Editor’s Note: Shortly after the initial publication of this news report on September 14 at 4:13 p.m. EST, a ceasefire was announced on Armenia Public TV by Secretary of Armenia’s Security Council Armen Grigoryan through the mediation of the international community. Armenia’s Ministry of Defense has not registered any new attacks since.
Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan said he is prepared to sign an agreement that would brand him a “traitor” following a second day of deadly attacks launched by Azerbaijan within the internationally recognized borders of Armenia.
“We want to sign a paper, as a result of which we will be criticized, scolded and called traitors,” Pashinyan said while addressing parliament on September 14. “The people may even decide to remove us from power. But we will be grateful if as a result of this Armenia receives lasting peace and security on an area of 29,800 square kilometers.”
“I made a clear decision. I don’t care what happens to me,” Pashinyan continued. “I care what happens to the Republic of Armenia.”
In response to speculation that Pashinyan is prepared to cede Artsakh to Azerbaijani control, Pashinyan said in a Facebook Live address late Wednesday evening that he has not signed any agreement and that there is no draft agreement that he is ready to sign.
Pashinyan continued that he would be prepared to sign an agreement that may not be “the document of our dreams,” yet would “help Armenian interests and in the long run guarantee Armenia’s peace and security,” without specifying what such an agreement may entail.
Pashinyan’s comments in the National Assembly have outraged Armenians from Yerevan to Stepanakert. Protesters have descended on Republic Square and Baghramyan Avenue, just outside the gates of the National Assembly, demanding Pashinyan’s immediate resignation. Crowds have gathered in Artsakh’s capital as well.
Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan said that “any documents that could recognize Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan are unacceptable to us” in a Facebook post following Pashinyan’s speech.
The prime minister also admitted that the Azerbaijani military has gained control over 10 square kilometers of Armenian sovereign territory over the past two days, in addition to the 42 square kilometers captured during the May 2021 incursions.
At least 105 Armenian soldiers have been killed since the Azerbaijani armed forces launched simultaneous attacks on communities along Armenia’s eastern border in the Syunik, Gegharkunik and Vayots Dzor provinces after midnight on September 13. This week’s fighting marks the deadliest in the region since the 2020 Artsakh War. The MoD of Azerbaijan reports that 50 Azerbaijani soldiers have died. Azerbaijan’s State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons said on Wednesday that it is ready to “unilaterally hand over the bodies of about 100 Armenian servicemen” killed in this week’s fighting.
Fighting has persisted along the border in spite of a ceasefire agreement reported by the Russian Foreign Ministry that began at 10:00 in the morning Caucasus time on September 13. Neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan confirmed the ceasefire.
“In spite of the international community’s clear response to the situation, the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan continues its aggressive actions against the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia, targeting both military and civil infrastructures,” the Armenian Defense Ministry said on September 14.
The Azerbaijani armed forces deployed rocket and artillery strikes as well as combat drones along the entire border from Sotk in Gegharkunik to Goris in Syunik through the afternoon and evening on September 14, according to the MoD of Armenia. A military unit in Sotk caught fire due to shelling. Azerbaijani shelling also struck a Russian border guard base in Gegharkunik, damaging the facility and several vehicles.
Azerbaijan launched attacks on Nerkin Hand in Syunik and Jermuk in Vayots Dzor on the morning of September 14, following overnight attacks on Jermuk using combat drones. The previous day, the Azerbaijani armed forces attempted “positional advancements” in the direction of Verin Shorzha, Artanish and Sotk in Gegharkunik and Nerkin Hand.
As of 8:00 in the evening local time on Wednesday, the Armenian Defense Ministry reported that most of the shooting had stopped.
Armenia’s Human Rights Defender Kristine Grigoryan said that four civilians have been wounded by Azerbaijani shelling. Her office reports that 2,570 civilians, most of whom are women, children and elderly, have been displaced, as residents of border communities in Syunik and Gegharkunik continue to flee their homes.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry has confirmed the attacks, stating that it takes “local retaliatory measures” against “legitimate military targets.” In a letter to the United Nations Secretary-General, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov accused the Armenian armed forces of laying mines in the Lachin district, which was ceded to Azerbaijan at the end of the 2020 Artsakh War.
