Armenia, Azerbaijan FMs Agree to Limit Attacks to Battlefield after Geneva Talks

Meeting of Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan with co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group in Geneva, October 30, 2020 (Photo: Anna A. Naghdalyan/Twitter)

After an all-day closed door meeting in Geneva with co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed that their armed forces would not deliberately target civilian populations or non-military objects in accordance with international humanitarian law.

While calling for the immediate implementation of the humanitarian ceasefires that were previously established and reaffirmed on October 10, October 17 and October 25, the co-chairs, including Igor Popov of the Russian Federation, Stephane Visconti of France and Andrew Schofer of the United States of America, mediated the agreement to a certain number of steps to be taken on an urgent basis. These include undertaking the recovery and exchange of the remains of soldiers killed in combat, delivering a list of prisoners of war to the International Committee of the Red Cross within one week and providing comments and questions in writing regarding possible ceasefire verification mechanisms. 

Indeed during a meeting with several reporters from European news outlets today, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan reiterated Armenia’s readiness to welcome Russian peacekeepers to the conflict zone if Azerbaijan would agree to it. Earlier this week, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev stated that discussion of the dispatch of military observers is “premature” while Armenian forces remain in Artsakh. 

Meanwhile, Azeri war crimes raged on the 34th day of attacks on the peaceful populations of Artsakh. An 84 year-old citizen of Hadrut who had been captured by Azeri forces died in captivity on Friday, according to Artsakh Ombudsman Artak Beglaryan. “Let Azerbaijan reflect on how after executing an elderly man in Hadrut, they expect to live peacefully alongside his grandchildren in Hadrut, which they wish to conquer,” said Armenian Defense Ministry (MoD) spokesperson Artsrun Hovhannisyan during his evening press briefing. 

Additionally, in the village of Aknaghbyur, one civilian—a 60 year-old—was killed from Azeri shelling. Six others were wounded, as well two people in the village of Sghnakh in the region of Askeran. Stepanakert continues to remain a significant target for Azeri forces, as the capital suffered more injuries and damage to civilian infrastructure on Friday. Armenian military officials, however, were unable to provide information on casualties or damage in David Bek—a village in the Armenian region of Syunik which was subjected to Azeri artillery fire on Friday.

In an attempt to verify evidence of human rights violations against the peaceful population of Artsakh, the Human Rights Defenders of both Armenia and Artsakh have issued a joint statement entreating all heads of diplomatic representations and international organizations accredited in Armenia to carry out a humanitarian mission in the region. Citing the widespread devastation already inflicted upon the civilian population by means of banned weapons, including killings, injuries and mass destruction to infrastructure, as well as the proliferation of anti-Armenian hate speech on Azerbaijani and Turkish media, the statement by Beglaryan and Arman Tatoyan warns of a policy of ethnic cleansing and terror-inspiring means.

Fighting along the Line of Contact (LoC) persisted overnight, according to MoD press secretary Shushan Stepanyan. The Azerbaijani military launched attacks in the southeastern and northern directions that were pushed back with a high number of casualties and losses of military equipment. Hovhannisyan reported the Azeri armed forces staged new offensives along the LoC throughout the day on October 30 at a more severe intensity than in previous days. In the northern direction, an attempt to take over several positions in the rear was immediately pushed back, resulting in a significant number of casualties. In the southern direction, the Artsakh Defense Army gained positional advantages at several heights north of the Arax River. Battles persist in the center of the LoC, where the Azerbaijani armed forces fired in the direction of Martuni and Chartar using heavy artillery. Efforts to neutralize the small diversionary groups infiltrating the forested villages leading to Shushi from Karmir Shuka westward continue. 

The Defense Ministry announced that it captured a mercenary from Hama, Syria. During an interrogation captured on video, he admitted that he was transferred to the conflict zone alongside 250 terrorists from Syria by Turkish officials, who promised him $2,000 in compensation that was never delivered. According to Hovhannisyan, the detainee confirmed the MoD’s knowledge that terrorist fighters are used by the Azerbaijani armed forces as cannon fodder to take on Armenia’s first line of fire. 

