‘Stop the hostilities’ The Kremlin’s stance on renewed fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan
The military conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh dates back to the late 1980s. As the Soviet Union collapsed, the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region (an area home predominantly to ethnic Armenians) seceded from the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1994, Azerbaijan signed an armistice and ceasefire agreement with Armenia and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. That said, years of diplomatic efforts have failed to bring a lasting resolution to the conflict.
Fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh reignited on the morning of September 27. Both sides accuse the other of staging provocations and launching offensives along the so-called “line of contact.” Both nations have declared martial law in regions affected by the fighting.
According to the Armenian military’s press secretary, the fighting continued sporadically throughout the night between September 27 and 28. On Monday morning, the Azerbaijani reportedly resumed offensive operations using artillery and armored vehicles. Hundreds of soldiers have reportedly died.
Kommersant FM: The fighting in Karabakh continued throughout the night and is continuing now, despite world leaders’ calls for a ceasefire. And the parties [to the conflict] continue to accuse each other of escalation, and express different views on who started it and who is interested in the conflict. Does the Kremlin really have an understanding of who was the initiator of the confrontation and who might be interested in it?
Dmitry Peskov: You know that Russia is a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group and is, of course, acting as such, a ready mediator in the settlement process — and such readiness was emphasized and accented at all different levels — now it’s very important to stop the hostilities, first of all, [rather than] sort out who’s right and who’s wrong. And Russia has always taken an equally balanced position, and it’s precisely this position that gives Russia the opportunity to use its influence or use its traditionally good relations with both countries — with both Azerbaijan and with Armenia — to resolve this conflict.
Govorit Moskva: Does the Kremlin see the escalation of the conflict in the region as deliberately provoked in order to somehow influence Russia, in addition to the situation in Belarus and the alleged poisoning of Alexey Navalny? Do they see such a connection in the Kremlin?
Dmitry Peskov: No, they don’t.
RIA Novosti: Over the weekend [Putin] had a phone conversation with the Armenian prime minister. Are the same contacts being planned with the Azerbaijani side?
Dmitry Peskov: If necessary, they will take place, of course.But I want to repeat once again that since the very first hours following the resumption of hostilities[Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey] Lavrov has, in fact, been in constant contact with his counterparts.
RIA Novosti: [Armenian Prime Minister Nikol] Pashinyan said that they’re entertaining the possibility of Yerevan recognizing Karabakh’s independence. How does Moscow feel about this option?
Dmitry Peskov: At the present moment we’re calling on all parties — and above all, the parties to the conflict — to maximize restraint, abandon military methods, and abandon any steps that could provoke any further undesirable escalation of the situation, which has already reached the stage of what is essentially a military clash.
RIA Novosti: The Armenian side is voicing big complaints against Turkey. Yerevan is accusing Ankara of spurring this conflict. Is a phone conversation with [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan being planned regarding this?
Dmitry Peskov: Yesterday there were contacts with Ankara through the Foreign Affairs Ministry. Therefore, the Russian side is in full contact here, as well.
Ekho Moskvy: Does the Kremlin think that the Russian Federation needs to somehow strengthen its military preparedness in the region, given how the situation has escalated? Are any steps being taken here?
Dmitry Peskov: In what context, why do you think this needs to be done?
Ekho Moskvy: I don’t think that this needs to be done, I’m asking, does the Kremlin consider this necessary?
Dmitry Peskov: I see. We aren’t talking about military options now. Right now we’re talking about the fact that all countries must make efforts to stop the military clashes immediately.
Ekho Moskvy: So there’s no talk of bringing Russian troops to combat readiness?
Dmitry Peskov: I’m not a military specialist here, so I’ll refrain from commenting.