YEREVAN—In an interview with Tert.am, former Russian co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, Vladimir Kazimirov, said that the primary reason for violent incidents near the border between Artsakh and Azerbaijan is Azerbaijan’s refusal to withdraw troops from the “line of contact,” which was envisaged by the ceasefire agreement.
With respect to the Azerbaijani foreign ministry’s statement declaring Nagorno-Karabakh’s airspace a no-fly zone, Kazimirov noted that, after losing control of Nagorno-Karabakh’s territory, Azerbaijan is declaring it an inviolable airspace.
In commenting on Azerbaijan’s refusal to respect the cease fire and allow for the safe retrieval of the bodies of the downed Mi-24’s crew members, which forced the Armenian side into a special operation to recover the bodies, Kazimirov said:
“I am not going to comment on the special operation. Let it lie on the conscience of the side that refused to allow the bodies to be recovered. I would like to speak of the reasons for such incidents. There may be many of them. However, there are primary reasons for the incident. They are of paramount importance because they are the core of the problem. The point is that when, through Russia’s mediation, we were moving toward ceasefire and signed relevant documents. Regrettably, one of the conflicting parties – you guess which one – did not honor its commitments despite its defense minister’s signature on the document. Later it refused to withdraw its forces. So the positions remained close to each other and, a few years later, the same conflicting party began drawing its positions [closer] to the Armenian positions.
“This is the primary reason for what happened. If the troops had been withdrawn and heavy weapons had been, as it were, at a distance, the incident would not have happened.”
Asked if he considered the incident with the Mi-24 helicopter a mere coincidence, Kazimirov said:
“Different incidents have often occurred. A lot of servicemen and even civilians were killed every year only because the troops had not been withdrawn. I stress that this is the primary reason for the incidents, including the latest incident involving the Armenian helicopter. I say nothing of assessing the same side’s refusal to allow for the recovery of the crew members’ bodies or, at least, not to put obstacles.”
Later Azerbaijan declared Nagorno-Karabakh’s airspace a no-fly zone. Asked if it suggested the incident was an unplanned act, Kazimirov said.
“It cannot have been an unplanned act. Baku publicly declared that. After losing control of Nagorno-Karabakh’s territory, Azerbaijan is declaring it an inviolable airspace. It is very dubious revanche. They are guilty of having lost control of many regions. They lost them because they would not stop the hostilities under the UN Security Council’s resolutions. This is one more primary reason.
“I think the latest incident was a gross provocation.”
With respect to US Co-Chair of the Minsk Group James Warlick’s statement that the territory in question is not a “neutral” territory, but a “no man’s land,” Kazimirov said:
“This question should be addressed to Mr. Warlick. I have no right to comment or interpret his words. I should say the following: a neutral zone would have appeared if the conflicting parties had actually withdrawn their troops from the line of contact.”
Regarding the international response to the incident, Kazimirov said:
“I would confess that I have not followed foreign nations’ responses. I have seen the reaction of Armenia and Azerbaijan. But I can hardly say anything about other states’ responses.”