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Nagorno-Karabakh: Armenia and Azerbaijan agree ceasefire

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Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed a temporary ceasefire in the conflict in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Russia's foreign minister announced the agreement just before 03:00 Moscow time (midnight GMT), following 10 hours of talks in the Russian capital.

Sergey Lavrov said the two countries would now begin "substantive" talks.

More than 300 people have died and thousands displaced since the latest violence in the long-running conflict broke out on 27 September.

The hostilities will be halted from midday local time (08:00 GMT) on Saturday, to allow an exchange of prisoners and the recovery of dead bodies.

Nagorno-Karabakh is run by ethnic Armenians although it is officially part of Azerbaijan.

The two former Soviet republics have blamed each other for the latest outbreak of violence - the worst in decades.

Russia has a military base in Armenia and both are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) alliance.

However, Moscow also has good relations with Azerbaijan.

On Friday (9 October) the Armenian defence ministry said fighting continued through the day, despite the talks being held in Moscow.

On Thursday, Armenia accused Azerbaijan of deliberately shelling a historic cathedral in Nagorno-Karabakh. Pictures showed serious damage at the Holy Saviour Cathedral in Shusha city (known as Shushi in Armenian).

At the same time, Azerbaijan said that its second-largest city, Ganja, and the region of Goranboy had been shelled by Armenian forces, with at least one civilian killed.

Speaking to the BBC earlier this week, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan warned of a "genocide" in the region, and said it was "Armenia, land of Armenians".

The clashes have displaced half of Nagorno-Karabakh's population - about 70,000 people - officials said.

The region's main city, Stepanakert, has suffered several days of shelling with residents sheltering in basements and much of the city left without power.

Armenia and Azerbaijan went to war over Nagorno-Karabakh in 1988-94, eventually declaring a ceasefire. However, they never reached a settlement in the dispute.

Armenia

Truth, lies and body language in the Caucasus

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You can tell a lot about people from looking at their body language. A few days ago, Euronews’s Global Weekend coverage of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict included a fascinating split screen of the leaders of Armenia (Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, pictured) and Azerbaijan (President Ilham Aliyev). Pashinyan is surrounded by uniformed troops on high alert, and gesticulates franticly, forefinger jerking repeatedly down as if to lash his audience – and, by extension, his Azerbaijani opponents, into submission or defeat. Aliyev appears cool and collected, measuring his words, the picture of a calm and efficient administrator, writes Martin Newman.

The contrast was so extreme that it prompted me to look further at these two men. I’ve coached many world leaders for their platform and media appearances, and I know that posture, tone of voice, gestures, and facial expressions can reveal truths that transcend mere words.

Their backgrounds could not be more dissimilar: Pashinyan the campaigning journalist, never happier than in a crowd, megaphone in hand; Aliyev the second-generation politician, a veteran of the deadpan world of international diplomacy. Some hours spent reviewing footage of different interviews – Euronews, Al Jazeera, France 24, CNN, with Pashinyan speaking in Armenian and Aliyev in English – mainly serve to confirm first impressions.

We see Pashinyan’s jerking finger, and his eyebrows which dance with consternation whenever an awkward question or inconvenient fact at odds with his narrative is raised by an interviewer. When excited or under pressure his voices rises in pitch until it is almost shrill.

Mostly, watching Aliyev during these interviews reinforces the image of the calm administrator. Rarely raising his voice, rarely using an expansive gesture, the President comes across as a conservative figure of stability. Yet there's one slightly unexpected detail: the eye movement. Does this mean – as some experts would say – that for his urbanity, the President can come across as evasive?

They say that ‘the eyes are the window of the soul’; more accurately, in my experience, they are the mirror of the brain. People who are actively thinking are more likely to move their eyes than those who are reciting a pre-prepared lesson. I’ve also noticed, curiously enough, that when someone speaks in a language which isn’t their own, that mental effort also tends to add to eye movement. When you see this, it’s as though the speaker is literally ‘looking for the right words’. Despite being able to speak English (and having conducted interviews in the language in the past), Pashinyan appears not to trust himself except in his native Armenian when the stakes are so high.

