Following deadly Azerbaijani attack, Armenia and EU announce “ambitious” partnership

Nerkin Hand (Facebook)

Following the deadliest attack against Armenia by Azerbaijan in months, Armenia and the European Union announced an “ambitious” partnership agenda on February 13. 

Four Armenian soldiers were killed on February 13 after Azerbaijani armed forces opened fire on Armenian positions in the Nerkin Hand village of the Syunik province. Edward Hamlet Harutyunyan (1974), Gagik Varazdat Manukyan (1982), Arsen Gagik Hambardzumyan (1979) and Hrachya Talish Hovhannisyan (1957) were killed, and one soldier was wounded. 

Azerbaijan launched the attack after Azerbaijan’s State Border Service accused Armenian troops stationed near Nerkin Hand of firing on Azerbaijani soldiers near Kollugishlaq village in the Zangilan province on February 12. One Azerbaijani soldier was reportedly injured. 

The Armenian Defense Ministry did not deny that the incident took place. It promptly released a statement announcing that the information regarding the “alleged opening of fire by Armenian border guards” is “under investigation.” The Defense Ministry suggested that superior command had not provided written orders permitting the soldier to open fire. “If this is confirmed, those responsible for violating the orders will be held accountable,” the MoD said.

The following day, Azerbaijani authorities announced a “revenge operation” on February 13 in response to the “provocation committed by the Armenian Armed Forces.” It claimed that the Armenian combat post near Nerkin Hand was “completely destroyed, and the combat positions were silenced.” Azerbaijani armed forces opened fire on Nerkin Hand from 5:30-9:30 a.m., according to the Armenian MoD.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry condemned the attack, accusing Azerbaijan of “looking for pretexts for escalation on the border.” In a statement, it said that the Azerbaijani side “carried out aggressive actions” in retaliation for the previous day’s incident, in spite of the investigation launched by the Armenian MoD.

On February 12, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry also accused the Armenian armed forces of firing at Azerbaijani positions along the northeastern part of the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. The Armenian Defense Ministry denied the accusation.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called the incident part of “Azerbaijan’s policy aimed at disrupting the peace process between Armenia and Azerbaijan by all possible means.” He accused Azerbaijan of engaging in a series of provocations in order to deepen enmity and military escalations in the region. 

“But despite all these facts, our government is devoted to the peace process, because our belief is that the peace process has no alternative,” PM Pashinyan said in a meeting with a United Kingdom parliamentary delegation. “But unfortunately, it is not possible to do this without the political will of the other side.” 

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov reacted to what he called “alarming news,” calling on both sides to show “restraint to avoid in every possible way any actions that the other side may consider provocative.”

The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell discussed the incident during a meeting in Brussels with Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan on February 13. While he called the Armenian shooting of the Azerbaijani soldier “deplorable,” he said that Azerbaijan’s response “seems to be disproportionate, ignoring the announcement by the Armenian Minister of Defense that this incident will be fully investigated.”

Since the 2020 Artsakh War, Armenia has taken steps to move away from its traditional security partner Russia, who it has accused of failing to uphold mutual defense agreements in response to Azerbaijani aggression. Armenian authorities have indicated their interest in diversifying their security ties, especially with the West. 

On February 13, Borrell announced an “ambitious new EU-Armenian Partnership Agenda” following his meeting with Mirzoyan. The enhanced partnership includes collaboration on trade, energy, connectivity, security and defense. It also includes discussions to start visa liberalization between Armenia and the EU. During the meeting, the EU announced €5.5 million in aid for Artsakh refugees in Armenia, in addition to the €12.2 million already provided in September following the forced mass displacement.

Borrell also reaffirmed the EU’s support for the “urgent need for the distancing of forces” along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. 

While Armenia has been attempting to strengthen ties with the West, Azerbaijan’s relations with the West have deteriorated in recent months. Azerbaijani authorities have accused the West of demonstrating pro-Armenia bias, in response to criticism from Western actors of Azerbaijan’s human rights and ceasefire violations. 

In particular, in recent days Azerbaijan has voiced its criticisms of the EU Mission in Armenia (EUMA). The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry condemned what it called Borrell’s “groundless allegations,” accusing Borrell of “taking a unilateral pro-Armenian stance.” It called his proposal for the distancing of forces “regretful”. 

