Geopolitics Human rights/war crimes

Armenian forces morale weakened, EU official calls Ganja attacks “inadmissible”

By | Rachel Brooks

October 18, 2020

The Ministry of Defense in Baku stated that the Armenian 527th Motorized Rifle Regiment has refused to participate in the battle in the Karabakh region. The report is that the 527th was severely damaged when it came to assist the Armenian 1st battalion earlier in the conflict outbreak. For this reason, the battalion is virtually paralyzed. The battalion has experienced ammunition shortages and cannot fully cover their defense line. This was the reason for their refusal to engage. This was reported by RIA News Russia as of October 18. 

The weakening of Armenian morale follows on the heels of a second ceasefire break in several days. On October 18, the facts of the ceasefire violation were discussed via telephone between the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan Jeyhun Bayramov and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Joseph Borrell. This was stated by the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense. 

During the call, the two officials discussed their views regarding the regional conflict. The Azerbaijani official brought to the EU official’s attention the facts of the most recent Armenian offensive against Jabrayil. Also, Gadabay and Tovuz were shelled despite the truce that was mitigated on Saturday. Adding to Bayramov’s comments, Borrell noted that the targeting of civilian settlements in Ganja was “inadmissible.”Borrell emphasized that a truce between both sides is imperative. He stressed the urgent need for substantial negotiations that would settle the conflict. In answer to Borrell’s points, Bayramov thanked the official and reiterated the facts of the Ganja attack, which pints to Armenia’s leadership as the responsible party for the war crimes against civilian Azerbaijan. 

On October 17, RIA also reported that Azerbaijan was prepared to begin the release of dead service members from the Armenian side. Azerbaijan was preparing to release those who died in the Karabakh region. The bodies had been left behind in the chaos of the battle within Azerbaijani territory. The release of dead service members was announced by the State Commission on Captives, Missing Persons, and Hostages. The decision was reached following a meeting with representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The transfer of corpses was mitigated to happen in the Tovuz region. 

Daily Sabah also reported that the transfer of the deceased was intended to also include the transfer of detainees of the conflict. ICRC of Eurasia’s regional director Martin Schuepp spoke at a news briefing in Geneva and stated that the precise terms of the exchange must be agreed upon between Armenia and Azerbaijan. 

The meeting of the ICRC was held in Russia, at the invitation of the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on October 9-10. The pause in conflict at this point led to the mitigation of one of the failed ceasefires of the last two weeks. 

The brutality of civilian targeting continues as Azerbaijan boasts greater successes on the conflict’s true front in the occupied Karabakh. Hurriyet Daily News op-ed analyzed that civilians continue to be targets of the conflict, even outside its immediate parameters, in a strategy to weaken Azerbaijani morale. The goal of the Armenian forces in doing this is to create fear and panic among the civilians. Armenia has mastered the art of psychological warfare and propaganda in the conflict, requiring the psychiatric warfare skills to accommodate the smaller armed force.  

The objective, Hurriyet analyzed, is to create a hysteria that would weaken the public support of the republic’s government. Yet, the public has been in strong support of its defense forces and government to this point with pronounced confidence that the greater Azerbaijani force will eventually turn back the onslaught of the Armenian nationalist movement. This is the primary reason that the analyst saw the Azerbaijani have, as one people, heavily backed the countermeasure movement.

Likewise, the analyst at Hurriyet believed that Azerbaijan would be prevented by both Russia and the CSTO organization from engaging Armenia in the right to self-defense. The analyst noted, however, that the CSTO arrangements and the U.N. treaties prevent Armenia from having the legal right to attack fellow member states, which is the reason why Azerbaijan is permitted to its self-defense. 

As the fighting continues, the U.N. Chief Antonio Guterres has urged those engaged in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict must honor the truce. Guterres condemned the assault on Ganja which was the largest assault on civilians in the current conflict thus far. This was reported by Al Jazeera on October 18. 

On the same day as Guterres demanded the ceasefire terms of the most recent agreement hold, Turkey’s Erdogan condemned the arming of Armenian forces. Erdogan accused western nations of arming Armenia in the conflict. Geopolitical rhetoric surrounding the conflict intensifies in the wake of the conflict, as states accuse other states of supporting either side with biases. The international community urges a neutral approach to the mitigation of lasting peace.