Recap: The Syunik Border Violation


Recap: The Syunik Border Violation

On May 12th hundreds of Azerbaijani troops entrenched in the sovereign territory of Armenia amid ongoing negotiations between the two countries and international demands for their immediate withdrawal. This is what happened since and what's going on at this moment.

Text: Zareh-Sevag Sarkissian


Eight days have passed since the Azerbaijani Armed Forces invaded the Republic of Armenia on May 12th with hundreds of Azerbaijani troops entrenching themselves in the sovereign territory of Armenia amid ongoing negotiations between the two countries and international demands for their immediate withdrawal. Though it was first mentioned by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and the Armenian Ministry of Defence (MoD) that the invading force was around 250 soldiers, their number has now gone up to 500, according to the PM’s most recent statement.

In the aftermath of the failed negotiations in Syunik between Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Russian officials last week and over the weekend, Armenian and Azerbaijani officials were expected to meet once again on May 19. However, on that rendezvous, the Azerbaijani delegation failed to show up. The MoD soon after, reiterated that in case negotiations fail to bring about a peaceful settlement within a reasonable time frame, the Armenian Armed Forces reserve the right to resolve the problem utilising military force. 

An informal Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) between foreign ministers convened on Tuesday, following a request from acting PM Nikol Pashinyan. The PM had appealed to the CSTO a week prior, to invoke Article 2 of the Collective Security Treaty, which binds participating states to coordinate a collective response to threats to stability, territorial integrity, and sovereignty of one of its active members. 

During the Tuesday meeting, Russia offered to create a joint Armenian-Azerbaijani commission to delimit and demarcate the international boundary, in which Russia would participate as a mediator. Armenian Secretary of the Security Council Armen Grigoryan had confirmed the Russian proposal during an interview with ARMENPRESS. He stressed that delimitation and demarcation cannot occur without the withdrawal of Azeri troops from sovereign Armenian territory. Pashinyan had also formally requested military support from Russia last week in line with Armenia and Russia’s mutual defence treaties, however, Moscow has yet to comment publicly on the request. 

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin held talks with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, on Wednesday regarding Russian mediation of the demarcation of the internationally recognised border. Both leaders “support settling the issue through political and diplomatic means alone,” according to the Kremlin. Putin also spoke with Pashinyan, and his office reported that they “agreed on the ways and methodology to resolve the situation,” without further specifying what that entails.

Many countries around the world have demanded the retreat of Azerbaijani troops from the sovereign territory of Armenia, including France, the United States, Iran, and Greece. On May 13, Pashinyan had a telephone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron at the latter’s initiative. Macron shared that he is examining in taking the issue to the United Nations Security Council and that with a UN mandate France is also prepared to provide military support to international efforts to resolve the issue if necessary. Following the conversation, Macron posted on Facebook in the Armenian language, “Azerbaijan’s armed forces have invaded Armenian territory. They must be immediately withdrawn. To the Armenian people, I once again say: France stands in solidarity and will remain so.” 

On May 14, the US Department of State (DoS) spokesperson Jalina Porter, called the movement of Azerbaijani troops “irresponsible” and “unnecessarily provocative,” asserting that the US expects their immediate withdrawal. On Monday, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan held separate phone calls with Pashinyan and Aliyev. Sullivan told Pashinyan that he would present Aliyev with the demand to withdraw troops from Armenian territory. After their conversations, Sullivan wrote that both leaders are committed to the “peaceful resolution of border tensions through dialogue.” 

On Monday, Iranian senior lawmaker and head of the Commission of National-Security and Foreign-Policy in the Iranian Parliament Mojtaba Zonnour, also asserted that Iran is unequivocal and resolute in its support for the territorial integrity of Armenia. “It would be unacceptable for us if they took away a part of Armenian territory and changed our borders. That is if we had a new neighbour.” He continued, “The existing borders must be fully protected and Iran’s border with Armenia must be preserved.” 

Whereas, on May 19, the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) stated that the tensions along Armenia’s border are of particular concern. “Armenia’s territorial integrity has to be respected. It is essential to avoid any unilateral actions that could undermine regional peace and stability,” the Greek MoFA statement concluded. 

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