EU to deploy first mission along Armenian-Azerbaijani border
The EU is about to send a monitoring mission to the Armenian side of the border with Azerbaijan, the first international presence initiated by Paris and Brussels since the start of the conflict in 1988.
Although the EU mission only lasts two months, Armenia hopes it will help stabilize the situation. In Moscow, however, EU peacekeeping efforts are seen as an attempt to oust Russia from its previous role as sole moderator in the Armenian-Azerbaijani process.
On October 17, the EU Council decided to deploy up to 40 experts along the Armenian side of the international border with Azerbaijan “for the purpose of monitoring, analyzing and reporting on the situation in the region “. The decision was announced following the quadrilateral meeting of the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan, France and the head of the European Council on October 6 in Prague.
The mission, as the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell said, “will aim to build confidence in the volatile situation that puts lives at risk and jeopardizes the resolution process conflicts “. European observers should help in the border demarcation process between countries that are not only in conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, but also need to clarify their post-Soviet administrative borders.
According to Yerevan, the risk of further escalation along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border remains high after violent clashes last month – the largest since the 2020 war. Dissatisfied with the Security Treaty Organization’s passive response Russian-led Collective (CSTO), which Yerevan appealed to while hostilities were still ongoing, the Armenian authorities turned to the EU.
The EU, which since September 2021 has positioned itself as the main moderator of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, responded with surprising speed to this request, despite its complex multi-level bureaucracy. It deployed a technical mission to clarify the potential functions and powers of European observers, hold meetings with foreign and defense ministries and visit border settlements.
Due to the rapid organization of the mission, it was decided to temporarily deploy EU observers from Georgia. The exact rollout date is unknown, but should be soon.
Borrell said that “40 monitors will be deployed very quickly to the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, in the coming weeks” during the October 17 press conference.
Armenia hopes the deployment of EU observers will have a deterrent effect on Azerbaijan, which is pressuring Yerevan to sign a peace treaty.
Analyst Boris Navasardyan, chairman of the Yerevan Press Club, described the EU initiative as “very positive”.
“Firstly, the presence of around 40 EU monitors will ensure that there will be no more incidents at the border or they will not be of this magnitude like in September,” he told the newspaper. ‘IWPR. “Secondly, given that we expect the intensification of the negotiation process in different directions [peace treaty, communications and border delimitation] peace on the border will contribute to a more constructive negotiation process than it is now, when Armenia is constantly under pressure.
Gayane Abrahamyan, a former lawmaker who now chairs the NGO For Equality, recently visited Brussels for official meetings and called the EU initiative a “serious contribution to the peace process”.
“What we heard in Brussels during meetings with EU officials is encouraging. I think the goal of sending monitors is much more serious than just being there at the border,” she told IWPR. “I cannot reveal many details, the meetings were held behind closed doors, but it was clear that the EU takes this mission very seriously.”
According to her, the EU considers Baku’s demand for an extraterritorial corridor through Armenia with its enclave of Nakhchivan to be unacceptable, and also rejects attempts to demarcate the border by the threat of force.
Although Russia is focused on the war in Ukraine, Moscow still sees its role as exclusive mediator in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict and sees EU peacekeeping efforts as an attempt to seize the initiative.
“The idea of sending an EU civilian mission to the Armenian-Azerbaijani border is seen in Russia as another attempt by the EU to intervene by all means in the process of normalization and to crowd out efforts Moscow mediation,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. October 11 briefing.
During a diplomatic summit in Astana on October 12, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov offered Yerevan to convene the CSTO Security Council to send its own observers to Armenia.
In response, his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan explained that Armenia was waiting for monitors, “so far, however, such a meeting has not been agreed.”
Yerevan would like to see a political assessment from its CSTO allies regarding the situation on the border with Azerbaijan, but no statement has yet been made.
“First of all, we need to understand to what extent the organization recognizes the existing situation, that is, the aggression against the Republic of Armenia and the invasion of its sovereign territory,” Mirzoyan said during of a joint press conference with his Norwegian counterpart Anniken Huitfeldt on 18 October. in Yerevan.
According to political analyst Tigran Grigoryan, it is in Armenia’s interest to have international monitors along its border with Azerbaijan, as security guarantees associated with Russia have proven unsuccessful.
“Russian border guards, to put it mildly, acted very passively during the aggression against Azerbaijan in September,” he said. “And in that regard, it’s unclear how CSTO monitors will be different.”
This publication has been prepared under the “Amplify, Verify, Engage (AVE) Project” implemented with the financial support of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.