The incursions by Azeri military into Armenian territory and the non-return of 202 killed Armenian servicemen from the border fighting near Goris and Jermuk in Armenia’s Southeast ‘tail’ have combined to put life in Armenia on hold, ironic as wall-to-wall coverage of Queen Elizabeth’s lying in state and funeral had reached every corner of the world. There is no joy when the reptilian Azeri president continues to make hostile, even neo-genocidal remarks about his Zangezur corridor demands and 202 dead Armenian servicemen are not yet returned to their families for the requisite mourning period to commence. The future of Artsakh, its Armenian heritage and remaining populace, remains unclear.
Despite the well-publicised US Secretary of State Nancy Pelosi’s visit, the pledges of support to Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan from numerous leaders beginning with France’s Emmanuel Macron and yet another ceasefire signing, there was gunfire on the border on September 22, initiated by the Azerbaijanis. One Armenian civilian was wounded, but not fatally. I am of the opinion that Aliyev has only tenuous control over what his army does when it comes to Armenians. He signs the paperwork when presented with it, but the gung ho trigger-happy types down on the border appear to act as if none of the diplomatic stuff has anything to do with them. Azerbaijan tests Russia’s so-called peace-keeping resolve, as they know Putin is under the pump in relation to Ukraine.
Australia was very quick in condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and equally obviously staying silent with Azerbaijan’s invasion of Armenia. Australia is choosing what violence it condemns. This is of course directly related to the so-called ‘Special Relationship’ with Turkey. Pelosi was seen to weep inside the circle at Tsitsernakarberd. But the USA has no such emotionally binding agreement with Turkey. Pelosi’s tears may have been tears of actual sorrow and empathy.
There has been substantial condemnation of Azerbaijan from the Western media and leaders, but also a more balanced call for the Zangezur Corridor through the SE Armenian tail, a route that would connect Europe to Asia while by-passing Russia. It brings to a head the question: is Armenia to remain under its Russian umbrella, to be talked up or ignored at Putin’s whim? Or is it to embrace the West formally and get serious about the corridor, which would be Armenian-administered within the Republic? There is a legitimate argument for a legitimate trade route and not just an open thoroughfare for Azerbaijani war weapons. But it involves cutting Russian ties and risking Putin’s petulance. Armenia truly is in between a rock and a hard place.
Aliyev thinks he can bully Armenia into accepting the Zangezur corridor through sovereign Armenian territory with minimal or no checks, when of course the only acceptable condition would be full Armenian control over the section inside its borders. Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan was in New York at the end of September and addressed the United Nations, succinctly summing every Armenian concern, in particular the unprovoked Azeri aggression that has the full backing of Turkey. Sadly, many Armenians are used to the close diplomatic ties with Russia and ironically there remains trust in Putin as a peacekeeper.
On September 23, an Azeri division attempted to attack the rear of an Armenian combat position on the border, but was repulsed without casualties. Anyone with an ounce of perspective can see that Putin is opportunistic and cynical and only prepared to take action that is in his interest first. Hence the Russian so-called ‘peace-keepers’ on the Lachin corridor, who have done nothing to protect Armenian civilians from rogue Azeri attacks. But the average Armenian lacks sufficient global perspective to see through the opposition lies that Pashinyan lacks competence and leadership background.
It is worth noting that the corrupt triumvirate – the immediate three past Armenian Presidents Ter-Petrosyan, Kocharyan and Sarkisian – all met with Arch Bishop Karekin II to discuss ‘internal security’ on September 24-5 in the Holy See of Etchmiadzin, where the cathedral pre-dates Westminster. They are all oligarch club members, primarily interested in returning Armenia to its rortable light-fingered best before the 2018 Velvet Revolution that promised so much but is only very slowly delivering the measures of democracy and equality so ruthlessly suppressed by the above-mentioned unholy triumvirate and his unholy Holiness.