One further detail has caught my eye, and it’s a comparison of hand gestures. We have already seen Pashinyan’s accusatory finger-pointing. At times, he is able to rein that theatrical energy in, but frequently it bursts out in large, dramatic gestures. Meanwhile, Aliyev’s hand gestures are controlled and measured, carefully presenting a case or, with a forward-moving half-folded hand, outlining forward steps in a process. The English language is rich in phrases to describe character using a body language metaphor. Looking at the two leaders, it’s hard to avoid putting the question – who seems like the safer pair of hands?

It’s interesting to see how the battle of body language between these two opposing leaders reflects their narratives. Armenia stands on the emotive questions of cultural identity, a narrative of historical victimhood, and a nostalgia for long-lost Armenian regional supremacy. Azerbaijan stands on the less emotive, more cut-and-dried ground of recognised borders, Security Council resolutions and international law.

To watch the two national leaders is to witness the confrontation of an energetic crowd-raiser, and a patient legal force. Whether the pressure of conflict and of international scrutiny will change those images remains to be seen. Until then, keep watching the body language. It never lies.

Martin Newman is a coach and body language expert and founder of The Leadership Council – an organization that brings together senior figures from commercial and public life to publish annual research into methods and styles of leadership.

All opinions expressed in the above article are those of the author, and do not reflect any opinions on the part of EU Reporter.

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Armenian capitulations

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We have to understand our history in order to not repeat the mistakes of the past. I have seen too many instances where people continue to pursue wrong courses of action because they do not take the time to think critically about what has happened in the past.- Winston Churchill.

In April 1920, Kemal Atatürk, the founding father of modern Turkey, appealed to Vladimir Lenin with a proposal to develop a common military strategy in the Caucasus for protection against imperialist dangers. This was to be a "Caucasus Barrier" created by the Dashnaks, Georgian Mensheviks and the British as an obstacle between Turkey and Soviet Russia, writes Gary Cartwright.

After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, Armenia, which appeared on the political map of the world at the expense of the Ottoman Empire (in the Caucasus, and on the territories of other states) did not lose its appetite for expansion.

The war continued with the newly formed Turkey and with the help of the USA and the Entente (the Russian Empire, the French Third Republic and Great Britain). On 10 August 1920, the Peace of Sèvres was signed, which formalised the division of Arab and European possessions of the Ottoman Empire. Although the members of the Entente had achieved most from the Treaty of Sèvres, Turkey lost Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Mesopotamia and the Arabian Peninsula.

Armenia, which did not receive the promised lands, was left out: Antanta - the triple entente - had needed Armenia only as a temporary tool to weaken and force Turkey to peace.

On September 24th 1920, a state under the name Armenia was established on the lands of Azerbaijanis: during the ensuing conflict Armenia’s fledgling army was destroyed and the entire territory of the Dashnak government, except for Erivan and Lake Gokca (now Sevan), came under Turkish control.

On 15th November 1920, the Government of Armenia requested the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (GNA) to start the peace negotiations.

On 3rd December 1920 in the city of Gyumri (Alexandropol) a peace treaty was signed between Armenia and Turkey, according to which the territory of the Republic of Armenia was limited to the region of Erivan and Lake Gokcha. Armenia was obliged to abolish compulsory conscription and have an army of up to 1500 bayonets and 20 machine guns. Turkey acquired the right to freely transit and conduct military operations on the territory of this state. Armenia also pledged to withdraw all its diplomatic delegations.

Thus the first Republic of Armenia ended in ignominy. As a result of the capitulation, the Armenian government transferred its authority to the Soviet Union. The dream of a "Greater Armenia" remained just a dream.

But the Soviets did not intend to offend the Armenians, and they made them a gift of Zangezur (historical land of Azerbaijan) as well as autonomy over Karabakh within the Azerbaijani SSR. The decision was that Karabakh would remain autonomous within Azerbaijan, and was not given to Armenia as some Armenian historians now claim.

Thus Armenia owes its current internationally recognised borders to Lenin’s Soviet Union.

The Karabakh war that Armenia began with Azerbaijan in the 90s might be seen as a second phase of the "Armenian Dream". However, by 1994 Armenia controlled only 14% of Nagorno-Karabakh, having been out-fought by the Azerbaijani army all the way.

