The recent months have seen a lot of diplomatic activity, mostly
fairly opaque, by Moscow. European and OSCE diplomats say this is only
coordinated with the other two co-chairs of the Minsk Group, France
and the U.S. — but only in part. Moscow is exploring options that draw
on the basic principles for resolution defined by the Minsk Group but
is likely to look for opportunities to enhance its own standing in the

There has been discussion about a possible deployment of Russian
peacekeepers. Azeri diplomats have said Russia may support efforts to
shift the status quo slightly and allow for some new openings,
especially if Baku agrees to a closer alignment with Moscow, such as
through observer status in the Moscow-led EEU.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has been largely preoccupied with engagement in
other theaters, not least in Syria. Turkey, despite its traditional
alliance with Azerbaijan, is also stretched thin dealing with the
fallout from the Syrian war, the refugee crisis and conflict with the
Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Iran’s re-entry into the region’s
politics heralds a change, though the implications are still unclear.
On April 7, the Azeri, Russian and Iranian foreign ministers will meet
in Baku to discuss energy issues and possible railway connections.

European diplomats involved with the Minsk Process have been worried
about a serious escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh since last year.
Indeed, EU High Representative and Vice-President of the European
Commission Federica Mogherini raised the issue in Baku and Yerevan
during her recent visit to the region. But without a formal role in
the Minsk Group and with limited traction in its ties with Armenia and
Azerbaijan, the EU’s leverage is not sufficient.

Russia may have more influence, although it does not control Baku or
Yerevan and their respective militaries, and has been unable to push
through a solution in the past several years despite investing
domestic capital.

But Moscow is more closely involved than the other outside actors, and
seems to pursue its own strategic interests. Key among them is a
closer link with Azerbaijan and proving its own indispensability on
the regional stage as a mediator and security guarantor. Moscow will
likely use its leverage to enhance its own standing in the region.

As the Minsk Group meets on April 5 to discuss de-escalation, the
first priority is to stop the violence. But it is essential to get
beyond the logic of damage limitation. The risks over the past years
have not diminished but in fact have grown. Complacency in the face of
long-understood risks should be replaced by strong political will and
effective mechanisms to prevent further escalations in
Nagorno-Karabakh — and indeed elsewhere in Europe’s and Russia’s
shared neighborhood.

Magdalena Grono is the Europe and Central Asia program director at the
International Crisis Group. 

Ha'aretz, Israel
April 4 2016
Nagorno-Karabakh: The Conflict No-one, Including Israel, 
Wants to Solve
In recent years Azerbaijan has become Israel's main supplier of oil,
while, according to foreign sources, Azerbaijan has become a major
client for Israeli arms.

Anshel Pfeffer

Outside observers don’t have a clear idea who started the latest
rounds of artillery shelling between the Azerbaijani army and the
pro-Armenian separatists, in what has been described as the worst
fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave since the ceasefire in the
Azerbaijan-Armenia war in 1994. The roots of the war are in the
ancient enmity between the Christian Armenians and the Muslim Azeris
and for over quarter of a century now, has been the result of the
messy dissolution of the Soviet Union which left an area with an
ethnic-Armenian majority, which wants to join Armenia, within
Azerbaijan’s sovereign territory.

In the 22 years since the ceasefire, the fighting occasionally flares
up, far from the eyes of the international media, since the regimes on
both sides have no interest in seeking a peaceful solution while they
can boost nationalistic fervor and divert attention from domestic
problems with stories of victory and accusations of war crimes. Both
sides need this diversion now particularly, with the kleptocratic
family of Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev continuing to plunder
the country’s riches while suppressing civil rights and Armenian
president Serzh Sargsyan, who launched his political career leading
the battle for Nagorno-Karabakh, preparing for the end of his second,
and last term, according to Armenia’s constitution.

