Heavy fighting on Nagorno-Karabakh ‘contact line’

Press Release: As the world’s focus has been taken by the long-running war in Syria, it seems that Armenia has taken advantage of this distraction to renew its ambitions to illegally acquire even more Azerbaijani territory.

The fighting has led to international condemnation of the Armenian incursion. Pedro Agramunt, President, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) issued a strongly-worded statement calling for: “The withdrawal of all Armenian armed troops from occupied Azerbaijani territories in compliance with UN Security Council resolutions.”

Armenia already illegally occupies close to 20 per cent of Azerbaijan territory following their initial invasion during the period 1988–94. This illegal act produced close to one million refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), who continue to reside in camps dispersed throughout Azerbaijan.

Ever since that initial invasion, Armenian and Azerbaijani forces have faced each other across the so-called ‘contact line’. In recent months there have been constant exchanges of small arms fire, and this has been gradually escalating. Now it has reached the point where mortar and artillery round are being exchanged, and it appears as if Armenian forces were intent on renewing the invasion of Azerbaijani territory, picking up where they left off 25 years ago. Attacks have been reported on dozens of Azerbaijani positions along a 100-mile front.

Lionel Zetter, Director, The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) said: “The failure of the OSCE Minsk Group and the UN to resolve this dispute over the last quarter of a century has made a renewal of the conflict almost inevitable. It is a tragedy that, whilst the world is trying to cope with the Syrian conflict, Armenian forces have taken advantage of the distraction to renew their territorial ambitions – just as they did following the chaos of the Soviet collapse. The UN and the international community should not allow them to get away with naked aggression for a second time.”

Bob Blackman MP, Chairman, Azerbaijan All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) at the Westminster Parliament, said: “Tension has been simmering on the ‘contact line’ for many months. Now it seems that full-scale fighting has broken out. The UN must step in and ensure that the Armenian forces withdraw from Azerbaijani territory, as instructed by their own Security Council resolutions numbers 822, 853, 874 and 884.”

Lord Kilcooney, Vice-Chairman, Azerbaijan APPG, commented: “I have said time and again that the OSCE Minsk Group has failed to address the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding territories. There are four UN Security Council resolutions calling on Armenia to withdraw that have been largely ignored. The result is today’s very serious escalation and provocation by Armenia on the ‘contact line’, leading to the highest level of violence since the 1994 ceasefire. We have to implement the resolutions now and stop this aggression.”

Stephen Hepburn MP agreed: “I am appalled at the Armenian aggression that has resulted in the heaviest fighting and killing on the ‘contact line’ in 20 years. It is time that the world forced Armenia to comply with the four UN Security Council resolutions demanding its withdrawal from Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding territories, with appropriate sanctions applied on its leadership if it does not comply. This killing and aggression towards Azerbaijan has to stop.”