The MoD of Azerbaijan later said that Armenia wants to “delay the signing of a peace treaty,” while Azerbaijan “is interested in establishing peace in the region through the start of demarcation and delimitation of borders and the signing of a peace treaty between the two countries.”
PM Pashinyan indicated that Azerbaijan launched the attacks in response to the lack of progress over the primary issues under negotiation while addressing the Armenian parliament on September 13.
The Armenian PM said that Azerbaijan refuses to discuss the status of Artsakh during peace talks and instead insists that the Artsakh conflict was resolved through the 44-day war.
“Over time, and particularly during the last meeting in Brussels, it became clear that, nevertheless, Azerbaijan refuses to hold peace negotiations based also on the principles presented by us,” Pashinyan said.
Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev agreed to “step up substantive work” on a peace treaty during their fourth trilateral meeting in Brussels on August 31. However, Armenian authorities indicated in the days following the talks that the leaders had failed to reach common ground on key issues, since Azerbaijan refuses to address the status of Artsakh and the security of its Armenian population in a peace agreement.
Many Armenian analysts have noted that Azerbaijan launches attacks to place military pressure on Armenia to fulfill its demands in ongoing negotiations.
Political analyst Tigran Grigoryan noted a pattern over the last year and a half in which the Armenian government has made key concessions following military escalations by Azerbaijan.
“They understand that this tactic of military pressure is quite effective,” Grigoryan said in an interview with CivilNet on September 13. “The Armenian government has its part of responsibility for that, because after every military escalation, Armenia is ready to make some concessions.”
The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russian-led military alliance, announced after a special session on Tuesday that it would send a mission led by the alliance’s head Stanislav Zas to Armenia next week to “assess the situation” and “prepare a report” that will be presented to the CSTO member states later this year. The bloc will also “create a working group to constantly monitor the situation in the CSTO zone of responsibility.”
Armenia formally applied to Russia under the mechanisms of the CSTO as well as a mutual defense pact in the hours following the start of the attack. While the Russian Foreign Ministry acknowledged the application in a written statement, it said that “all disputed issues between Armenia and Azerbaijan should be solved exclusively by political and diplomatic means.”
International actors have been explicit in assigning blame for the attacks to Azerbaijan.
Michael J. Abramowitz, president of the US-based human rights organization Freedom House, called on the Azerbaijani armed forces to “immediately cease their deadly attacks on Armenian territory and commit to the ongoing peace process facilitated by the EU, the US and Russia.”
“Military attacks on sovereign nations have no place in the rules-based international order,” Abramowiz said in a written statement.
PM Pashinyan had phone calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, European Council President Charles Michel, Iranian President Sayyid Ebrahim Raisi and Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili on the night of September 13.
During a phone call with the Azerbaijani president, Blinken “urged President Aliyev to cease hostilities” and expressed “deep concern over military action along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, including shelling in Armenia,” according to US State Department spokesperson Ned Price. While speaking with the Armenian PM, Blinken “assured Prime Minister Pashinyan that the United States would push for an immediate halt to fighting,” Price said.
Macron also called Aliyev on September 13 and “urged him to put an end to hostilities,” “which resulted in the bombardment of Armenian localities,” and “return to respect for the ceasefire.”
The Iranian President said that “Iran’s position regarding the territorial integrity of states is clear” and the “issue of Armenia’s security is important for Iran,” according to a readout of the call from the Armenian PM’s office. He recalled comments by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who has previously stated that “Iran’s connection with Armenia should not be endangered.”
Garibashvili said that Georgia is ready to “make every effort to contribute” to peace and stability.
“The absence of a reply to calls to the international community during the 44-day war in 2020 has made Azerbaijan more aggressive,” a joint statement from five political parties represented in the Artsakh parliament reads. “We call on the international community to condemn Azerbaijan’s aggressive actions and take effective steps to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Armenia and establish regional peace.”
Armenian politicians and political analysts had warned that Azerbaijan could renew its provocations, following daily accusations of ceasefire violations leveled against Armenia by the MoD of Azerbaijan for two weeks following the trilateral meeting in Brussels, all of which the MoD of Armenia denied.
“We all know that when Azerbaijan plans its latest border provocation, it organizes a pretext based on false information to legitimize that provocation, before carrying it out,” Armenia’s ambassador-at-large Edmon Marukyan wrote on Facebook on September 12.