Armenian army lost three soldiers: what's behind recent escalation?

Armenian army lost three soldiers: what's behind recent escalation?

The Armenian-Azerbaijani border and the line of contact have once again witnessed turbulent times. In a couple of days, the Armenian army lost three soldiers in an exchange of gunfire with the Azerbaijani side - two soldiers were wounded and one killed. The Armenian Foreign Ministry has strongly condemned "Azerbaijan's provocations". Azerbaijan, in turn, holds Armenia responsible for the escalation - the country's State Border Service published the photographs of a military truck fired by Armenian snipers, noting that the enemy was silenced by the retaliatory fire.

"As long as the armed forces of the Republic of Armenia retain their presence in the internationally recognized territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the likelihood of the occurrence of such incidents is unfortunately to remain high. The only way to prevent such cases is to ensure the withdrawal of Armenian occupying forces from the territories of Azerbaijan," the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry's press service commented on the tensions on the front-line.

What explains the end of a several month period of relative calm? Does this mean that the hotline between the defense ministries of the two countries has ceased to operate? At a minimum, the latter is not at all necessary. After all, on July 17, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said "the hotline with Aliyev is operating, but this does not guarantee that there will be no casualties." That is, the recent victims from the Armenian side can be viewed within the framework of probable victims assumed by Pashinyan while the 'hot line' is operating.

It is noteworthy that shortly before the current intensified military confrontations between Armenia and Azerbaijan there were diplomatic tensions. Things got heated after Armenian National Security Council Secretary Armen Grigoryan said on July 24 that Yerevan was negotiating with the Karabakh separatists on the construction of a "new 150-kilometer road connecting Kapan and Hadrut" (Khojavend). According to Grigorian, the discussion will be completed by the end of the year and the roadmap for construction will be ready, which is expected to start in 2020. It was strongly oppose by Azerbaijan. "Despite the favorable conditions for the settlement of the conflict, continuing the illegal activities by hiding behind the ceasefire regime is the next provocative attempt of Armenia to undermine the negotiation process," the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry noted.

The hardening of Yerevan's position on Karabakh can be tactically explained by an attempt to push its candidate in the upcoming 2020 "elections" in the 'NKR'. After all, Nikol Pashinyan is obviously frightened by the possibility of a counter-revolution, which, by his own admission, may start in Nagorno-Karabakh. In order to completely root out the "old guard", in particular, General Vitaly Balasanyan, who openly despises Pashinyan, in the issue of the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement Pashinyan must be "be more Catholic than the Pope." 

But the problem is that such hardening of Yerevan's position, even a tactical one, suspiciously coincides with Armenia's strategic objectives. By creating "facts on the ground", Yerevan is trying to "stake out" a claim for both on the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and on the Azerbaijani territories around it. But in this case, the question arises - what can Azerbaijan discuss with Armenia in this case? Moreover, the intention to build a new road from Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh is far from being the only irritant in the negotiation process. One can recall Armenian Defense Minister David Tonoyan's "offensive concept" ("new war for new territories", "sabotage and chaos deep in enemy territory"), and the well-known statement  made by head of the National Security Service of Armenia Artur Vanetsyan ("not an inch of land") during his visit to a new Armenian settlement in the occupied territories around Nagorno-Karabakh. At the same time, Pashinyan do nothing to distance himself from the statements of his subordinates. On the contrary, he continues to advance the actual precondition about the need for the "NKR" to participate in the negotiation process, noting that otherwise the negotiations will be "ineffective" (for which read - it will by dragged on indefinitely by the Armenian side). Despite the fact that the OSCE Minsk Group unequivocally opposed attempts to amend the agreed negotiation format, the thesis on including "NKR" as an equivalent negotiating party is voiced regularly by the Armenian political leadership.

Thus, Baku should have no illusions about the fact that, besides non-handshakable "hawks," there are constructive "pigeons" in the Armenian political establishment with which one can try to come to an agreement. One tried, but failed to agree. It should also be understood that if there were no attempts to reach an agreement with the Pashinyan government, Baku would have become a destructive side in the eyes of the international community. But now it's absolutely clear that the more or less liberal theses from Pashinyan’s book 'The Other Side of the Earth' about the need to return 'lowland Karabakh' to Azerbaijan are in the past - they were replaced by the "new war for new territories" theses. Armenia's minimum target is to continue the occupation policy with the subsequent inclusion of all the occupied Azerbaijani territories into the composition of Armenia and their legal registration. Its maximum goal is to get Nakhchivan, Ganja, stir up separatism in the north and south, and finally "drink tea in Baku" as the hosts. However, a general who threatened to arrange a tea party is hardly likely to have such an opportunity, as he spends his days in prison after the 'love and harmony' revolution.

Based on the transition to a new concept voiced by Tonoyan, it is quite logical to expect from Azerbaijan a return to its old concept - "If the Armenian soldier does not want to die, let him get out of our lands." Azerbaijan's minimum target in such conditions is the return of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent territories, and its maximum goal is the continuation of the economic and political isolation of Armenia with the aim of bringing the country to a collapse and getting a direct corridor to Nakhchivan. However, the possibility of tea-drinking in Yerevan remains open.

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