Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Karabakh Clash

While I was away last week, there was an incident along the Karabakh frontier:
"The uneasy ceasefire on the frontline held by Armenian forces from Nagorny Karabakh and the Azerbaijani military was broken early on March 4.

"Azerbaijani defence ministry spokesman Eldar Sabirogli said Armenian units broke the ceasefire by firing on Azerbaijani positions near the villages of Cheliburt, Talish and Gapanli in the Terter district, and the Tapgaragoyunli settlement in neighbouring Geranboy district. Both districts are to the north and east of Nagorny Karabakh.

"Armenian sources confirmed that the fighting was in this general area, adjacent to the Mardakert district of Nagorny Karabakh.

"Sabirogli said four Azerbaijani soldiers were killed and two civilians injured.

"Senor Hasratian, spokesman for the defence ministry of the unrecognised Karabakh government, also cited a figure of four Azerbaijani dead and said two Armenian soldiers were injured, although in neither case were the wounds life-threatening.

"He dismissed the accusations coming out of Baku, saying, 'They are deliberately distorting things. If we had launched an attack, the bodies of the four Azerbaijani soldiers who died would not be lying on territory held by the army of Nagorny Karabakh.'

"The two sides agreed on these casualty figures, although according to Reuters, the Azerbaijanis also claimed that the Armenians lost 12 soldiers, which Hasratian denied.

"The defence ministry of Armenia itself, which treats Nagorny Karabakh as a separate and independent entity, came out with a statement blaming the Azerbaijanis for starting the firefight...

"Anar Mamedkhanov, a member of Azerbaijan’s parliament, told IWPR that President Ilham Aliev was visiting that part of the country, so it would hardly have made sense to launch military operations near to where he was."

My suspicion - and that's all it is - is that Azerbaijan was the aggressor here. President Aliyev has been rather bellicose lately, and the country's leadership generally believes their military is much more capable now than it was during the war, which ended in 1994. They were probably taking advantage of Armenia's internal distrations to show they need to be taken seriously going forward, especially in the wake of Kosovo's declaration of independence.

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