Russia and Armenia to establish joint military force

Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov [President of Armenia]

President Vladimir Putin has approved a government proposal to create a joint Russian and Armenian military group, the media in Russia and Armenia reported, quoting from the presidential decree.

According to the decree, dated 12 November and published on Monday (14 November), Putin has ordered the Russian Defence Ministry and the Foreign Ministry to hold talks with Armenia on reaching an agreement, based on a proposal from the Russian government on creating a joint military group consisting of Armenian and Russian forces.

According to the Russian agency Interfax, one of the joint military groups will be to cover Russia and Armenia’s land borders and work within the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a regional military alliance of post-Soviet states.

Interfax added that the two sides plan to create a joint command centre, whose leader will be appointed by the Supreme Commander of the Armenian Armed Forces in agreement with the Supreme Commander of the Russian Armed Forces. During peacetime, the commander of the joint forces will be subordinate to Armenia’s military Chief of Staff. During wartime, he will be subordinate to the commander of Russia’s southern military district or the Armenian Chief of Staff, depending on the situation and the decision of both armies’ chief commanders.

The military cooperation project was proposed by the Russian Defence Ministry with the agreement of the Foreign Ministry and other interested federal agencies, Intefax reported.

Russia and Armenia have strengthened relations after Yerevan joined a customs union led by its former Soviet master in 2013.

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The collapse of the Soviet Union left the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan as an inheritance to the region. According to international law, Nagorno-Karabakh is a territory of Azerbaijan, occupied by Armenia.

A four-day war was fought between 2 and 5 April 2016, leaving over two dozen soldiers dead on both sides. A ceasefire was agreed on 5 April at a behind-the-scenes meeting in Moscow between representatives of the warring sides.

Armenia and Azerbaijan in worst clash since 1994

Clashes between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces continued yesterday (3 April), despite Baku announcing a ceasefire after the worst outbreak of violence in two decades over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region sparked international pressure to stop fighting.

Since then, Russia has taken the lead in the conflict management, at the expense of Western powers.

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The leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia yesterday (20 June) agreed at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to bolster the number of monitors in disputed Nagorno-Karabakh in a bid to shore up a shaky ceasefire.

Nagorno-Karabakh is one of the so-called frozen conflicts in the post-Soviet space. It is a landlocked region in the Southern Caucasus, de jure on the territory of Azerbaijan, but de facto governed by the Armenian-backed breakaway government of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.

An armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan took place between 1988 and 1994 over Nagorno-Karabakh. A Russian-brokered cease-fire was signed in May 1994.

In August 2008, the US, France and Russia began to negotiate a full settlement of the conflict, proposing a referendum on the status of the territory. The effort culminated in the signature in Moscow by Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan and his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev of an agreement to hold talks on a political settlement.

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Post-Soviet ‘frozen conflicts’

The number of post-Soviet frozen conflicts has only grown, as a result of the failure of international mediation to solve them. After Nagorno-Karabakh, Transnistria and Abkhazia and South Ossetia, it seems that eastern Ukraine also qualifies as a frozen conflict.

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