Fears of new escalation as Yerevan, Baku continue ceasefire accusations

By Mark Dovich

Fears of a new escalation in hostilities along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border or in and around Karabakh are rising, as Yerevan and Baku continue trading mutual accusations of violating the ceasefire that ended the 2020 war.

On Monday, Armenia’s Defense Ministry dismissed reports by its counterpart in Baku that Armenian troops had opened fire across the border Sunday evening as “disinformation,” saying the border “is relatively stable and is under the full control” of the Armenian army.

Hours later, Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry hit back at reports from Karabakh accusing Azerbaijani forces of opening fire at two villages there early Monday morning, saying they were “false, unfounded, and do not reflect reality.”

Three houses in Karmir Shuka and Taghavard were damaged in the shelling, Karabakh Human Rights Defender Gegham Stepanyan wrote on Facebook, adding no civilians were injured.

Since last Saturday, Armenia and Azerbaijan have exchanged such accusations nearly every day, with each side blaming the other for opening fire across the border.

Armenia reported one soldier killed last Monday in a clash between Armenian and Azerbaijani troops “in the eastern part of the border zone.”

Azerbaijan has not reported any combat losses since early last month, when it launched an attack in and around Karabakh that left at least two Armenian soldiers and one Azerbaijani soldier dead.

Edmon Marukyan, Armenia’s ambassador-at-large, warned Monday the accusations of ceasefire violations raise the possibility another escalation in hostilities may be imminent.

“Many people ask why Azerbaijan spreads disinformation in an organized and consistent manner,” Marukyan wrote on Facebook. “We all know that, when Azerbaijan plans yet another border provocation, before carrying it out, it organizes a false pretext to legitimize the provocation through information.”

Political analysts in Armenia have raised many of the same points in recent days.

“Expect a new escalation in the conflict zone. Baku has been accusing the Armenian side of violating the ceasefire regime for days now,” analyst Tigran Grigoryan wrote Saturday on Twitter. “The exact same things happened before the August escalation. Baku is once again trying to force the Armenian sides to accept its demands.”

“Azerbaijan is once again preparing the ground for the use of force against Armenia and Artsakh (Karabakh),” analyst Benyamin Poghosyan wrote in a column for CivilNet last week. “After that, the authorities of Armenia and Artsakh will very quickly announce their acceptance of Azerbaijan’s demands.”

In the week leading up to last month’s attack, Armenia and Azerbaijan traded near-daily accusations of ceasefire violations. After that escalation, the authorities in Karabakh ordered the remaining Armenian residents of Aghavno, Berdzor, and Nerkin Sus to evacuate and handed over those areas to Azerbaijan.

According to a public opinion poll from June, nearly two-thirds of Armenians consider the “national security of Armenia and border issues” to be either the number one or number two problem facing the country.