Rumors sparked on Friday of Azeri forces presumably using white phosphorus munitions and setting fires to forested areas. In a tweet confirming this claim, Tatoyan said there are civilians hiding in these forests. White Phosphorus is typically used as tracer ammunition to hinder visibility. It is prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention if used as an incendiary weapon on civilian populations.

Also on Friday, Hovhannisyan responded to reports that Armenia fired on the city of Ganja in Azerbaijan on October 28, resulting in dozens of civilian casualties. Based on an analysis of photos of munition remnants, Human Rights Watch confirmed that Armenia either fired or supplied internationally banned cluster munitions and at least one other type of long-range rocket in the attack. “If aggression is launched from these locations [on Azerbaijan’s territory] against the peaceful population of Artsakh, it is Artsakh’s right to target and destroy those [military] objects,” Hovhannisyan asserted. Several military targets are located in Ganja, including an air force base from which Azerbaijani and Turkish aircraft are deployed to shell civilian settlements in Artsakh. In turn, the Azerbaijani armed forces have been conducting attacks on locations far from any military objects. “Evidently they did not hit Shushi’s church by accident. Evidently they did not hit the maternity ward by accident,” he said. 

Following comments from Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan yesterday that the Azeri forces are just five kilometers from Shushi, his adviser Davit Babayan announced that the Artsakh Defense Army, with the support of civilian militias, halted a planned attack on the city of Shushi. The capture of Shushi would have strategic military importance in that it would give Azerbaijan a dominant position to strike Stepanakert. 

Back in Yerevan, the Armenian PM discussed the ongoing war from a variety of angles during his aforementioned press conference. Namely, Pashinyan addressed Turkey’s involvement to promote Erdogan’s pan-Turkic agenda. “The Armenians in the South Caucasus are the last obstacle for Turkey on the way to expanding its imperialistic policy to the north, east and south-east,” said Pashinyan. “Can anyone explain why Stepanakert is being shelled? For one simple reason—to make its residents give up the idea of living there,” continued Pashinyan in his description of the adversaries’ attempts at ethnic cleansing. Reporters also inquired if Pashinyan could have done anything to prevent these attacks, to which he referred to World War II history, when European powers tried to appease Hitler by ceding Czechoslovakia. “We are not going to concede the Czechoslovakia to anyone,” insisted Pashinyan.

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian is a journalist based in Los Angeles, California. She has written for the Daily Californian, Hetq and the Armenian Weekly, covering topics ranging from the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Armenia to the Armenian feminist movement on Instagram. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley with a Bachelor of Arts in Peace and Conflict Studies and a Bachelor of Arts in Armenian Studies, and applies her human rights expertise to uncover silenced narratives. When she is not on the hunt for a story, Lillian enjoys writing poetry and attending quarantine "Zoom-ba" classes.

8 Comments

  1. I bet you Azerbaijan will break this agreement. Europe cannot control extremists within its own nations. French and Swedish police do not patrol various zones in their respective countries out of fear of being attacked- these are sometimes referred to as ‘no-go zones’. How can we expect nations like these to ensure Armenian civilians will not be targeted. Europe will let down Armenia time and time again. We must learn to be self-reliant.

    • Yes, Azerbaijan violated the ceasefire again. This is the 4th time.

      Azerbaijan is again bombarding Armenian civilians. State Emergency Service of Artsakh state this notification today (November 1st: “Today military aviation was used once again, resulting in devastations and inflicting material damage to the civilian population. In other settlements the situation is relatively calm.”

  2. I absolutely agree we need to be self-reliant. Armenia’s “partners” and “allies” are unreliable. Let’s be realistic though, Armenians are also blind, slow to react, and need better leadership for diplomacy and not rely on diaspora. Several non-experts including myself warned for months about military buildup, while certain Armenian organizations and media were focusing on BLM, an irrelevant foreign propaganda movement that springs up every US election cycle since 2012.

