The Special Representative of the Swiss Chairmanship of the OSCE, Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk has visited Stepanakert where on Wednesday (16 July) he met with the President of the self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Bako Sahakyan.
The website of the NKR leadership said that issues related to the current stage of the conflict settlement negotiations and its prospects as well as the situation along the line of contact were discussed during the meeting. The website added that Bako Sahakyan "considered the recent intrusion of the Azerbaijani subversive group into the NKR territory as another provocative terrorist act of the official Baku and a serious blow to the negotiation process and the efforts of mediator states, adding that it must be appropriately assessed by the international community." On Friday, 11 July, Armenian sources reported an incursion by an armed Azerbaijani group in the area around Khalbajar, saying that they had captured some of its members, and killed others. Later more detailed information was released. The Armenian Defence Ministry reported that it had intercepted a three person armed terrorist group on Friday and in the shoot--out that followed one of the members of the group and an Armenian soldier were killed, whilst a civilian Armenian woman was injured. One member of the group was captured during the incident, and the third member was captured the following day. The three persons were wearing civilian cloths with no military markings and Armenia said that it will not treat them as prisoners of war but will put them on trail as terrorists.
In Azerbaijan a different story has emerged. According to an Azerbaijani version widely circulated on social media, the three persons were from the region, which is part of Azerbaijan but has been under Armenian occupation for more than twenty years. The three knew the area well and sometimes were able to evade soldiers on both sides and visit their ancestral homes. According to these version of events the three men were innocent local people who refused to accept the divisions that the war has imposed on their lives. Intriguingly this version of events is not being pushed primarily by the government media, but by independent sources. Khadija Ismailova, a respected, tough and independent minded journalist who can hardly be described as a government mouthpiece, wrote on her facebook page
"Two IDPs decided to go and see their village under Armenian occupation. One of them have been doing it every year. He was secretly using the mountain path, going to the village, filming it, visiting the graveyard of his parents, and coming back. The videos of the village he has taken during his trips were very popular among refugees, craving to see their homes. This year Dilgam Askerov and Shahbaz Guliiyev got caught by separatists. And the show started. First they were called provocateurs and spies. Armenians refused to acknowledge them as war hostage, then, in order to justify this, they decided that they need more facts to portray these guys as subversive group. And here you are, Armenian propaganda machine started. A body of teenager found, and fingers pointed to two Azerbaijanis. There is no chance that there will be an independent investigation which will not falsify the evidences and falsely accuse Askerov and Guliyev."
It is difficult to ascertain the real truth of either of these versions, but the OSCE and the ICRC are trying to defuse the issue before it gets more complicated. It is yet another example of how human suffering, nationalistic chauvinism and military adventurism mesh together in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, making it difficult to say where one starts and the other finishes.
phto: Ambassador Kasprzyk with the President of the self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in Stepanakert on 16 July 2014. (picture courtesy of the" Office of the NKR President").