Tension continues at the Armenia-Azerbaijan border after two weeks of skirmishes and increasing threats to civilians and crucial infrastructure.
Armenia has claimed that things are “relatively calm” and that its forces were in control of the situation along the entire border. Azerbaijan claims that tensions boiled over after Armenia attempted an artillery attack on July 12. Both sides are reported to have incurred some military personnel losses.
Despite a respite in fighting, Baku issued a statement on July 16 that indicated hostilities could escalate. Specifically, there has been sabre-rattling about a possible strike on Armenia’s Metsamor nuclear power station if Armenia attacked the strategic Mingachevir water reservoir in Azerbaijan which is critical for the country’s power generation sector and agriculture.
“The Armenian side must not forget that the state-of-the-art missile systems our army has are capable of launching a precision strike on the Metsamor nuclear power plant, and that would be a huge tragedy for Armenia,” Azerbaijani Defense Ministry spokesman Vagif Dargyakhly said in a statement reported by Radio Free Europe.
Armenian military spokesman has requested assistance from its allies and has made the point that Armenian officials have never made threats to strike civilian facilities in Azerbaijan.
The current dispute is a continuation of the war fought from 1988-1994 over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. Armenian-backed separatists declared independence, displaced hundreds of thousands and killed an estimated 30,000 people. The Russian-brokered truce in 1994 led to the region being under the control of ethnic Armenian forces. The independence of the region has not been recognised by any country and periodic skirmishes continue.
Russia, the United States, and France are the co-chairs of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which acts as a mediator in resolving the crisis. On 15 July, the Minsk Group urged the parties to “make every effort to continue de-escalation".