It also claimed that the EU border mission, which it called “mercenaries deployed by Armenia in border regions under the ‘patronage of the European Union Mission,’” “jeopardizes the lives of Azerbaijani servicemen and civilians.” 

The EU deployed a border monitoring mission to the region following the two-day war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in September 2022. In December 2023, the EU increased the number of unarmed civilian observers from 138 to 209. 

On February 12, one day before Azerbaijan’s border attack, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry summoned the EU Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Peter Michalko, to express its discontent with the EUMA. In a statement, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said that the mission is “being widely exploited as an anti-Azerbaijani propaganda tool.”

“Whom do they mean by ‘mercenaries’? This is a crazy statement even for Azerbaijani propaganda,” Yerevan-based foreign policy expert Sossi Tatikyan tweeted in response to the statement from the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry. “Azerbaijan is accusing Armenia & EU for the existence of Armenian military protecting Armenian borders and villages within sovereign Armenia partially occupied by Azerbaijan.”

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev lambasted EU mediation of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict during his presidential inauguration speech on February 14. “We do not need a mediator in this matter,” Aliyev said. “I think that the process of normalization of Azerbaijan-Armenia relations should be dropped from the international agenda. Because anyone seems to want to deal with this issue. Mind your own business!” 

Aliyev went on to issue new threats against Armenia, stating that if Armenia continues to make “groundless claims” against Azerbaijan, a peace treaty will “not be signed, but nothing will change for Azerbaijan.”

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian is the assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly. She reports on international women's rights, South Caucasus politics, and diasporic identity. Her writing has also been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Democracy in Exile, and Girls on Key Press. She holds master's degrees in journalism and Near Eastern studies from New York University.


  1. Armenia had the option of gaining the status enjoyed by Belarus or Chechnya today, Armenians “democratically” chose to be like a Kurdistan instead. Armenians are a politically illiterate people who suffer from arrogance and cognitive dissonance. The last 30 years proved that Armenians are not ready for nor even worthy of independence. Being that Armenia is located in the south Caucasus and not in central America, and being that we live in a Machiavellian world, the country faces two real options: Russification or Turkification. Anyone claiming that there is a third or a Western option is in-effect preaching Turkification.

    For Armenia’s sake, the sooner Russians annex Armenia the better.

    • Do you think matters will be better if Russia annexes Armenia? When the USSR annexed Armenia, the first thing that it did was to give away 40% of its territory. Kars/Ardahan went to Turkey, Nakhichevan and Artsakh went to Azerbaijan, and Javakhk went to Georgia. Armenia is already a client state of Russia. If Russia really cared, it would show more support. But it doesn’t. And if it annexed Armenia, the first thing it would do is give away Syunik to Azerbaijan. As long as it keeps its air base in Gyumri and land access to Iran, the rest is garbage as far as it is concerned.

    • Who are you to speak such vile trash? The Armenians are a very ancient people who deserve their independence. Where is this psycho babble coming from ie cognitive dissonance -your espousing predjudice for entire Armenian people. This is sheer rascism. Historically Armenians have contributed to the overall general culture of the region and within the Soviet system their talents for industry were well known. Now they are independent and have a large diaspora all over the world. Who are you with your biased opinion to be so spiteful and frankly ignorant. Armenians have excelled as scientists artists, musicians ….the list is long. They are a young country and all young countries deserve time and the right circumstances to thrive.

    • Ara,
      Russians resurrected Armenia in the early 18 hundreds. They have been the only reason why an Armenia still exists. Look up Treaty of Alexandropol and who annuled it. People like are the only ones responsible for all the black pages of our history. Constantly demand independence from Moscow. Constantly complain that Russians dont protect you when Turks attack. You people are amazing!

  2. Azerbaijan will attack. It’s not a question of if but rather when. Let’s at least give ourselves a fighting chance by replacing Pashinyan with someone who is 10% more competent and nationalistic.

