The imperative of the liberation of territories surrounding Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Oblast during the Karabakh war.
General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of reconstruction “raises many socio-economic and national problems in USSR, which deepens the current crisis, leading to the collapse of the Soviet Union. As a result, in different regions of the Soviet republics a struggle begins for national independence which USSR leaders can not give a correct and effective assessment, trying to eliminate the effects, and not the causes of the conflict. A similar process begins also in territories surrounding Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Oblast. Initially the demand of Armenians in Artsakh was to leave the Azerbaijan SSR and to be included in the Armenian SSR, but the provocations of Azerbaijan since 1988, Sumgait pogroms, the operation”Ring” caused a strain in Armenia-Artsakh- Azerbaijan relations, and after the collapse of the USSR and the declaration of independence of the countries, Azerbaijan launched a large-scale military operations involving Nagorno-Karabakh in war.Let us present the military actions aimed at approval of control towards Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Region lands during the war by Armenian forces and the necessity of their undertaking.
The opening of a humanitarian corridor of Berdzor was the most important victories of the war because it led to the possibility of providing Goris-Lachin- Stepanakert traffic, breaking the blockade of Artsakh and finally linking it with the country by an overland route. Before implementation of the action, NKR was in an economic blockade, gas and electricity supply was stopped, food, medicine and ammunition was only possible to deliver by air, but in the message of RA Foreign Ministry sent on May 18, it is noted that in the last days Armenians in Artsakh were also deprived of air communication, therefore the opening of the corridor had a vital importance. Military actions have taken place in May 17-18, 1992 when after the liberation of Shushi, NKR self-defense forces and volunteer squads have undertaken the liberation of road to Shushi-Lachin- Zabukh which had a vital importance. In the afternoon of May 18, the first motorcade has already been reached (chi hascVum, ayl hasnum a – aysinqn aranc BEEN-i, ev erkrord, es present indefinite-ov kgrei – reaches Stepanakert) Stepanakert from Goris through Berdzor, which delivers food, medicine and other necessary items for Artsakh-Armenians, who have been in blockade for 4 years. In the statement published on the behalf of Foreign Minister of NKR Supreme Council LevonMelik-Shahnazaryan, it is noted: “ We had to break the chains constraining us, four-year merciless blockade, unpunished and constantly bothersome crimes of Azerbaijan, and especially the indifference of world great people prompted us, that no means of survival were left rather than the tension of our own power and the delivering of decisive blowes ”. After the opening of the corridor, a number of settlements of Artsakh tried to restore their normal life to the extent that it was possible under those circumstances.
From March 27 up to April 2 of 1993 the military action of Karvachar was being held, which was aimed at the destruction of Azerbaijani bases located in Karvachar district, the liberation of the occupied settlements and the route of Azerbaijani army Berdzor-Karvachar gang. The operation of Karvachar was a response to Azerbaijani provocations undertaken towards the humanitarian corridor of Berdzor. On March 27, the chairman of the State Defense Committee, Robert Kocharian, issued a statement, which said that on March 27 the SDC ordered the Armed Forces of the Republic to take all necessary measures to provide protection for the people of Nagorno Karabakh and the borders, from the resumed attacks of the Azerbaijani army, since starting from March 20, Azerbaijan had intensified the war against NKR, initiated military actions in district of Martakert and on both sides of Berdzor’s humanitarian corridor. The Committee of NKR Self-Defense also mentioned about the Azerbaijani military maps found in Karvachar district, according to which, two major blowes were being planned towards Berdzor and Martakert in order to separate Artsakh from Armenia and not to allow people to return to the liberated areas, so the occupation of these areas was a solution to a number of strategic issues. The establishment of control over Karvachar was important not not only because of its strategic ruling position, but also because of the fact, that the region could become the next important link connecting RA to NKR.
