Armenia PM asks Putin to start talks on providing security amid Karabakh war

Published October 31, 2020, 5:33 PM

by Agence-France-Presse

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Saturday asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to begin “urgent” consultations on providing security amid a conflict with Azerbaijan after fresh talks failed to agree a ceasefire.

In this file photo taken on November 10, 2018, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan (R) and wife Anna Hakobyan (L) arrive at the official dinner on the eve of the international ceremony for the Centenary of the WWI Armistice of 11 November 1918 at the Orsay Museum, in Paris, France. (Photo by Ian LANGSDON / POOL / AFP)

Pasninyan sent the letter to Putin after Armenia and Azerbaijan failed to agree a fresh ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict during talks in Geneva on Friday and as fighting continued overnight and Saturday morning.

The announcement, released by the Armenian foreign ministry, raised fears of an escalation in fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Some observers are concerned it risks sucking Yerevan’s ally Russia and Turkey, which backs Baku, into the conflict.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been engaged in fierce fighting for more than a month over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan controlled by Armenian separatists in the wake of the break-up of the Soviet Union.

The flare-up of the conflict has left more than a thousand dead, with world powers so far unable to persuade either side to stop fighting. 

Russia has a military base in Armenia and has a defence treaty with Yerevan.

“The prime minister of Armenia has asked the Russian president to begin urgent consultations with the aim of determining the kind and amount of aid which the Russian Federation can provide Armenia to ensure its security,” the foreign ministry in Yerevan said in a statement. 

Russia has previously said that its defence pact with Armenia does not extend to the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

But Pashinyan in his letter to Putin said that hostilities were getting closer to Armenia’s borders and reiterated that Azerbaijan’s ally Turkey was backing Baku, according to the statement.

He requested Moscow’s help, invoking the two countries’ close ties and a 1997 treaty on friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance.

– ‘Closer to wider war?’ –

Armenian officials did not provide further details when reached by AFP.

“One step closer to a wider war?,” tweeted Carey Cavanaugh, a former US ambassador and co-chair of the OSCE Minsk group.

Armenian political analyst Hakob Badalyan told AFP that he did not rule out that Pashinyan’s plea for help was “for now a political step to stress Russia’s role in this region”.

Hikmet Hajiyev, an aide to the Azerbaijani president, told AFP Baku would not comment.

On Friday, mediators from France, Russia and the US said in a statement from Geneva that the warring sides had committed to “not deliberately target civilian populations or non-military objects in accordance with international humanitarian law”.

But the defence ministry of the Karabakh separatist leadership on Saturday accused Azerbaijan of violating the Geneva agreements and targeting the main city Stepanakert and the strategically important town of Shusha.

The ministry said there were “wounded among civilians” in Shusha. Baku denied targeting the Karabakh main city.

Azerbaijan and Armenia have been locked in a bitter conflict over Karabakh since Armenian separatists backed by Yerevan seized control of the mountainous province in a 1990s war that left 30,000 people dead.

The current clashes broke out on September 27 and fighting has persisted despite the repeated international attempts to secure a ceasefire.

The warring sides have three times agreed to ceasefires during recent talks mediated by Russia, France and the United States but the truces have all quickly fallen apart.

More than 1,200 people from both sides have been reported dead since the fighting began, but the actual death toll is believed to be substantially higher.