    Even last year if it was not clear enough when Turks, Azeris, and the Turko-Jewish puppet Georgians held military drills. Or the unprecedented Turkish-Azeri drills earlier this year near Armenia’s borders, and used the opportunity to supply Azerbaijan with weaponry. A major offensive war just doesn’t happen all of a sudden, it takes months, years to prepare. If I remember correctly even Lavrov was hinting as what was to come if you read between lines.

    Armenians need to seriously ponder things like why does tiny Armenia have the second largest U.S. embassy in the world while the U.S. does nothing to support Armenia in a war like this, and allow the spread disinformation and propaganda? Or why did Armenia open an embassy in Tel Aviv this year and somewhat hurt relations with Iran while Israel has been supporting Azeris militarily and spreading disinformation for years? What logic is there to do this without conditions.

    Armenia needs hardline leadership to think of Armenia’s interests first. Not a N. Pashinyan nor the globalist A. Sargsyan. What matters is the security of the nation. Russia is also no guarantee, and I would argue the cause of problems in the Caucasus and even partly responsible for the fall of Western Armenia. We live in different times, another Sartarabad victory may not be possible.

    What position will Armenia be when there is a war with Iran? This is not a question of if, it is a question of when. Israel isn’t allied with Azerbaijan because they hate Armenians, it’s all about Iran. One thing I envy Israel for is their nuclear weapons. Armenia needs a deterrent like that. I don’t know if Armenia has it in secret, but I believe Armenia is fully capable. If the world doesn’t help Armenia’s security or even detrimental to it, I see no other choice.

    Sad times for Armenians. But we will prevail eventually.

    • 1) I was with you until the Russia part. Yes, Russia’s foreign policy is somewhat cynical, but so is that of the USA, Israel, Europe, and even Iran.
      2) Yes, the Caucasus should have been drawn much better by the Soviets, but it was the Turks and the British who created “Azerbaijan” in 1918, not Russia. Stalin attempted to get Western Armenia back in 1945, along with some lost Georgian territory. The NATO Bloc prevented that from happening.
      3) Germany is responsible for helping Turkey exterminate Western Armenians. They armed, supplied, and directed their genocidal campaign. Germany still refuses to stand up to Turkey in any meaningful way.
      4) If Iran and Russia were to get too involved in this conflict, NATO would use it as an excuse to beat the drums for war, sanctions or any other type of provocation. It is simply not easy to avoid the wrath of the west these days.
      5) I’m glad you were one of many people who noticed the military buildup from many months back, as unfortunately Armenian leadership was asleep rather than monitoring it.

  3. Is keeping the war going a step forward ?
    This ” agreement” will serve to lessen the criticism of the Azeris /Turkey…a plus for them, their “good will” gesture…..Minsk group is a joke and the best step the U.S. could offer is to wish Armenians well…

    • You’re right about the “Minsk Group.” During the last three decades, the OSCE has relentlessly failed to call out and hold Azerbaijan accountable for its sins; instead, their typical statement advises both (or all) sides to exercise restraint.

  4. the fierce conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh continues. Missiles fired from Azerbaijani attack helicopters and drones are destroying Armenian tanks, defense systems and defense installations in response to the shelling of Armenian civilians. Being fearful of Turkey, a strong Muslim power against the global monopoly, Europe has issued a writ to put pressure that only a change in Turkey’s position can pave the way for a settlement of the dispute.

    https://thefoji.com/turkey-and-the-game-of-world-powers/

    • Faroon, your beloved evil countries, Turkey and Azerbaijan, are very evil for doing what they’re doing in this most recent 2020 war. And, thousands, many thousands of people would be alive right now; but, they’re now dead because your beloved evil countries, Turkey and Azerbaijan, started a war on September 27th. As of now, since this most recent war started, your beloved evil country, Azerbaijan, has violated 4 consecutive signed ceasefires, within an hour after they were implemented; and, that doesn’t include the signed ceasefire they violated when they started the war, in the first place.

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