Azerbaijani President Elchibei regularly turned to the UN Security Council to condemn the aggression of Armenia. Finally on April 30, the UN Security Council accepts its first Resolution 822 (1993) concerning to Nagorno-Karabakh, in which expresses its anxiety over the invasion of Karvachar district by local Armenian forces, demands the immediate cessation of hostilities and troops withdrawal, from the recent occupied territories of Kelbaijar and Azerbaijan. In respect of this resolution, both the authorities of RA and NKR State Defense Committee have expressed their preoccupation. NKR Supreme Council Acting President Georgy Petrosyan has noted that “Any movement of the NKR self-defense forces is intended to prevent or neutralize the attack of the Azerbaijani armed forces on the territory of the NKR”.
The military operations of neutralization of the military base of Akna have taken place on July 4-24 in 1993. During the war, Akna, which is located about 30 km East from Stepanakert, had become one of the strategic bases of the enemy, during the hostilities the opponent was shelling the settlements of Askeran, Martakert and Stepanakert andadjacent regions from Akna.Therefore establishing control over Akna SDF, military units would get a productive chance to confront the enemy. The hostilities began on July 4 and proceeded with variable success. On July 4, Azerbaijani newly oppointed Prime Minister Surat Huseynov televised a speech on that occasion, and Heydar Aliev, during the phone call with Levon Ter-Petrosyan asked him to handle the situation, in response the RA President refused him on the pretext that he did not control the forces of NKR. During the operation Armenian fighters succeed in squashing enemy’s weapon emplacement, after which they also undertake the neutralization of military base which is located in Akna and threats Stepanakert directly. From South, Martuni defense region, from South-West, Askeran, concerted actions of other units in the north-west of the DA ended on July 23, as a result of which, Akna was taken under the control of Armenian forces. As long as Akna was under the control of the enemy the threat of cannonade towards Stepanakert and nearby villages from long-range bombers and other artillery was big. During the military action, Acting President of NKR Supreme Council Baburian noted that Armenian self-defenders hit back to respond to attacks against Azerbaijani air force and heavy weapons usage, so the actions were necessity and solution for the issue of security of the Armenian population.
After Akna’s operation, in the message addressed to the UN Secretary General and Security Council chairman, Heydar Aliev notes: “Armenian aggressors have occupied 17 percent of Azerbaijan’s territory on July 24. They have occupied the whole Nagorno Karabakh, Lachin and Kelbajar regions, 503 settlements of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, Gazakh, Fizuli, Zangelan and Agdam regions. This operation was accepted reluctantly by the OSCE Minsk Group, and the US State Department spokesman said that the occupation of Akna by the Armenians can not be justified as a step taken in self- defense. While it is undeniable that by the military operation of Akna, the artillery shelling of certain Armenian areas was neutralized, as well as significant military, moral and psychological blow was inflicted on the enemy. As evidenced by Bagrat Ulubabyan:”The fall of Agdam had a fatal role in the conflict zone: after him, the Azerbaijani side mainly judged as Major Sadikh Mamedov (“If Armenians want they can capture the whole Azerbaijan”).” After the operation of Akna Azerbaijani leadership recognized NKR authorities as a conflicting party. Due to the operation, along the southern and eastern borders of NKR, the activities of enemy groupings” and rear provisions were also disrupted. It is not accidental that the Azerbaijani government addresses the NKR authorities on July 23 at the request of cease-fire, however, in spite of the agreements, Azerbaijan refuses to comply with his obligations. In this regard, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 853 (1993) on July 29, which condemns the occupation of the other areas of Aghdam and the Republic of Azerbaijan and demands immediately to stop all military actions and to bring out the occupying forces involved in the conflict from Akna region and from all other recently occupied areas of the Republic of Azerbaijan immediately, fully and unconditionally.
