After a border clash near his village in April, Gegham drove to the fields where his family had farmed for decades and kept a small apiary. But when he came closer, he heard shots. The Azerbaijanis fired at him from their new positions on the surrounding hilltops. He ran back to his car and never came back, The Observer writes.
“Another local, Samvel Hyusunts, lost nearly 70 hectares (173 acres) where his family had been farming wheat for decades. “They take what they can have,” he says, standing in a dusty suit and flat cap on the roadside where thousands of refugees have passed from Karabakh into Armenia. “The village is suffering.”
It would hardly be of note if this was in Nagorno-Karabakh, where hundreds have been killed and tens of thousands have fled as Azerbaijan closes in on “reintegrating” its territories in what many Armenians say is a campaign of ethnic cleansing.
But Tegh is in Armenia proper, and the April incident before the war points to how a series of border clashes and encroachments could presage the next great crisis: a revanchist Azerbaijan emboldened by its victory in Nagorno-Karabakh, now eyeing a land corridor to Turkey or even annexing entire regions of what hawks in Baku have begun to call “western Azerbaijan.” In fact, that land is Armenia,” The Observer correspondent Andrew Roth, the author of the article, says.
“Initially, it was all about Karabakh and improving their bargaining position and threatening the Armenians’ territorial integrity to deter their support for Karabakh Armenians,” said Stefan Meister, head of the Centre for Order and Governance in Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central Asia at the Berlin-based German Council on Foreign Relations.
“Now, since they have Karabakh under control, they don’t need any agreement with the Armenian government. They might just move forward and say: ‘OK, we have some territory and we take some more. Or just take the whole Syunik region.”
He added: “It’s part of this maximalist approach: you’re hungry and you never stop eating if no one puts a red line,” and said that he had urged western governments to consider sanctions on Baku.
After losing a war in 2020, Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan signed a ceasefire agreement with Azerbaijan brokered by Russia that grants a land corridor through Armenia to Nakhchivan, an Azerbaijani exclave, and on to Turkey, Azerbaijan’s closest ally. The corridor, which was to run along a railway through southern Armenia, was to be policed by the FSB, Russia’s main border guard service.
But the Azerbaijani parliament has also held recent hearings on western Azerbaijan, an irredentist term that the country’s president, Ilham Aliyev, has also started to use in public and which in particular refers to the Syunik province, where Tegh is located,” Roth notes.