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Azerbaijan calls on reservists and confiscates cars after ‘provocation’

22 September 2020
Impounded pickup trucks. Photo via Habib Muntazir

Azerbaijan has called army reservists for inspection and training as well as confiscated private vehicles for military use. This comes several days after Nagorno-Karabakh announced they would move their parliament to the city of Shusha (Shushi).

On Monday morning, the Azerbaijani State service for Mobilisation and Conscription announced that soldiers and officers in the reserves had been called for military training and inspection, and unspecified ‘special gatherings’. 

Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defence said there had been a ‘serious deterioration of the situation on the front line’ and reported the death of an Azerbaijani service member in an Armenian ‘provocation’ in the day’s early hours.  

Meydan TV reported that regular army units around the country were also suddenly ordered to undertake military exercises. 

‘High-ranking officers arrived at our military unit late last week. We were told that training would be held this week’, an anonymous service member told the outlet. ‘In fact, our training had just ended and they say they will start it again’. 

There have also been numerous reports that drivers of pickup trucks had been stopped by police on Monday and ordered to go to a nearby state-run impound lot.  

Upon arrival at the impound lot, the drivers were met by government officials who informed them that their cars may be needed by the military. The cars were reportedly inspected and then added to an official list, some were not returned to their owners

On Tuesday, Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs told Report.az that according to a 2006 law, the State Traffic Police could confiscate and inspect the technical condition of private vehicles that may be of use to the armed forces.

Nagorno-Karabakh parliament to move

The move came several days after the authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh announced their intention to move parliament from Stepanakert to Shusha (Shushi), a city which Azerbaijanis consider the historical centre of the region. 

Arayik Harutyutyan, the president of Nagorno-Karabakh, said on 19 September that the move would be complete by 2022.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev called the step ‘a provocation’ and an ‘open insult’. He said that Armenia was ‘preparing for another large-scale war’ and claimed that Armenian forces were ‘concentrating’ near the line of contact. 

‘Of course, we will defend ourselves. Just as we protected ourselves in Tovuz, we will defend ourselves in all other directions’, he said. ‘The events in Tovuz were yet another lesson for them. If they want to learn a new lesson, bring it on.’ 

In a statement on Monday morning, Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Aliyev’s statements were ‘deeply disappointing’ and called his allegations ‘groundless’ and ‘false’. 

‘Armenia is confident in its capacities to protect the right of the people of Artsakh [Nagorno-Karabakh] to self-determination and the right to live in their historical homeland, and we once again underline with full confidence that there is no alternative to the peaceful resolution of the conflict’, the statement reads.

Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, Armenian Minister of Internal Affairs, told journalists on Monday that Armenia was determined to continue its dialogue with Azerbaijan, calling Aliyev’s words an ‘emotional statement’. 

Relations between the two countries have been particularly tense since July, when clashes broke out on the border between the Tavush Province of Armenia and Azerbaijan’s Tovuz District. Both sides blamed each other for starting the hostilities and accused the other of shelling civilian areas.

At least 18 people were killed during the fighting, including one civilian. 

[Read on OC Media: Fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan continues for third day]

No international mediation 

Olesya Vartanyan, an analyst for the International Crisis Group, told OC Media that compared to the diplomatic process that followed the clashes in April 2016, which left over 200 dead, was much more intense than in the aftermath of the July escalation. 

‘We saw so much engagement, we saw the Russian leadership travelling and doing shuttle diplomacy between Baku and Yerevan, we saw a lot of people making calls trying to pacify and mediate between Baku and Yerevan’, she said. ‘Now what we see is the absence of any kind of international mediation.’ 

She said that the decision of Arayik Harutyutyan to move the Nagorno-Karabakh parliament to Shusha (Shushi) may seem to be a ‘provocation’ or major development, though, she said, for people living in Nagorno Karabakh it is quite ‘an ordinary thing’. 

‘Shushi has become a kind of an alternative capital of Nagorno Karabakh for a number of years already. Some ministries of the local government are already located there. There are also universities [...] and the settlement of people in Shushi started many years ago’, she said. 

 For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.

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