Varanda (Fizuli), Mekhakavan (Jabrail), Vorotan (Kubaltu) and Kovsakan (Zangelan)
After the victory of Akna’s military operation, the Azerbaijani side began to centralize considerable human resources and means in Varanda and Mekhakavan regions, thereby striking the eastern and southeastern regions of NKR, bombarding Armenian defensive positions along the entire battlefield Establishing control over these regions was important firstly to protect the Armenian villages then from the perspective of ensuring the safety of liberated territories. Especially the liberation of Varanda was important, which would ensure the security of the NKR Southern border. Hadrut was mainly affected by the actions of Azerbaijan, where a number of residential buildings were destroyed, there were wounded people among the civilian population. Air attacks also occurred on Kapan to attract Armenia as a direct opposition party into the war. After the lengthy battles, however, Armenian side managed to succeed. On August 22, the Azeri forces leave Varanda, the Armenian army confirms its control over Mekhakavan district on August 25 then Vorotan is vliberated. Thus, on September 1993 in some parts of the battlefield the Armenian forces were 4-5 km far from Iran. In October, the Azerbaijani side resumes the bombardment in the North of NKR, Akna, Varanda, however, the DA subdivisions, restraining the advance of the Azerbaijani side, liberate Kovsakan, Mekhakavan and Vorotan regions not liberated before: hereby the threat of NKR southeast, southern and southwest border zones are neutralized.
On October 14, the UN Security Council accepted its serial, Resolution 874 (1993) which called on both sides to implement schedule accepted by the OSCE Minsk Group during the informal meeting on September 28. It envisaged the withdrawal of Armenian troops from Vorotan, Akna Varanda, Mekhakavan, Karvatchar. However, the disagreements between the parties did not make the implementation possible (e.g. Azerbaijan also demanded to address the issue of refugees) which led to the continuation of hostilities. On November 12, the last Resolution 884 (1993) concerning NKR was accepted by Security Council, which called on both sides to implement provisions of the preceding three resolutions. In this regard, on November 15, Foreign Minister of NKR Arkady Ghukasyan pointed out during the press conference, that if the previous resolution was not adopted by Azerbaijan, then this resolution was not acceptable for Karabakh also. Since the primary requirement was to stop the hostilities, but the Azerbaijani side failed it, the implementation of the remaining requirements of the resolution was not possible. Another important factor was that, for example, resolution № 853 called for “The Government of the Republic of Armenia to continue the implementation of its influence over the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians “, which confirmed the evaluation of the steps by Armenia, taken by the UN, and also to observe RA as an indirect side of the conflict. We believe (and further developments proved) that the Security Council was not inclined to continue the discussion because the solution of the Yugoslav issue in Europe, was a priority for the great powers, the discussion of the issue was remained therefore out of the structure.
Military actions also continued in 1994. The most important victory achieved in this period, was the establishment of control over the Omar pass, which completely fell Karvachar region under the control of Armenian forces. Thus in 1994 Armenian forces managed to secure the establishment of a security zone for Nagorno Karabakh. The failures in battlefield finally motivated the Azerbaijani side to agree to ceasefire offer. The OSCE was not the only platform for the negotiations on the Karabakh issue: since 1992 in scopes of CIS a group was formed in support of the Karabakh conflict, within (in the frameworks of which) of which, on May 3-5 of 1994, an interparliamentary assembly of CIS countries was held in the Republic of Kyrgyzstan Bishkek. As a result, the parties signed the Bishkek protocol on May 5 (Azerbaijani side signed on May 8) which was acquired on the basis of an agreement on ceasefire. It is noteworthy that the Azerbaijani side signed protocol only after making two changes, one of which was related to the word “observers” replacing “international observers”. The most significant change related to the “occupied territories” wording. If in the original version of the protocol “occupied territories” term was mentioned, then the indication of occupants was also expected, which, as the Karabakh party proposed, should had been mentioned as “occupied Karabakh armed formations”, which had already been presented as a status. Finally it was changed to “occupied territories” formulation. Since May 12, according to the ceasefire agreement, the ceasefire was confirmed in the conflict zone.
In fact, during the military operations, the Armenian forces’ operations were motivated to hit the enemy back and to ensure the security of the Armenian-populated districts with a vital necessity to liberate Artsakh blockade, hence, they were of defensive character. Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Region lands, which had been separated by the self-will of Azerbaijani authorities, became, and still are guarantee, that peaceful settlements will no longer be bombarded by the enemy.
The next two analyses will discuss the issue of ownership of the security zone around the Artsakh conflict negotiations, as well as its importanc for Armenia (including Artsakh).
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Author: Viktorya Aydinyan: © All rights are reserved.
Translator: Arusyak Sargsyan