The Defrosted War

Five days have passed since the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan was resumed in Nagorno-Karabakh, the small enclave of Azerbaijan where just over 70,000 Armenians live. The confrontation takes place on the battlefield, but also through a communication war. It is impossible to travel to Azerbaijan: Baku accepts almost no journalists. But Yerevan, who is in charge of Nagorno-Karabakh, chose to open its doors to the international press.

At least one bus chartered by the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs travels daily on the narrow road that winds between the green and misty peaks of Nagorno-Karabakh, a vehicle dedicated to the press from Europe, the Middle East or the United States. In this conflict, Armenia wants to show the image of an open and welcoming country.

This does not prevent government aides from claiming to have found small doses of drugs in the pockets of the uniforms of soldiers killed in the opposite camp, which we cannot verify. Baku would also have deliberately targeted rocket-wounded journalists on Thursday, according to Armenian army spokesmen.

On the same Thursday, the small town of Martuni, located about 25 kilometers from the war front, on separatist territory, suffered severe rocket attacks. Four civilians were killed, according to separatists, and another 11 were injured, including two journalists from the French daily Le Monde and two other Armenian reporters. The health status of the French has stabilized and their repatriation is being organized by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

It is a communication war, but also a warlike battle on the ground. On the Armenian side, many of those who died in the early days are very young. Eighteen, 20 years old. There are also serious injuries. Within six hours of traveling, we found about ten ambulances returning to the capital on Thursday.

“Restoration of our sovereignty”

What is happening in Azerbaijan? “In Baku, the capital, a large part of the population supports the military effort, hoping to regain by the force of arms the territory lost in the 1990s. Right now in Baku, as a sign of solidarity, Azerbaijan flags are in all buildings , in cars, “explains Rufat Mamedov, a resident of the capital.

“People show solidarity: they come together to help the army, to send cigarettes and clothes. Although it is not necessary, it is a symbol of popular support”, says the resident. “There is no doubt who is responsible for the conflict,” continues Rufat. “In our opinion, this war is unfortunately necessary, because it was Armenia and Nikol Pachinian [current Armenian Prime Minister] who paralyzed peace negotiations. And now only military intervention can force them to return to the negotiating table,” he adds.

What is the ultimate goal? “Nagorno-Karabakh is a very important region for us. Let us not forget the hundreds of thousands of people who lost everything during the war of the 1990s. That is the goal of our country today: the return of all these refugees to their villages and the restoration of our sovereignty over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory “.

Paulo Bentu

Visiting Fellow

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