Since the end of the First Nagorno-Karabakh War in 1994, Azerbaijan has violated the ceasefire agreement with Armenia numerous times. The conflict having ethnic and territorial layers, the ongoing negotiations never produced tangible results.
However, it seemed to be clear for both sides that there wasn’t an alternative to the peaceful resolution of the conflict and a mutually acceptable outcome could be reached one day.
Azerbaijan Violating Cease Fire
On September 27, 2020, Azerbaijan grossly violated the ceasefire agreement, causing a large-scale war to erupt on the disputed territories of Nagorno Karabakh.
During the 44-day war, Armenia and Azerbaijan first reached a ceasefire agreement brokered by Russia. The humanitarian ceasefire that was to start on October 10 was violated by Azerbaijan on the same day.
The sides came to a similar cease fire agreement on October 26. This time, the joint statement was released by the US, Armenian, and Azerbaijani governments.
It claimed that the sides have agreed on a humanitarian ceasefire and resuming talks toward a peaceful resolution. The truce failed with Azerbaijan firing artillery shells.
The third ceasefire agreement was signed on November 9 between Armenia and Azerbaijan, yet again brokered by Russia. This, however, turned out to be not only an agreement to end the military conflict. It was, in fact, a document of capitulation signed by the PM of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan.
However Azerbaijan violated cease fire again. It seemed like after being handed over several districts of Nagorno Karabakh and holding on the areas it has taken during the war, Azerbaijan would follow the agreement and contribute to its peaceful execution, including exchanging bodies and prisoners of war.
On December 11, Azerbaijani troops started fire in the south of the Hardut region, in the villages of Old Tagher and Khtsaberd.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia, six servicemen were wounded. Later, Azerbaijani armed forces continued their provocative actions in Mets Shen and Old Shen, Hadrut region.
The Armenian side claimed that Azerbaijan’s actions were attempts to devaluate the presence of Russian peacekeepers. As two sides exchanged claims of violation of the ceasefire, the spokesperson for the peacekeeping forces addressed the situation. They confirmed that small-arms shooting was recorded in Hadrut.
On December 13, the Ministry of Defense of Armenia announced that as a result of the provocative actions of Azerbaijani armed forces in the villages of Old Tagher and Khtsaberd six Armenian soldiers were wounded while the Azerbaijani side suffered casualties.
In the meantime, a video leaked depicting dozens of Armenian servicemen allegedly captured by the Azerbaijani troops.
After investigating the video footage and collecting data, the information was confirmed to be true. Azerbaijani troops captured a group of Armenian servicemen serving in the village of Old Tagher.
And here’s a photo of what they claim to be captured Armenian troops in Hin Tagher, Hadrut on December 12-13. pic.twitter.com/J2QpGrNmL8— 301🇦🇲 (@301_AD) December 15, 2020
Nine bodies of Armenian servicemen were found in Old Tagher, proving that Azerbaijani armed forces did violate the ceasefire agreement. Prior to finding the bodies, Artsakh Defense Army reported that the fate of 73 servicemen was unknown.
It became clear later, that 62 servicemen were captured by the Azerbaijani armed forces. The Ministry of Defense claims that everything possible is being done to resolve the issue and return the group of servicemen. The issue is also in the focus of the Russian peacekeeping forces of Artsakh.
The European Court of Human Rights demanded that Azerbaijan provided information on 62 Armenian servicemen. Azerbaijan’s foreign minister confirmed the capture of the servicemen.
However, Azerbaijan considers them to be not prisoners of war but ‘terrorists involved in diversionary activities’. In fact, the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev claims that everyone captured after the agreement signed on November 9 is detained and cannot be returned following the ‘all for all’ principle.
It is concerning that Azerbaijan artificially delays the process of exchanging the prisoners of war and doesn’t reveal their number.
The Human Rights Defender of Armenia, Arman Tatoyan, responded to the statement of Ilham Aliyev categorizing the Armenian prisoners of war as terrorists. He urges the Azerbaijani authorities to return all Armenian prisoners of war without any precondition, following point 8 of the statement signed on November 9, 2020
The violations of the ceasefire agreement with military actions seem to have stopped and no incidents have been recorded since the beginning of 2021. However, Azerbaijan is bringing forth other requirements that violate the points of the trilateral statement. Namely, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan claims that the visits of the authorities of the Republic of Armenia violate the ceasefire agreement.
The Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs considers this statement baseless. Moreover, it is the Azerbaijani side that continues to violate the ceasefire agreement by not following the proposed principles. This includes not maintaining the non-fire regime, and not returning the Armenian prisoners of war on previously agreed terms.
The hostilities and war crimes committed by Azerbaijan remain uncondemned. From brutally torturing civilians and soldiers to shelling civilian infrastructures, the international community is yet to recognize Azerbaijan’s military offensive and the crimes it committed.
The war crimes committed by Azerbaijan were not solely hostilities against the people of Artsakh and Armenia but humanity in general as they violated the international humanitarian law. Those concerned about Azerbaijan still being unpunished for the crimes against humanity call the attention of the international community. A petition is started about bringing Azerbaijan to the international tribunal for crimes against humanity. Azerbaijan violated cease fire not just once but multiple times.