    • I don’t get what you mean by ‘nationalistic’

      Our people have been extremely nationalistic. I’m so fed up with our young people proudly raising the flag for 20-30 years while our politicians were sucking our country and resources dry. Like I said in previous articles, we do very well individually. We suck collectively. Might sound like a joke, but we should really start taxing every single rich Armenian out there. Be it a citizen of the Republic or individual from the Diaspora. Just think about how many successful Armenians there are, who could care way more than they currently do. With all that money available, we could really enhance our military capabilities. We would have way more inventories. Azeris have their oil. Our oil is the list of rich countrymen we have. It is only fair to ask every capable Armenian to contribute. Especially because richer Armenians can’t fight in the war, but can help greatly with their financial success. Contribution should be mandatory. If refused, no entry to Armenia allowed indefinitely. Our situation is dire. We are out of time. If we don’t act asap, the enemy will swallow us mercilessly.

      And don’t blame Pashinyan. This is a collective mindset problem of our fellow Armenians. Leaders can only do this much, especially since we are becoming more democratic.

    • @ HAYK

      I agree. Individually, Armenians are geniuses, but collectively, Armenians are morons.

      The problem is not donating money. The problem is greedy, corrupt, and inept “leaders” in government who are stealing the money or don’t know how to properly use or invest it. Take for example that North/South road. Millions got dumped into that transportation project only to find out it was built wrong and had to be torn up. What a waste of money. The people in charge should have been fired, made to pay back that money while spending time in jail.

      Our family has not donated a single red cent to any Armenian fundraisers or organizations because we don’t trust the damn people! BILLIONS of dollars LEFT Armenia to buy properties and other luxury goods by the rotten scumbags in Armenia.

      Therefore, I agree with Armenians donating IF THE ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT IS HONEST, TRANSPARENT, DOES THINGS BY THE BOOK. If not, hell no to donations.

  3. History has shown that Russia (so to speak our brothers) are in reality worse than Turks. Turks at least we know they are our enemy, Russians on the other hand pretend to be friends BUT they are worse than Turks. They stab us from behind. We have lost more of Armenia because of Russians than Turks. Just think about it, who is the bigger enemy now.

    • Gurgen has fulsome adoration for Russia to the extent he is keen to denigrate Armenia and it’s people altogether in a self pitying tone and what might be considered a Stockholm syndrome.

  4. I suspect that much of the chatter about Armenia relinquishing its sovereignity stems from the total lack of leadership and weak-kneed, defeatist attitude of Pashinyan. His priority is switching uniforms of the military and scolding two-bit politicians about why coat hangers aren’t sturdy? Idiot! As for Russia, Russia stopped being Armenia’s “friend” after the Bolshevik revolution. Armenia lost hundreds of thousands of men during WW2 defending Russian lands. Armenia doesn’t owe anything to Russia, and to forget history and go back to Russia’s confortable bosom would be the definition of insanity. Perhaps it’s already too late but getting rid of Pashinyan is priority #1. Replacing the dead wood with competent people with military experience is not impossible.

  5. What do you get with Russians? Nothing but kartoshkas!

    I am from Istanbul and made so much money moving to Erivan and introducing Turkish politicians and businessmen to local Armenians, and now I have new Mercedes Benz.

    I also get paid by so many American NGOs to attack Russia, and I would do it for free because Russians are nothing but Soviet junk.

    Armenia needs a friend, and Turks, Americans, and Israeli are best friends for Armenians, not Russian Soviet junk.

  6. @Hayk “And don’t blame Pashinyan.” I hope you’re being a contrarian or just funny and sarcastic. Then I can help you by pointing out that he lied to the Armenian people repeatedly; he looked a gifthorse in the mouth by deposing the former head of the army, Khachaturov, as the the head of CSTO; he stole tens of millions of dollars from the Armenia Fund to prop up his cronies; he alienated the diaspora with far-reaching consequences; he wanted to be loved by Aliev and made a deal with the devil; he contraicted his own hand-picked foreign minister when the latter was accusing Azerbaijan of committing genocide and at least some in the world were inclined to believe him… You get the picutre. But if you’re serious and really want to show empathy to a petty, stupid, harmful, metamagical-thinking, self-righteous, narcissistic, manipulative monster and turn this to a collective-responsibility blame, I”m not sure I can help you.

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