‘Looking forward to the important negotiations with President Emmanuel Macron in Paris today,’ PM Pashinyan tweeted on September 25. This follows his visit to New York and address to the United Nations. He looks to shore up some Western support through the Minsk group of which France is a member. This comes as all remains quiet (for the moment) on the SE front. Cowards and bullies, the Azeris lack the balls to make any real military incursion on Armenia proper. The border is something of a stalemate at the moment. The feeling on the street in Yerevan seems to be cautious with a degree of optimism, but it must be said that many Armenians suffer what I call an ‘extended sorrow fatigue syndrome’. Families are protesting in the street outside the Ministry of Defence, demanding something be done about the non-return of their missing sons in uniform.
The Opposition accuses Pashinyan of abandoning Artsakh altogether, because he referred to keeping 29,800 square kilometres safe (the land area of Armenia without the Artsakh enclave, already lost to the enemy Azeris). The opposition in Armenia is a complicated affair, consisting of about 17 parties, the leading ones of which – until 2018 – squeezed Armenians down in an iron grip thorough their collective total control of industry and economy and bled them dry, while the same small ruling club of oligarchs built gleaming mansions with solid gold toilets and pissed away a year’s salary for normal Armenians on single nights of pleasure. Risibly, the Republican Party of Armenia accuse Pashinyan’s government of totalitarian control, when Pashinyan and his people are explicit in their championship of democracy and it is the oligarchical rule that most closely resembled a Trump-style autocracy.
Pashinyan came to power on a wave of democratic emotion, but the 2020 war and the never-ending obfuscation by the corrupt super-wealthy have undermined him considerably. September 27 was the second anniversary of the 44-day war’s outbreak. In Stepanakert, capital of Artsakh, even traffic stopped for a moment’s silence, with drivers getting out and observing the commemorative moment.
But the oligarchs have no interest in justice for Armenia. It suits them for the general populace to be oppressed underlings. Turkish non-recognition of the Armenian Genocide has their tacit support. It maintains the stranglehold. Or it did, until Pashinyan came to power. But this is a good man who has been white-anted continually. The war came at the worst possible time, as he has had to cop a substantial whack of blame for Armenia’s loss, although the Azeris were backed by Turkish weapons and intelligence and Syrian mercenaries.
In an example of Azeri atrocity, it emerged recently that Azerbaijani servicemen killed an Armenian soldier, took his photo and filmed a video, and sent the photo to his wife via WhatsApp. They went on to publish the video and the photo on WhatsApp’s Story section. In the video they sent, there are other Armenian servicemen who were killed in a group. Other such criminal acts of violence and cruelty have been recorded in recent times. It is evident that atrocities like this are encouraged by the Azerbaijani authorities, and those who commit them remain unpunished. Azerbaijan, as Turkey’s puppet state, persists with neo-genocidal actions. And we in Australia have an Azerbaijani embassy, but no Armenian one.
In two cab rides I heard two further testaments to Azeri excess. The first cab driver lost a nephew, killed just recently in the border shooting. The second was serving on active duty in the war two years ago. In an action on the front, his section lost seven men, close comrades. The general ordered a retreat and ordered them to leave the bodies. Our cabbie’s comrade lost it completely and said he was not leaving the bodies of his friends. The general started pulling rank, and the aggrieved soldier fired several rounds into the ground at the general’s feet.
They found the soldier to be unstable and locked him away. He was too insane to go on more missions: Catch-22. His actions made the authorities lock him up. In Joseph Heller’s novel, Yossarian merely tried to tell them he was insane. He didn’t back it up with unbalanced behaviour. And the general forced the remaining men to leave the bodies, of course.
On September 28, from 18:00 the Azerbaijani Armed Forces started firing mortars and large-calibre small arms at the Armenian positions in the eastern direction of the border. The Armenian side resorted to retaliatory actions. By 10 it was all over, but three Armenians were dead..
Armenian authorities feel that the crisis is anything but over. the military is beginning the process of bringing in young men who have done their compulsory service from 18-20 and preparing them, should greater hostilities break out. Right now the border situation remains relatively stable, but the ‘diplomacy’ behind it reads like a surreal tale from an alternate universe. A gruesome video of the execution of four unarmed Armenian prisoners of war by Azerbaijani soldiers is circulating. Apparently it is not staged; it is the real thing.
And Australia has diplomatic relations with Azerbaijan and not with Armenia.