Predictable Pattern: Tensions around Karabakh escalate ahead possible Sargsyan-Aliyev meeting

Predictable Pattern: Tensions around Karabakh escalate ahead possible Sargsyan-Aliyev meeting


Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan has left for the United States on a working visit, and although the official agenda of the visit does not mention the possibility of his meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev as part of an upcoming international event in Washington, the situation in the Karabakh conflict zone has intensified again.

Artsrun Hovhannisyan, a spokesman for the Armenian Defense Ministry, says that the situation is tense both at the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and at the line of contact in Nagorno-Karabakh. A resident of the village of Berkavan of Armenia’s Tavush region was wounded by a shot from the Azerbaijani side. And one civilian, resident of the village of Taghavard of Karabakh’s Martuni district, was wounded after an Azerbaijani artillery shelling five kilometers away from the line of contact.

During recent days the Azerbaijani side reported about three servicemen killed in action. The Armenian Defense Ministry press secretary does not hide that the Armenian Armed Forces respond to targeted fire and take punitive measures.

Earlier, spokesmen for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia Eduard Sharmazanov told media that no possibility of a Sargsyan-Aliyev meeting in Washington was even discussed. In Azerbaijan they do not talk about the possibility of such a meeting either, although both South Caucasus leaders have accepted the invitation of U.S. President Barack Obama to attend the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington DC on March 31-April 1.

Some experts, however, believe that the meeting will take place, and the United States will make a formal proposal on the Karabakh settlement, which will consist of putting in place truce monitoring mechanisms in the conflict zone and increasing the number of OSCE observers.

These mechanisms will make it technically possible to register violations and see which of the parties was responsible for them. Ultimately, it will also pave the way for applying sanctions against the culprit.

At present, the sides accuse each other of violating the truce, but the mediators and the international community mostly take a neutral stance on the issue. The personal representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk recently suggested reinforcing the ceasefire regime during the period of religious festivals in Moslem Azerbaijan and Christian Armenia Easter – Nowruz and Easter. The parties appeared to have tacitly embraced the call at first, but they did not articulate any pledges.

Analysts do not rule out that the OSCE appeal had been made primarily to preclude escalating tensions in the conflict zone ahead of the Washington meeting of the Azeri and Armenian leaders, as increasing tensions around Nagorno-Karabakh has perhaps been Baku’s only argument at talks with Armenia in recent years.