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Armenia and Azerbaijan’s new-old border war

Since the early summer, the mobile phones of Armenian and Azerbaijani military combatants have provided partial but dramatic accounts of a new and evolving confrontation between the two countries.

Back in May, soldiers filmed themselves overrunning enemy outposts shouting in broken Russian at their opponents to leave, orchestrated with kicks to backsides, punches or volleys from assault rifles fired into the air.

In picturesque alpine meadows, platoons of Armenian and Azeri troops faced off, often just a few metres apart. It was a tinderbox that burst into flames on the afternoon of November 16.

While there is no independently verifiable information, military sources and local media reported a full-scale battle for several hours along a stretch of border between Azerbaijan and Armenia on or near Mount Ishkhanasar.

Both sides have reported casualties; Armenia said at least six soldiers were killed, while Azerbaijan announced the deaths of at least seven troops.


Mobile footage shows an Azerbaijani artillery unit bombarding Armenian positions. Armenia’s Ministry of Defence released a video of Azerbaijani armoured vehicles being struck by guided weapons.

Harrowing video shot at night in a blizzard appears to show Azerbaijani soldiers beating uniformed Armenian regulars on the ground.

This is Armenia and Azerbaijan’s new conflict: for control of disputed borders defined by Soviet cartographers.

Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Until the last year’s war over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, those borders were buffered by territories inside Azerbaijan under de facto Armenian control since the 1990s.

But with Azerbaijan’s military victory and the recapturing of almost all of its lost territories, the border areas between Armenia’s Syunik and Gegharkunik provinces, and Azerbaijan’s newly established East Zangezur region have become militarised front lines.

Olesya Vartanyan, a senior analyst with the Brussels-headquartered International Crisis Group, said that in the mountainous terrain, both armies are keen to establish positions on the best available ground.

“The current daily problem is that troops of opposite sides do not have communication with each other. The same is between Azerbaijani and Armenian Joint Staffs. When one side observes several big trucks with soldiers, he right away suspects possible preparations for an assault. There is no way to check before starting an attack.”

Syunik Province separates Azerbaijan from its exclave, the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, in some places by less than 40km (25 miles).

Crucially, roads that connect Armenian towns and villages in Syunik run through Azerbaijani territory, and here Azerbaijani forces have established checkpoints.

Armenia’s Human Rights Defender Arman Tatoyan has accused Azerbaijan of a deliberate policy of isolation, describing the nearly impassible alternative routes villagers have been forced to take. School children and teachers have been unable to get to school.


Source: Aljazeera

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