In the current conflict, which erupted on the morning of September 27th with Armenian artillery barrages, history does indeed appear to be repeating itself, with Azerbaijani forces recovering lost territory as early as the first day of fighting.

This presents Russia with a dilemma: to fuel the Armenian dream with give free weapons and to and ruin relations with its neighbours on the southern borders, or to provoke Azerbaijan into a major conflict, drawing in Turkey and Pakistan?

If the first option threatens Russia with the continued loss of its multibillion-dollar military-industrial complex, the second option is the end of its presence in the South Caucasus region as a regional leader.

In addition to all the vain pressure from Russia, the need to create a new military bloc with the participation of Azerbaijan, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Ukraine, which will fully cover the strategic borders of Europe and Asia.

In today's geopolitical landscape, such a military bloc would very quickly find worthy patrons to effectively contain the growing threats from China and Russia.

And can Russia really afford to lose its sincere partner Azerbaijan, whose foreign policy has not gone beyond good neighbourly relations with Russia, despite all the known pressures from all sides over the years?

The alternative to this catastrophe is a new, much more balanced and therefore stable, predictable political and economic balance of power in the region based on just one consensus - the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan within its recognised borders with the complete liberation of all occupied territories.

Azerbaijan has been and will continue to be committed to honest and allied relations with its neighbours, and has not allowed or will not allow third countries to use its territory to harm neighbouring countries. This is primarily because Azerbaijan, unlike Armenia, is a sovereign state in the full sense of the word.

History repeats itself, conclusions are not being drawn, and this is frightening. To conclude with the same thesis as we started, inviting Armenians and Russians to draw conclusions and take the real state of affairs as a basis not for desire, but for reality.

The opinions expressed in the above article are those of the author, and do not reflect any opinions on the part of EU Reporter.

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Nagorno-Karabakh conflict: Armenia continues bombing civilians

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Azerbaijani authorities have reported an attack on a residential area in Ganja, the country's second largest city, with at least nine dead and 34 injured, on Sunday, October 11. President Ilham Aliev has denounced this violation of the ceasefire only just agreed by both sides.

Azerbaijan accused Armenia of not respecting the truce agreement that entered into force the day before, and of continuing the bombing of civilian areas. In the afternoon, no exchange of prisoners or bodies had been announced, a stated objective of the humanitarian ceasefire negotiated in Moscow, which was due to come into force on Saturday at 12 p.m. local time.

In Ganja, journalists saw Azerbaijani rescuers at work in the rubble of a building, from which two bodies were removed. A total of nine apartments were destroyed, according to witnesses, by a strike at 2 a.m. (local time).

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev denounced the attack on Twitter as a "flagrant violation of the ceasefire" and a "war crime".

"The Armenian armed forces do not respect the humanitarian truce and continue to fire rockets and artillery on the towns and villages of Azerbaijan".

Armenia denies bombing Ganja.

Araïk Haroutiounian, the self-proclaimed “president” in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, said Sunday morning that his troops respected "the ceasefire agreement" and considered the situation "calmer" than the day before.

"As long as the shooting continues, there will be no exchange" of prisoners or bodies, warned the separatist leader in the morning.

The humanitarian truce was negotiated by the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers, under the aegis of Russia.

The Russian and Turkish foreign ministers called, in a Russian statement given after their telephone conversation, for "the need to strictly respect all the provisions" of the agreement.

The European Union (EU) has expressed “extreme concern” over violations of the truce in Nagorno-Karabakh.

"We take note with extreme concern of reports of continued military activities, especially against civilian targets, and civilian casualties," EU foreign minister Joseph Borrell said in a statement on Sunday.

An Azerbaijani spokesman said, “Indifference to the tragedy in Azerbaijan today could lead Europe to greater instability and tragedies in the future”.

He named the current stance of the EU ineffective, stating that the silence over human tragedy in Ganja and making veiled general statements will only encourage Armenia to continue its war crimes.

President of the EU Council Charles Michel responded to the situation in a tweet, saying:

“The humanitarian ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan is an essential step towards de-escalation. I call on parties to observe ceasefire and to avoid further violence and putting civilians at risk. Negotiations without preconditions must resume without delay #NagornoKarabakh”.

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