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Op-ed: what really happened in the July fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan, what are the results?

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The hostilities from 12 to 16 July on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border have become another important date in the history of the conflict, which is more than 30 years old.

But this “little war” was different from similar exacerbations, the last of which happened in April 2016.

Background

The scene is the Tovuz region in the north-west of Azerbaijan. Two years ago, the leadership of Azerbaijan made a decision to replace the regular troops of the national army with border guards of the State Border Service (SBS) in this section of the border.

Then many commentators, as well as local residents, took this decision with bewilderment. How is it possible for border guards to keep watch during wartime?

Some attributed this decision to competition between two generals – Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov and the head of the State Border Service Elchin Guliyev.

However, the voices of the dissatisfied soon began to subside, as time after time there was news that on this section of the border, the Azerbaijani border guards had moved so many meters forward, taken another height.

Of course, the entire Armenian-Azerbaijani border is not delimited and there are quite extensive “neutral zones” where, apparently, the Azerbaijani posts moved forward.

This continued until July 2020, when, unexpectedly, the Armenian side took the same step and established its post between two Azerbaijanis positions.

The skirmish

It must be said right away that the account of the Armenian Defense Ministry that the Azerbaijani border guards in a light UAZ tried to cross the state border or that they allegedly got lost seems extremely unlikely.

On the video distributed by the Armenian media, it is clearly seen that the car was driving along the beaten dirt road, that is, the usual route.

After warning shots, the crew abandoned the car and withdrew. Scouts and saboteurs do not behave like that.

After some time, Azerbaijani troops tried to regain the post, but the fighting dragged on, both sides suffered losses, and the Azerbaijani side lost two high-ranking officers.

Four days later, the shots died down, and the fate of that post remains unclear. The information is contradictory, and independent journalists are not allowed in the area.

Reaction of the Azerbaijani side

It was clearly evident that the Azerbaijani authorities were taken by surprise by these events. The fact that the press services of the Ministry of Defense, the State Border Service and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided information with a great delay is not surprising.

We, local journalists, are used to this and, unfortunately, most Azerbaijani citizens are forced to receive information from social media, and even from Armenian sources, which work much more efficiently.

But a few mistakes will have to be highlighted:

After the news of the death of General Polad Gashimov, popular in the army, several thousand people took to the streets of Baku.

President Ilham Aliyev said in his speech the next morning that he personally instructed the police not to disperse people, despite the strict quarantine regime and unauthorized actions.

However, at some point, a group of people broke into parliament. Another group began to shout: “Resignation!”

In his speech, the president said that the head of the draft board reported to him that “150 people volunteered for the front,” and that more than half of them were residents of the Tovuz region, where the fighting was taking place.

This was a clear mistake on the part of the president. People simply could not sign up somewhere at nine o’clock in the evening, and in a time of quarantine. They tried to smooth out the mistake, now, according to official data, there are more than 50,000 volunteers.

President Aliyev, in an emotional speech, made another, even more flagrant political mistake.

Speaking about the opposition, he said that “these people are worse than the Armenians.”

There isn’t much to explain here. How can you potentially offer Karabakh Armenians ‘the broadest autonomy’ if the word ‘Armenians’ is used as the standard of bad qualities?

Former President Heydar Aliyev never made such mistakes.

The third mistake was made by the head of the press service of the Ministry of Defense, Colonel Vagif Diargakhli.

Answering a journalist’s question about the threat of the Armenian general Ter-Tadevosyan (retired for a long time) to hit the Mingachevir reservoir with a rocket, he recalled the country’s “newest missiles” that can destroy the Metsamor nuclear power plant.

This is despite the fact that the nuclear power plant is located 70 kilometers from the borders of Azerbaijan itself and only 16 kilometers from the borders of Turkey. And the accident would entail an irreversible catastrophe for the entire region.

Naturally, the Armenian media immediately seized on this statement and replicated it with appropriate comments. Many world publications have also been reprinted with reference to Armenian sources.

Reaction of the Azerbaijani opposition

These days, the opposition leaders, despite the President’s extremely emotional speech with harsh criticism of the opposition, showed restraint and declared their readiness to forget for a while about internal contradictions.

“Let the authorities not worry about their rear. We put off all our disagreements and disputes until better times. We must unite to repel the enemy,” Ali Karimli, chairman of the Popular Front Party, wrote on his Facebook account.

Leaders of other opposition parties – Musavat and REAL – made similar statements.

What’s next?

The main result of the July battles, it seems to me, is the loss of the psychological advantage that Azerbaijan possessed after the April ‘Four-Day War’ of 2016.

I think one should be wary of new incidents, possibly on other sectors of the front line.

Azerbaijan has threatened to deliver an “asymmetric response”. What is meant by this, one can only speculate, while nothing is clear.

Moreover, on the same days the country’s foreign minister Elmar Mammadyarov was dismissed (the resignation is not directly related to the events at the border).

Azerbaijan has a reason to “reset” the entire negotiation process and start from scratch.

I even expect a possible refusal from the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group (how much mediation is possible?) And the start of direct negotiations with the Republic of Armenia and representatives of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.

Perhaps under the umbrella of mediation of Russia – how could we possibly do without it…

The post Op-ed: what really happened in the July fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan, what are the results? appeared first on English Jamnews.

