A bullet hole in a wall in Tovuz district, July 2020.

Source: Meydan TV

Caption: A bullet hole in a wall in Tovuz district, July 2020.

ICG calls on Baku and Yerevan to keep communication channels open

The International Crisis Group has called on both Armenia and Azerbaijan to use communication channels to avoid misunderstanding, and boost cooperation to allow farmers to safely harvest crops and deal with their routine life at border regions.

“The two sides should use the communication channel to warn each other... and begin talks on limited cooperation to allow farmers to harvest crops, repair water networks and clear mines,” the Crisis Group report released on July 24 read.

The view from a collapsing building in Tovuz district, Aghdam, Azerbaijan, July 2020.

The view from a collapsing building in Tovuz district, Aghdam, Azerbaijan, July 2020.

Source: Meydan TV

According to the report, the international mediators have so far dismissed the safety of the more than 150,000 civilians living on the border regions and instead focused on disagreements over Nagorno-Karabakh itself. Therefore, both Yerevan and Baku should pull their efforts together to keep the communication channels open so that the farmers can safely harvest their crops from now on.

The report reveals that the clashes flaring up from time to time over the border “threaten the livelihoods of many facing the impossible choice of leaving their crops to rot or risking their lives gathering their produce for market.”

Increasing tensions have lead to emigration from both the Azerbaijani and Armenian border regions, the Crisis Group said in the report, adding that despite both sides effort to safeguard people by building protective walls around public buildings and major roads and providing farmers with tax incentives and subsidies to stimulate the development in the region, the COVID-19 pandemic had made people's lives more difficult and encouraged them to emigrate. Long-term climatic trends are likely to increase the shortage of water and arable land, the report added.

Deadly July skirmishes left twelve military officers and a civilian killed on the Azerbaijani side, and four casualties on the Armenian side. One Armenian civilian was injured during the clashes, according to local reports.

The communication channel was established between the sides in breakthrough accords in 2018. In 2019, direct communication lines between security personnel and political representatives in both capitals were opened for the first time in fifteen years. Nevertheless, this has failed to create conditions for co-existence across the border, and the report adds that fresh violence continue to damage peace efforts.

Therefore, only through cooperation can Baku and Yerevan make a lasting difference in the border regions, the report states.

“The two sides have found ways in the past to put aside deeply divisive territorial disputes to cooperate on limited humanitarian measures.”

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