Minsk Group Meets with NKR President, MoD; Medvedev: Russia Is ‘Active Mediator’
STEPANAKERT, NKR (A.W.)—An ambulance was shelled by Azerbaijani forces on April 7, two days after the Nagorno-Karabagh Republic (NKR/Artsakh) Defense Army and the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan agreed to halt the fighting along the Line of Contact (LoC). NKR President spokesperson David Babayan said the Azerbaijani side was able to spot the ambulance by the information transmitted by an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). “They knew it was an ambulance and still deliberately fired at it,” he told Azatutyun.am. He added that the ambulance crew survived the attack, which he called a major violation of the Geneva Convention, reported RFE/RL’s Armenian service Azatutyun.am.
An Armenian serviceman Armen Gasparyan (b. 1974) was killed by Azerbaijani mortar fire in Talish a day earlier, on April 6. The attack came just a day after two Armenian servicemen—Suren Aramyan and Grigor Avetisyan (both born in 1997)—were killed in NKR’s Karvachar region, hours after the ceasefire. The two were killed overnight on April 5-6, according to Artsrun Hovhannisyan, spokesperson for the Armenian Defense Ministry.
NKR President Threatens to Counterattack if Azerbaijan Continues Violations
NKR President Bako Sahakyan held a press conference on April 7, outlining the latest developments in the conflict. Donned in full military uniform, Sahakyan said that Azerbaijan’s actions on April 2-5 were large-scale, planned moves aimed at invading the territory of Nagorno-Karabagh. “The enemy’s [Azerbaijan] intention failed thanks to the NKR Armed Forces; soldiers, commanders, and volunteers from Armenia; as well as compatriots from across the world,” Sahakyan said.
While Sahakyan noted that NKR remains committed to the peaceful settlement of the conflict, he stressed that if Azerbaijan attempts to violate the ceasefire again, his country will counterattack. “There can be no other approach to an enemy which violates agreements,” Sahakyan told reporters.
At a separate press conference held at the Central Clinical Hospital in Yerevan, Artsrun Hovhannisyan, the press secretary of the Ministry of Defense of Armenia, said that while certain positions are under the control of Azerbaijan, they are not actual army bases. “Based on the current situation, our troops are on standby. There are certain sections that have significant positions, which are under Azerbaijani control. It is important to understand that they are not bases, and that the troops are facing the circumstances they are due to the current ceasefire. As the president mentioned, these locations are about 200-250 meters large in the southern positions,” Hovhannisyan said, as reported by CivilNet.
Minsk Group Co-Chairs Visit Azerbaijan, NKR
President Sahakyan met with members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group James Warlick (United States), Igor Popov (Russia), and Pierre Andrieu (France), as well as the representative of the OSCE chairman-in-office, Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk, on April 7, reported Armenia’s MediaMax.
During the meeting, Sahakyan called Azerbaijan’s aggression “one of the greatest perils to stability and peace in the South Caucasus and the neighboring regions,” reported MediaMax. Sahakyan also stressed that the NKR Defense Army would continue to put down any infringement on Artsakh’s independence, sovereignty, and security. He added that he expects a tough and targeted response by the Minsk Group, according to the report.
During their visit to NKR, the co-chairs, along with Kasprzyk, met with NKR Defense Minister Levon Mnatsakanyan at the Defense Army headquarters. During the meeting, Mnatsakanyan presented “irrefutable proof” of Azeri military aggression, particularly of the violent actions taken towards peaceful civilians. According to a press statement released by the NKR Defense Ministry, the co-chairs reaffirmed their commitment to resolving the conflict peacefully through negotiations. The co-chairs were in Baku a day earlier.
Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev also arrived in Yerevan earlier on April 7, on an official visit to Armenia. In a press conference following his meeting with Armenian counterpart Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian, Medvedev announced that Russia is fully committed to serve as an “active mediator” to the conflict within the OSCE Minsk Group framework.
During the press conference, a reporter asked if the two prime ministers had discussed Russia’s arms sale to Azerbaijan, according to Armenia’s CivilNet. Abrahamyan replied that if Azerbaijan has the capacity to purchase military equipment, it will do so regardless of where it comes from—if not Russia then Turkey.