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‘Our Animals Are Dying’: Water Goes Bad In Azerbaijani Village

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Residents in the village of Banka in Azerbaijan say they lack basic water supplies for themselves and their animals after water in the Kura River dropped and became contaminated with salt water from the nearby Caspian Sea. Experts believe farming, a major hydroelectric plant upstream, and climate change could be to blame.Read Original Article here by RFERL

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Citizens of Baku to remain stuck at home? No info on future as last day of strict quarantine approaches

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As of August 3, citizens of Baku and 14 other cities and regions in Azerbaijan have spent six weeks living under a strict quarantine regime due to the coronavirus.

Since June 21, people have been allowed to go outside for three hours a day after receiving SMS permission from the authorities, and all stores are closed, excluding grocery stores and pharmacies.

Public transport is not running on Saturdays or Sundays.

The authorities’ most recent decision states that the quarantine will end at 6 am on August 5. However, no statement has been released about lifting the quarantine, and there is a growing fear that it may be extended.

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Within the past three weeks, there were several times when the quarantine was scheduled to be lifted, but was instead extended. But the authorities had issued a statement informing citizens ahead of time.

Azerbaijan continues to celebrate Eid al-Adha, and August 4 is the first working day after the holiday.

MP of the Milli Mejlis Musa Guliyev reported some positive news:

“The roads between cities and regions will reopen, the metro will start running again, and people will be able to leave the house without SMS permission. But at the same time, we musts not forget that the epidemic is still going on and we must adhere to safety measures.”

However, people on social networks have more to say about the pessimistic forecast of the chief infectious disease specialist Jalal Isaev.

He said that the authorities may extend the strict quarantine for several more weeks in order to bring the number of new cases a day down into the double digits.

Over the past 24 hours, 286 new cases have been reported in Azerbaijan, bringing the total since the beginning of the epidemic to 32,443 cases. Eight more people have died, bringing the total in Azerbaijan to 462. 27,113 people have recovered.

Baku, Tbilisi Avenue. Photo JAMnews

The post Citizens of Baku to remain stuck at home? No info on future as last day of strict quarantine approaches appeared first on English Jamnews.

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Azerbaijani Ombudsman denies death of political prisoner. New reports of torture in prisons. Updated

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12.00 / August 2

It remains unclear whether Azerbaijani political prisoner Fuad Qahramanli, a board member of the opposition Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan, is alive or has died in prison.

On the evening of August 1, information about his possible death from torture appeared on social media [more in the report below]. Then, former prosecutor Rufat Safarov denied this message on his Facebook page.

“The head of the department for the prevention of torture of the Azerbaijani Ombudsman’s Office, Rashid Rumzadeh, said that Fuad Qahramanli is alive,” Safarov wrote with reference to lawyer Bahruz Bayramov.

The lawyer was promised that on Monday, August 3, they would try to arrange a meeting with Qahramanli.

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Rufat Safarov, in the same post, critically noted that the ombudsman’s staff should have visited the prisoner after the alarming messages on social media and provided reliable information to his family and friends.

Instead, they postponed the issue for several days.

With the hope that Fuad Qahramanli is still alive, opposition blogger Bakhtiyar Hajiyev also writes:

I appealed to the Ombudsman about the state of Qahramanli. About half an hour later, I was informed that he was alive and that he was currently in the Kurdakhan detention center. It is reported that his condition and conditions of detention are good.

The issue is now under the personal control of Ombudswoman Sabina Aliyeva. I look forward to a solution to the issue of organizing meetings between prisoners and their families and lawyers.

There is very little information on the state of political prisoners in Azerbaijan’s prisons as a whole.

Blogger Nihad Huseyn wrote on his Twitter that opposition activist Seymur Akhmedov was able to send a letter from prison to his loved ones, in which he reported being tortured daily and beaten.

Akhmedov, like Qahramanli, was detained among 45 opposition activists for participating in a rally in Baku in support of the army on the night of July 15.

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Seymur Akhmedov writes that … a man in civilian clothes beat him for hours in the building of the Narimanov district police station,” blogger Nihad Huseyn said.

19.00 / August 1

Political prisoner Fuad Qahramanli may have died from torture in a Baku prison on August 1, local social media write. There is no official confirmation or evidence yet.

Fuad Qahramanli is one of more than 45 members of the opposition Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan who were detained after the July 15 rally in Baku in support of the army.

“Ilham Aliyev [President of Azerbaijan], if something happens to the people you have arrested, you are responsible for it,” his ex-wife Zumrud Yagmur wrote on her Facebook page.

While no official confirmation has been given, a number of messages to effect have been published, amongst others by well-known investigative journalist Khadija Ismail:

Various sources say that PFPA executive director Fuad Qahramanli was tortured. There is also information that he is dead. Lawyer Bahruz Bayramov was not allowed to see him from the moment of his arrest.

“Two other party members, Baba Suleiman and Seymur Akhmadov, were also severely tortured and threatened with rape. Baba reportedly agreed to sign false statements against party chairman Ali Karimli after being tortured.

“We try to check the reports. Lawyers are not allowed to see their clients, and there is no effective mechanism against torture in Azerbaijan.”

Azerbaijani bloggers have recently begun to conduct a daily report in two areas: statistics on coronavirus and the number of oppositionists detained by the authorities.

The 45 opposition activists who were recently arrested were initially charged with illegal protests during the rally in support of the army on the night of July 15.

However, the charges then escalated, and some of the detainees are now charged with ‘attempting to overthrow the government’.

The post Azerbaijani Ombudsman denies death of political prisoner. New reports of torture in prisons. Updated appeared first on English Jamnews.

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