Karabakh Conflict: Armenia wary of Turkish role after Nakhijevan border incident

Karabakh Conflict: Armenia wary of Turkish role after Nakhijevan border incident

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Some new elements have appeared in the Karabakh settlement and officials in Yerevan have acknowledged them. In particular, they stated about attempts of Turkey’s direct involvement in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict and the possibility of recognizing the independence of Karabakh in the event of an escalation of conflict. Apparently, these two trends are interrelated.

On June 5, an incident was reported at the border between Armenia and Nakhijevan, which is an Azerbaijani exclave that borders on Armenia in the southwest and, unlike “mainland” Azerbaijan has a short border with Turkey as well. Two Armenian servicemen were killed in the incident in question. In this connection Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan made two remarkable statements. He said that the continued escalation is fraught with grave consequences for Azerbaijan and with plain text made it clear that there are Turkish units in the separate army formed in Nakhijevan. In response, information was circulated about the latest joint Turkish-Azerbaijani military exercises.

The same day, commenting on the incident, Armenia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharyan said that unless the escalation stops, there will be only one way – the recognition of Karabakh’s independence. “In my judgment, the continuation of such a policy, an openly racist, militaristic, I would say, medieval policy will still lead to the recognition of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic by the international community. Because there is no other way in this situation,” he said.

In an interview with RFE/RL, head of the Regional Studies Center Richard Giragosian said that French President Francois Hollande and OSCE Chairman-in-Office Didier Burkhalter had introduced some new proposals in connection with the Karabakh talks. In particular, according to Giragosian, the matter concerns the creation of mechanisms for investigating incidents and on the return of Nagorno-Karabakh to the negotiation process. Shavarsh Kocharyan said that the provocations on the border were Azerbaijan’s response to these proposals.

Turkey has never hidden its interest in the victory of Azerbaijan in the Karabakh conflict, moreover, since 1993 Turkey has kept the border with Armenia closed, cutting Yerevan off the major regional projects. Nor has Turkey made any secret of the fact that it supports the modernization of the Azerbaijani army. However, Turkey’s direct involvement in the conflict, and not in the territory of Karabakh, but rather in Armenia proper, may become an occasion for Armenia to seek help from international blocs. Armenia may either turn to the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Russia-led defense pact of which it is a member, or appeal to NATO, of which Turkey is a member.

It is noteworthy that a group of British and American military experts advising Armenia on the second strategic defense review has been in Yerevan these days.