2. Dr. Cheterian: “Scale of the Azerbaijani attack now is much larger than anything we saw in the past two years”

2.	Dr. Cheterian: “Scale of the Azerbaijani attack now is much larger than anything we saw in the past two years”
Update: 14 September 2022 23:25
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2. Dr. Cheterian: “Scale of the Azerbaijani attack now is much larger than anything we saw in the past two years”

Dr. Vicken Cheterian is a university lecturer and author specializing in violent conflicts with years of field experience in the Middle East, Caucasus, Central Asia, Ukraine, Russia, and North Africa. He is currently a lecturer in history and international relations at the University of Geneva and Webster University Geneva, and an editorialist for Agos. He has written three books and over two dozen journal articles. 

Dr. Cheterian evaluated the Azerbaijani Armed Forces's recent attacks to Armenia and clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan for GercekNews. Giving an in-depth summary of the September 12-13 clashes, Dr. Cheterian claims that the scale of the attack now is much larger than anything we saw in the past two years and the Azerbaijani attacks are not only a breach of the November 2020 cease-fire agreement but also a breach of the UN Charter.

Cheterian points out that Azerbaijan, just like the 2020 Karabakh War at the height of the COVID pandemic, chooses high intensity armed conflict when international relations are tense to avoid international pressure. Russian weakness due to the Ukrainian war, the desire of the EU for Baku gas, and the question of what the US will do also gave Aliyev an opportunity. Cheterian lastly points out that Turkey has a historical responsibility for the Karabakh conflict but currently chooses the same with Aliyev; the war, not peace.

Why did the crisis escalate exactly on that date? What was happening in the region before that? Each side blamed the other side for the fighting. Lastly, Armenia reported that 49 Armenian soldiers died and Azerbaijan said that there were losses on their side too. What is the latest situation in the area?

The fighting of September 12-13 is the result of a massive Azerbaijani attack deep inside Armenia. It started with an artillery barrage, and ground attacks in at least six different directions. This development is not new: Azerbaijani military attacks have continued since the end of the Second Karabakh War of 2020.

It restarted in May 2021 when Azeri forces invaded Armenia for the first time, and the last episode was in August this year against Karabakh Armenian positions. But the scale of the attack now is much larger than anything we saw in the past two years.

“Cutting off the Lachin corridor would put the whole Karabakh Armenian population under blockade”

 Is it a major breach of the 2020 agreement? And will you expect major clashes or a new war between the two countries?

The Azerbaijani invasion of Armenia is not only a breach of the November 2020 cease-fire agreement but also a breach of the UN Charter: to start a war without provocation. Just like Azerbaijan started a war at the height of the Covid pandemic two years back, now it again chooses war when international relations are very tense because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Those international events provide a suitable cover for Azerbaijan to start a war and avoid coming under international pressure. 

The clashes seem to be happening for the control of the Lachin corridor. What do you think about this corridor and what is its status and importance?

The attack is taking place inside Armenia proper and not at the Lachin Corridor. The status of the Lachin Corridor is under Russian military control. Cutting that corridor would put the whole Karabakh Armenian population under complete blockade, and put the survival of that population in question. 

 “Russian weakness has given Aliyev the opportunity for military escalation“

Russia and the US made a call to the parties for a ceasefire. How do you see Russian peacekeeping activities in the region? Can they play a major role to stop the hostilities now? And do you believe the latest clashes are related to Russia’s reported setback in the Ukraine war? 

Russian political prestige dropped sharply after it invaded Ukraine, and the Russian military might have suffered much after its defeats in the Kyiv battle, and more recently in its defeat in the Kharkiv region.

At the same time, Russia is the guarantor of the November 2020 cease-fire agreement in Karabakh. Therefore, Russian weakness has given Ilham Aliyev the opportunity for military escalation. 

The US has declared that a political solution is needed in the Karabakh Conflict  through the OSCE Minsk Group format. Yet, the US did not engage enough resources to push for such a resolution. The US political position remains ambivalent.

The question is: will Washington change its Caucasus policy after the latest aggression and decide to punish Azerbaijan?

The other actor is the EU, which lately emerged as a mediator between the Azeri President and the Armenian Prime Minister. Yet, the EU has an interest in Baku's oil and gas and does not seem ready to put any pressure on Azerbaijan in order to choose a peaceful solution, instead of war.

"Turkey is a major player of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict”

And lastly, how do you see Turkey’s position in the Karabakh situation? Because Turkey and Armenia reported that they advanced some improvements in the normalization process. Can Turkey play a different role in the de-escalation of Nagorno-Karabakh? Will you expect a diplomatic solution from the Pashinyan government or the Aliyev government to the problem effectively?

Turkey is a major player not only in the current situation but in the genesis of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. Turkey has been negotiating with Yerevan since last year to normalize its relations and to open the closed border, but did not take any single concrete step toward normalization. Moreover, Turkey is a major source of weapons to Azerbaijan. Just during the last seven days, several Turkish military cargo planes flew to Azeri bases. Without Turkish military support, Azerbaijan would not be able to attack Armenia. 

More broadly, Turkey has historic responsibility at the start of the Karabakh Conflict. I have argued in my books and several of my articles how the Karabakh Conflict is the result and continuation of the 1915 Ittihadist plans to exterminate Ottoman Armenians, a plan which continued in the Caucasus with the Ottoman and Kemalist forces entering Armenia, Baku, and Karabakh in 1917-1920 period. More important, contemporary Azerbaijani nationalist ideology is completely based on Ittihadist views and Kemalist denial not only of the Armenian Genocide but also of the right of Armenians to live on their historic lands. Turkey has a moral responsibility in stopping this conflict, but until today it chose to support war, not peace. 

*Keremcan Karabatak graduated from Istanbul Bilgi University of Film/TV. He started his journalistic career at IMC TV in 2011. After working for media outlets such as Sputnik, The Independent in Turkish and TELE1, he now produces for ArtiGercek.

*Born in 1997, Volkan Isbasaran studied Political Science and International Relations at Yeditepe University and holds an MA in Political Science from Central European University. His research areas include terrorism, conflicts, and ethnic/religious minorities.