Nikol Pashinyan tries to disrupt Vienna talks
Azerbaijan's Ministry of Defense has reported that a serviceman Ellez Ellezov was killed in the shelling in the Fizuli sector of the front yesterday. According to the report, units of Armenian Armed Forces have staged provocations in different sectors of the front in Karabakh and Azerbaijan's state border with Armenia in the course of the day on March 26.
The Armenian Defense Ministry, in turn, said it prevented the alleged attempt of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces to carry out engineering work on the same day. The Armenian Defense Ministry claims that after "having warned the Armenian side", the Azerbaijani military opened fire on Armenian positions . The message is undoubtedly curious, given the specifics of the Armenian-Azerbaijani front line, where no one gives a warning before firing.
It's interesting that after a long period of calm on the front line, the escalation comes days prior to the meeting of Nikol Pashinyan and Ilham Aliyev under the patronage of the OSCE Minsk Group in Vienna.
It is noteworthy that on March 20, Armenia's Ministry of Defense reported that an Armenian soldier was wounded by the Azerbaijani side on February 18. That is, the Armenian side was silent for a long time for some unknown reason, but one month after the incident and on the eve of the summit meeting, it decided to make public the information about its soldier's injury. The information was published by the Razm-info agency, controlled by the Armenian military, which allegedly requested the Ministry of Defense. From bad to worse. According to the specified information, the soldier "was wounded in the right cheek, a fragment wound in the form of scratches not causing harm to health." That is, in fact it was just a scratch.
Thus, on March 20, nine days before the negotiations at the highest level in Vienna, Armenia's Ministry of Defense spreads information about a scratch allegedly received by an Armenian soldier (name is not specified) a month ago on the line of contact (place is not specified). After that, just three days before the Austria meeting, the Azerbaijani soldier was mortally wounded by the Armenian armed forces.
This development comes as the international community has rejected the Armenian leadership's demands to change the format of the negotiations and include the representatives of 'NKR' as an equal party. After the talks held between Ilham Aliyev and Nikol Pashinyan in late September last year in Dushanbe, there was a period of calm in the conflict zone until the last days. That is, the Armenian side would not even have the opportunity at the upcoming meeting in Vienna to complain about "Azerbaijan's militaristic rhetoric" (Baku has been very restrained in its statements in recent months) and the need to take measures to "strengthen the ceasefire regime" (this question Ilham Aliyev "closed" by effectively reaching an agreement with Pashinyan in Dushanbe).
That has a led to a situation in which it's difficult for the Armenian side to delay the conflict settlement process without risking serious image and diplomatic losses. In such a situation, the controlled aggravation of the situation on the front line before the round of talks in Vienna fully fits the logic of Yerevan’s actions. Thus, Armenian diplomacy, having failed to change the negotiation format, may try to put the "measures to strengthen the ceasefire regime" back on the negotiating agenda as a precondition for the further development of the negotiation process. It's as much expected maneuver, as it is primitive. It is unlikely to allow the Armenian side to win much time, but it would be enough to thwart the Vienna meeting and win a few months more. The price of these few months would be a further deterioration in Yerevan's negotiating positions. Obviously, Nikol Pashinyan is not used to playing thoughtful and long-term diplomatic game, and it works in favor of much more experienced negotiator Aliyev.