Who Broke Karabakh Ceasefire and Why?

The uneasy ceasefire on the frontline held by Armenian forces from Nagorny Karabakh and the Azerbaijani military was broken early on March 4, IWPR reports, and notes that some people have been questioning, whether front-line skirmish was connected with political turmoil in Armenia.

Accounts differ as to who fired first. But all agree it was the most serious breach of the ceasefire in a decade, and one that could have alarming consequences if it were repeated.
Azerbaijani defence ministry spokesman Eldar Sabirogli said Armenian units broke the ceasefire by firing on Azerbaijani positions near the villages of Cheliburt, Talish and Gapanli in the Terter district, and the Tapgaragoyunli settlement in neighbouring Geranboy district. Both districts are to the north and east of Nagorny Karabakh.
Armenian sources confirmed that the fighting was in this general area, adjacent to the Mardakert district of Nagorny Karabakh.
Sabirogli said four Azerbaijani soldiers were killed and two civilians injured.
Senor Hasratian, spokesman for the defence ministry of the unrecognised Karabakh government, also cited a figure of four Azerbaijani dead and said two Armenian soldiers were injured, although in neither case were the wounds life-threatening.
He dismissed the accusations coming out of Baku, saying, “They are deliberately distorting things. If we had launched an attack, the bodies of the four Azerbaijani soldiers who died would not be lying on territory held by the army of Nagorny Karabakh.”
The two sides agreed on these casualty figures, although according to Reuters, the Azerbaijanis also claimed that the Armenians lost 12 soldiers, which Hasratian denied.
The defence ministry of Armenia itself, which treats Nagorny Karabakh as a separate and independent entity, came out with a statement blaming the Azerbaijanis for starting the firefight.
Ministry spokesman Colonel Seyran Shahsuvarian said Azerbaijani forces seized an important defensive position held by the other side, which then responded with gunfire, regained the territory, and forced their opponents back to their original lines.
Major Hachik Tavadyan, one of those injured on the Nagorny Karabakh side, confirmed this account of events from his hospital bed, adding, “I was there and I know how it started. I cannot tell a lie – they attacked us first.”
Other commentators in Azerbaijan, Nagorny Karabakh and Armenia tended to identify internal political factors which might have prompted the opposing side to deliberately seek a confrontation.
David Babayan, a political analyst in Nagorny Karabakh, speculated that the Azerbaijani leadership might have been probing their opponents’ defences at a time when Armenia itself is in political turmoil.
A second possibility, he suggested, was that Baku was seriously concerned that Nagorny Karabakh’s aspirations for independence had moved a step forward following the declaration of independence by Kosovo, another former autonomous territory within a Communist state.
“Azerbaijan is seriously worried about the right of nations to self-determination, and it chose to react by using force,” he said.
A common theme among analysts across the region was that the exchange of gunfire was in some way connected with the domestic political strife in Armenia, where opposition protests over the results of the February 19 presidential election ended in bloodshed on March 1. Eight people were reported dead after running battles between police and demonstrators in the capital Yerevan.
Azerbaijani political scientist Rasim Musabekov believes the administration of outgoing president Robert Kocharian and his elected successor Serzh Sarkisian stood to gain from creating a diversion to distract attention from their own problems.
Armed forces chief of staff Lt-Gen Sadigov made a similar point, saying the ceasefire was a direct consequence of Armenia’s internal troubles.
Armenia’s foreign minister Vardan Oskanian, meanwhile, accused Baku of “taking advantage of the exacerbation of the internal political situation in Armenia”.
Despite the exchange of recriminations between Azerbaijan and Armenian politicians, and the flurry of international efforts to smooth over the crisis, not everyone was so exercised about it.

Read the full article here.

Armenian President Elect Accepting Questions on His Blog

Armenian president elect Serzh Sargsyan has started taking questions from internet users on his blog. The questions will be taken all day today and tomorrow. Serzh Sargsyan has promised to answer all questions. This is a unique chance and a welcome attempt, to address some pressing issues under conditions of information blockade and internet censorship, forged by the running president Robert Kocharyan. The post, under which users can put their questions, reads:

Dear Internet users, I’m happy to welcome you in my personal blog. Please note, that questions with insult and rhetoric speech will not be accepted. All questions will get responces within few days. The most interesting questions will be included in the broadcast version of the interview.

Still, one has to wonder, whether internet users will not shy away from asking really tough questions under the current state of emergency situation and the possibility to trace down the IP address and other informtion about the users asking the question, even if the questions are asked anonymously?
At any rate, I would strongly urge and encourage everyone reading and commenting on this blog to go and ask their qeustions. This is a rare opportunity, and one, we cannot afford to miss!

Armenia: Protest Internet Censorship

Given that various media sites as well as YouTube have been blocked in Armenia since the declaration of a state of emergency in the country last weekend, Reporters Sans Frontieres’ first International Online Free Expression Day comes at an appropriate time. On 12 March its second 24-hour online demo against internet censorship will be held. Perhaps Armenia will take its place alongside countries such as China, North Korea and Turkmenistan.

To denounce government censorship of the Internet and to demand more online freedom, Reporters Without Borders is calling on Internet users to come and protest in online versions of the nine countries that are “Internet enemies” during the 24 hours from 11 a.m. on 12 March to 11 a.m. on 13 March (Paris time). Anyone with Internet access will be able to create an avatar, choose a message for their banner and take part in one of the nine cyber-demos (Burma, China, North Korea, Cyba, Egypt, Erithrea, Tunisia, Turkmenistan and Viêt-nam).
Reporters Without Borders will release its latest list of “Internet enemies” together with a new version of its Handbook for Cyber-Dissidents.
When the first “24 hours against Internet censorship” was held last year, some 40,000 Internet users came and clicked on an inter-active map of the world to help make the “Internet black holes” disappear. This time we can do even more to make this new protest a success and to put pressure on the governments that try to muzzle what should be space where people can express their views freely.

Source: Armenia Election Monitor 2008

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