Azerbaijan has two strategic advantages over Armenia – it surrounds
the enclave on all its frontiers and its army is larger and
better-equipped, thanks to the billions of income from the oil and
natural gas on the on the shores of the Caspian Sea and under its
water. Armenia is smaller and much poorer, but it has the military
support of Russia, which maintains army bases in its territory and has
offered, or threatened, to send a “peace-keeping” force to the
beleaguered enclave. The Russians have been quite openly saying that
if Azerbaijan tries to retake Nagorno-Karabakh by force, they may join
the Armenian side. Fostering separatists within the former republics
of the Soviet Union is Russia’s way to preserve its influence in the
former satellites and “punish” the states which try to get closer to
the west. It’s the method Moscow has used in Georgia, Moldova and
Ukraine, as in Azerbaijan. Not that it stops them from selling arms to
both sides in the conflict.

Russia is not alone. Despite Azerbaijan’s dismal human rights record,
many countries are eager for a piece of its energy market. But the
plummeting of oil prices and the Aliyevs lack of willingness to carry
out reforms hasn’t allowed relations with the west to get any warmer.
President Aliyev has actually been trying to get closer to Moscow
recently. Russia is also one of the leaders of the “Minsk Group” which
together with France and the U.S., head a diplomatic coalition formed
in 1992 to oversee the ceasefire and try to seek a peaceful solution –
but for 24 years they haven’t been getting anywhere with that.

Despite its geographical distance, Israel is also a player. In recent
years Azerbaijan has become Israel’s main supplier of oil, through the
pipeline which passes also through Georgia and Turkey, while,
according to foreign sources, Azerbaijan has become a major client for
Israeli arms, including drones and air-defense systems. The importance
of Azerbaijan, which is described by Israeli diplomats as “a strategic
partner," has grown as the relations between Israel and Turkey have
deteriorated. Azerbaijan, a secular-Muslim country is a neighbor-rival
of Iran and serves as a “backdoor” to Israel’s biggest enemy. Senior
officials in Baku don’t hide the exchange with Jerusalem – Israel
supplies weapons to help maintain the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and
the Azerbaijanis provide a glimpse of what’s happening across the
border in Iran.

Azerbaijan also hopes Israel will in the future use the pipeline it
owns in partnership with Turkey for Israeli natural gas shipment. The
Azeris see Turkey as their sister-nation (and Turkey doesn’t even have
diplomatic relations with Armenia) – Israel’s reluctance to recognize
the Armenian genocide carried out by Turkey during the First 
World War is partly due to the strategic ties with Azerbaijan. Israel 
has no interest either in a solution now for the Nagorno-Karabakh 
conflict as that would lead to a loss of leverage in the relationship. 

It’s Cyberwar, it’s Turkish vs Armenian Hackers Amid 
Nagorno-Karabakh Dispute
By Waqas
April 3, 2016

Turkish hackers have been targeting Armenian websites and Armenian
hackers are targeting Azerbaijani government — Meanwhile Azerbaijani
hackers are missing from the picture

A group of Turkish hackers going by the online handle of Turk Hack
Team (THT) have decided to side with Azerbaijan over the ongoing
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and conducted a series of cyber attacks on
Armenian servers earlier today. The group countering the attack is
Monte Melkonian Cyber Army (MMCA) from Armenia who shut down
Azerbaijani government servers yesterday as a show of power.

The THT group is known for their powerful DDoSing capabilities which
were demonstrated on the official website of Vatican City against
PopeFrancis’ comment in which he used the word ‘genocide’ to refer to
mass killings of Armenians by Turks. While the MMCA is not far behind.
The army of hackers is known for defacing and leaking sensitive data
from Azerbaijani government servers to claim their hold on the
Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The ongoing cyber war:

The recent cyber war started when at least 30 soldiers were killed in
fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in the disputed
Nagorno-Karabakh region. The governments of both countries are blaming
each other but the hackers decided to take matters into their own
hands and conducted cyber attacks to register their protest.

Websites shut down by Turkish attackers:

According to a Pastebin link by THT, “In connection to the recent
tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan, we – the management and
members of TurkHackTeam, have sided with Azerbaijan against Armenia
the offender. We have conducted a wide-ranging cyber attack and have
been successful at closing all access to sites belonging to the
following parties including Armenian government portal, National Bank
of Armenia, National Security Service of Armenia, National Bank of
Armenia and Armenian Ministry of Energy and economy.”

No comments: