Ankara: Russia-Armenia deal heats up Caucasus
Uğur Ergan – ANKARA
REUTERS photoThe Turkish government has expressed concern an agreement between Russia and Armenia to unify their air defense systems and Armenia’s recent statement that a ceasefire with arch-foe Azerbaijan over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh virtually no longer exists will increase the risk of clashes in the Caucasus.
A Turkish official speaking on condition of anonymity said Russia and Armenia needed to abstain from actions that would jeopardize regional peace in the Caucasus, as they feared Yerevan’s attitude would boost the risk of clashes in the region.
The official also said Ankara was in favor of continuing with the good neighbor relationship in the Caucasus.
Russia and Armenia have decided to unify their defense systems in order to strengthen their air frontiers in the Caucasus.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu and his Armenian counterpart, Seyran Ohanyan, signed an agreement on Dec. 23 to form a Joint Air Defense System in the Caucasus.
Meanwhile, Armenia said on Dec. 22 that the ceasefire with arch-foe Azerbaijan over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh virtually no longer exists, describing frequent skirmishes at the frontline as “war.”
The Armenian defense ministry’s strongly-worded statement came after talks in Switzerland on the weekend between the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia, Ilham Aliyev and Serzh Sargsyan, respectively, over the future of the disputed region appeared to have brought no tangible results.
“What we have today is a war,” Armenian defense ministry spokesperson Artsrun Hovhannisyan told journalists.
“We must use the word ‘war’ as there is no ceasefire anymore,” he added, accusing Azerbaijan of military provocations along the ex-Soviet neighbors’ shared border and across the Karabakh frontline, while Azerbaijan responded to the statement with counter-accusations, blaming Armenia for the recent escalation.
“Ceasefire violations are taking place because of the illegal presence of Armenian forces in the occupied lands of Azerbaijan,” Azerbaijani foreign ministry spokesperson Hikmat Hajiyev had told AFP on Dec. 22.
Commenting on the Armenia-Azerbaijan tension, the Turkish official said that Armenia, which has occupied the Nagorno-Karabakh region for around 20 years, ruled out the international efforts, especially of the United Nations, to find a solution to the conflict.
“The increase in activities and casualties on the line of contact in Nagorno-Karabakh and the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia indicates that as the conflict prolongs the risk of close combat increases,” said the official.
“We keep our position for the peaceful solution of this matter,” he added.