Armenian Armed Forces Violate Ceasefire In Several Directions
Nearly every day, the exact same headline pops up in the news feeds of those who follow conflict n the Caucasus: "Armenian Armed Forces violate ceasefire in several directions." And with only slightly less frequency, and only slightly more variation, another headline appears: Azerbaijan Violates Ceasefire over X times Last Week."
The stories -- reprinted press releases from the respective ministries of defense -- follow the same numbing pattern. From the Azerbaijani side, after a couple of paragraphs saying where the alleged shooting took place, the exact same four paragraphs close out the piece:
The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan.
Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 per cent of Azerbaijan since 1992, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts.
Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. The co-chairs of the The OSCE Minsk Group, Russia, France and the U.S. are currently holding peace negotiations.
Armenia has not yet implemented the U.N. Security Council's four resolutions on the liberation of the Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions.
The Armenian press releases are even more repetitive, not bothering to name the sites of the alleged violation. They all follow this form, nearly verbatim, the only variation being the number of violations over the past week:
The adversary violated the ceasefire, at the line of contact between the Karabakh-Azerbaijani opposing forces, around 200 times past week.
During this time, more than 1,000 shots were fired in the direction of Armenian positions, and by way of different-caliber weapons, informs the press service of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) Ministry of Defense.
But as a result of the retaliatory actions launched by the vanguard units of the NKR Defense Army, the “activeness” of the adversary was stopped.
(Sometimes the last paragraph varies slightly, such as: "The NKR Defense Army vanguard units, however, gave an adequate response to the aggressive operations by the adversary and took necessary steps along the entire length of the line of contact, to reliably defend the military positions.")
Look through the archives of these sites and you find hundreds of nearly identical stories. On trend.az, there are, as of the time of this writing, 208 stories that contain the headline "Armenian Armed Forces violate ceasefire," dating back to 2007. (Though most headlines conclude "in several directions" there are variations, "again" being the most common.) The pace at which these stories are produced seems to be accelerating, however: there were 15 such stories just in the last 30 days. In the case of Armenian site news.am, the archives only go back to the end of 2009, but since that time there are 144 stories whose headlines begin "Azerbaijan Violates Ceasefire..." Those stories appear like clockwork every Saturday, as well as a monthly roundup, e.g. "Azerbaijan violates ceasefire over 1,030 times in October"
Away from the frontlines, a lot is changing between these two enemies: Azerbaijan's military spending has rapidly outpaced Armenia's; Russia's role in a potential war is constantly debated; and Armenians and Azerbaijanis who have fond memories of living together are being replaced by a younger generation who know only hate for the other side. The International Crisis Group warned in September that there was a heightened risk of renewed fighting in the coming weeks and months.
But that is hidden by the Groundhog Day quality of these stories. Every day and week is just like the one before, and the days and weeks after will probably be just the same -- until one day when they won't.
Joshua Kucera, a senior correspondent, is Eurasianet's former Turkey/Caucasus editor and has written for the site since 2007.