Armenian MoD replaced following skirmishes on Armenian-Azerbaijani border
On November 15, President Armen Sarkissian has signed a decree relieving Arshak Karapetyan of the duties of Armenia’s Defense Minister. According to two other presidential decrees, Suren Papikyan was dismissed from the post of Deputy Prime Minister and appointed Defense Minister.
The changes come after two days of reported skirmishes between Armenian and Azerbaijani armed forces along the border between the two countries as well as tensions within Nagorno-Karabakh where one ethnic Armenian civilian was killed and three others wounded, and three Azerbaijani soldiers were wounded in separate reported incidents during last week.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian convened a Security Council meeting on November 15, during which he discussed “an Azeri incursion into Armenia’s territory at one of the sections of the eastern border.” He also announced the replacement of the defence minister, stressing that the decision was made “as a result of the analysis of the events unfolding since yesterday”.
Azerbaijan set up additional border checkpoints on the road connecting the southern Armenian cities of Goris and Kapan, Armenia’s human rights ombudsman announced on November 12. Then on November 15, Azerbaijanis set up another checkpoint on the road leading southeast from Goris, local officials reported.
Azerbaijani checkpoints, targeting primarily Iranian trucks which had been supplying Karabakh, had already been operating on that road since August. Several segments of the road pass through Azerbaijani territory, over which Baku gained control as part of the ceasefire agreement ending last year’s war. It wasn’t immediately clear how the new checkpoints were operating, but this is the first time that the movement of Armenians along the road appears to have been significantly restricted.
Traffic along the second section of the road, from Kapan leading to Chakaten and onward to the southernmost section of the Armenia-Azerbaijani border, had previously been unhindered. But in the middle of the night on November 15, Azerbaijani troops set up a new checkpoint in another segment that passes through a slice of Azerbaijani territory at the village Gazanchi. Locals who live further along the road have not been told what the Azerbaijanis’ intentions there are, local officials said.
Meanwhile, on November 14, Azerbaijani media released a video that appeared to show a group of Azerbaijani soldiers surrounding and capturing an Armenian military post, though it was not clear on what part of the border, or on which side, the episode took place.
On the same day, Armenia’s National Security Council reported that Azerbaijani soldiers advanced into an unspecified part of Armenian territory and surrounded four Armenian military posts but eventually retreated.
The escalation of tensions coincided with a two-day visit of Karapetian to Nagorno-Karabakh reported by Armenia’s Defense Ministry early last week. Azerbaijan strongly condemned that visit by a senior Armenian official made around the first anniversary of a Russian-brokered ceasefire that stopped last year’s Armenian-Azerbaijani war. Authorities in Baku claimed that the trip was a violation of the terms of the ceasefire “aimed at destabilising the situation in the region.”