Yesterday, a Nagorno-Karabakh helicopter went down in flames, killing all three crewmembers, after Azerbaijani forces claimed it was violating their airspace and shot it.
Azerbaijan has awarded the servicemen who downed the helicopter with a third degree medal for “distinguished military service.”
“We condemn the new outbreak of violation. We state that as always, it is the Azerbaijani authorities that are responsible for it again. This provocation nullifies Azerbaijan’s commitments. We hoped Baku would adopt a more rational and constructive behaviour after Armenia-Azerbaijan meeting on 27 October in Paris. Breaking the promise to France only a few days ago, the Azerbaijani leadership showed that it’s not a reliable partner in the region,” said Mr François Rochebloine, French MP and Member of EuFoA’s Europe-Armenia Advisory Council.
“It is clear to all international organisations that the Azerbaijani administration established a totalitarian regime based on fear, lies and repression. Therefore, it also tries to neutralise any attempt of freedom and rule of law in the region, attempting in vain to threaten also the population of Nagorno Karabakh and their strong commitment to democracy and fundamental rights by shooting down unarmed helicopters, or murdering civilians as it was the case a few weeks ago. Last but not least I would like to pass my deepest condolences to the families of the helicopter crew,” added EuFoA Director Mr Eduardo Lorenzo Ochoa.
International organisations and Members of the European Parliament have expressed their worries.
The NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia has urged both sides of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to restrain from further action.
“Concerned by reports about an Armenian helicopter being show down by Azerbaijani forces,” he said. “Whatever the circumstances of the incident, both sides should remain calm and pursue a diplomatic resolution.”
The US Department of State has denounced the incident, stating that “today’s events are yet another reminder of the need to redouble efforts on a peaceful resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, including reducing tensions and respecting the ceasefire.”
Having met in Paris on 27 October, both Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Mr Sargsyan and Mr Aliyev committed to “defusing tension on the spot,” a promise that has not been kept by Azerbaijan.
As tensions are once again on the rise – and for a second time this year, after a summer with the highest number of casualties at the line of contact since the ceasefire agreement – Members of the European Parliament have also voiced their concern.
“Shooting down the military helicopter in Nagorno-Karabakh is a very dangerous and unprecedented escalation of the conflict in the region,” said MEP Jaromir Stetina of the EPP Group and Vice-Chairman of the Sub-committee on Security and Defence of the European Parliament.
MEP Frank Engel, President of the EP’s Nagorno-Karabakh Group added: “The downing of an unarmed helicopter of the Nagorno-Karabakh Defence forces by Azerbaijan on 12 November constitutes the most grievous violation of the ceasefire in 20 years. It is not only the single most senseless act of Azerbaijan: it is yet another element which must lead any objective observer to believe that commitments to non-use of force by Azerbaijan on Nagorno-Karabakh are worthless.
Rewarding the attacking officer by a medal for outstanding military service reminds us all of how “returning” criminal and murderer Ramil Safarov was elevated to national hero by the Azeri dictatorship. On 27 October, the leadership of Azerbaijan pledged again that the country would refrain from any violence and use of force in the process of a viable settlement for Nagorno-Karabakh. Two weeks later, Azerbaijan has shown what such pledges are worth. I condemn this latest act of aggression by Azerbaijan in the most forceful terms.”