Azerbaijan breaches newly US-negotiated ceasefire within minutes

(Photo: NKR Infocenter)

YEREVAN—A last-minute humanitarian ceasefire negotiated by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo between Armenia and Azerbaijan collapsed after 45 minutes of going into effect at 8:00 AM GMT+4.

The ceasefire, which changes little from the previous failed ceasefires brokered by fellow OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs Russia and France, also broadly follows the lines of the 1994 Bishkek Protocols which ended the first Karabakh War. It calls for both sides to refrain from violence and return to the negotiation table with no preconditions. In a ‘Face the Nation’ segment on Sunday, US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien mentioned that Armenia had readily agreed to a ceasefire, while Azerbaijan had remained reluctant.

Azerbaijan’s sincere commitment to the ceasefire was tested on Monday morning when the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense put out a tweet at 8:02 AM local time accusing Armenia of violating the agreement, before being quickly deleted. The Armenian MoD quickly responded that its forces had followed an order to hold fire and were respecting their obligations. The tweet was later reposted almost an hour later. The fact that it had been posted mere seconds after the ceasefire went into effect suggests that it had been prewritten and mis-scheduled for posting. Perplexingly, the Azerbaijani MoD then followed that tweet with another announcing that they had both complied (unlike Armenia) with the agreement and also—quite paradoxically—captured the small village of Sanasar (Gubadli) in the southern part of Artsakh. The announcement marked the second time the Azeri Army claimed to have occupied the town in at least a week.

Earlier on Monday Prime Minister Pashinyan announced that despite sporadic violations in localized areas, the ceasefire remained largely intact for most of the morning. “The Armenian side continues to strictly adhere to the ceasefire regime,” he tweeted. However, his tone sharply changed during a Facebook Live address to the nation later that evening, when he declared the ceasefire to be dead in the water. “Armenians have been flexible in negotiations since the beginning, but Azerbaijan has always had only one negotiating position: the capitulation of Artsakh,” said Pashinyan. “We’ve always been ready to compromise but never capitulate.” Pashinyan later tweeted at President Trump directly, notifying him that civilians in Artsakh were killed after the failed US-brokered ceasefire.  

For his part, President Aliyev continued with unusually bellicose rhetoric for a ceasefire. In a televised speech to the Azeri public, he declared that the world powers had now sided against Azerbaijan, which, he vowed, would not be intimidated from completing its mission to “chase the enemy from our lands until the end.” He ended his speech by listing a number of villages he claimed to have “liberated,” however conflictingly these were also located in territory which he had already announced to be under Azerbaijani control last week, casting further doubt on the actual extent of Azerbaijani military success. 

Armenian Defense Spokesman Artrsun Hovhannisyan confirmed that Azerbaijan had broken the ceasefire and took advantage of the negotiations to capture the town of Sanasar during the night. “Yes, we have retreated in some areas because we value human life more than defending to the last man strategically negligible positions,” he said, adding that while Azeri forces had gotten closer to Syunik Province, the situation remained well within the control of Armenian forces. He once more urged Armenians to trust that the army had a very good intelligence operation in place, are well aware of Azerbaijani movements and have certain plans in motion that cannot be made public for obvious reasons. 

According to Artsakh Human Rights Ombudsman Artak Beglaryan, civilian Gevorg Hambardzumyan was killed; two others, Henrikh Adamyan and Andrey Hambardzumyan, were wounded in Avetaranots village by an Azerbaijani artillery strike.

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Raffi Elliott

Columnist & Armenia Correspondent
Raffi Elliott is a Canadian-Armenian political risk analyst and journalist based in Yerevan, Armenia. As correspondent and columnist for the Armenian Weekly, he covers socioeconomic, political, business and diplomatic issues in Armenia, with occasional thoughts on culture and urbanism.

4 Comments

  1. So , I’m just exceedingly curious about a certain elephant in the field of battle.
    Why aren’t there any video and human monitors taking place in the entire front and interior of artsakh ? Are the ceasefire breaches being visually and video documented by us and outside agencies ??
    Why is at always a question of “ they started it “ ?? This is 2020 and all we have in place is Azeris claiming we started it.

  2. Wake up Arayik Harouiunyan Nikol pashinyan every single ceasefire Azerbaijan takes advantage to hold a territory , & this time ignored USA too , There’s ONE LAST CHANCE , GOD WILL NEGOTIATE ,USE your own will power be smart !!!

    • I’d like to know what is the stratey that Pashinyan and Haroutunyan have in their heads. We are losing the South, I don’t believe that thing about “temporary positions”. Can actually Armenia/Artsakh bring back those lost territories?

  3. There is one quick and guaranteed way to enforce a ceasefire and that is to issue arrest warrants for the Turkish terrorist Erdogan and his hand puppet and criminal collaborator Aliyev for committing crimes, deliberately and with premeditation, against the defenseless and peaceful Armenian populations. These Turkish and pseudo-Turkish Azerbaijani fascist criminals are showing their TRUE Turkic colors. Having lost thousands of soldiers in the battlefield, about 7000 last I heard, and over a billion dollars in loss of armaments, they have turned their guns on the innocent civilians to create chaos and cause panic to force them out but to no avail.

    The artificial Azerbaijani criminal thug Aliyev, who turned into a chicken and went into hiding in Moscow when duty called 30 years ago and turned into a hawk with pockets full of petrodollars when the war ended, never missed the opportunity to warn and claim he can reoccupy LIBERATED territories in 24 hours if he so chose has hit a brick wall once again, as usual like he has in his former surprise attacks, and is playing with fire. He calls for a ceasefire to show himself as conciliatory to the world leaders, who are increasingly turning against him, while knowing full well he has no intention of respecting the ceasefire, by deliberately blaming the Armenians for breaking it, because if he respects the ceasefire then his politically ignorant and gullible population will find out the massive number of casualties which Aliyev has so far refused to publicize. By revealing Azerbaijani massive losses, having accomplished practically nothing in nearly a month with all the firepower at his disposal, Aliyev is fearful of losing power and is contemplating how he is going to face the wrath of his people for yet another failure.

    I can only praise our brave and dedicated soldiers and commanders who all by themselves have been fighting and in countless instances repelling and destroying the enemy forces of not just coward Azerbaijanis but also all of their criminal collaborators such as terrorist Turkey and Pakistan, including Israel by way of selling Azerbaijan deadly weapons, as well as their handsomely-paid hired mercenaries from Syria. I consider standing all alone against all these terrorists with their massive firepower for nearly a month an Armenian victory already. Artificial Azerbaijan has once again been humiliated by the Armenians as they were thirty years ago. This unequal war continues but if we had a fraction of Azerbaijan’s resources we would have turned this artificial state into our parking lot by now.

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