As Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers met in Geneva for talks mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, the Human Rights Defenders of Artsakh and Armenia issued a joint statement noting that Azerbaijani forces have been carrying out targeted and indiscriminate strikes and shelling against civilian settlements and the peaceful populations of Armenia and Artsakh. The purpose of these attacks is to cause as much damage to civilians as possible, they said.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien said that there are credible reports that Turkey has deployed fighters from Syria’s opposition Syrian National Army into the conflict. O’Brien also said that any sort of Turkish mediation or peacekeeping role is a non-starter for the United States, as well as for Armenia. He noted that both countries should accept that Scandinavian peacekeepers be deployed into the region to keep the ceasefire. Earlier, Prime Minister Pashinyan, in an interview with a number of international media outlets, had said that Armenia would welcome Russian peacekeepers if Azerbaijan would agree to it.
During his daily live briefing, Artsrun Hovhannisyan of the Ministry of Defense said that Azerbaijani forces launched an offensive in a number of directions since the early morning. In the north, using infantry, they tried advancing toward a number of military posts but were pushed back after suffering significant losses. Throughout the day, battles continued in the south in the direction of a number of heights. Although the Artsakh Defense Army has advantages in terms of their positions in this direction, the battles are still ongoing.
An Armenian civilian died in Azerbaijani captivity and the village of David Bek in Armenia’s Syunik region was shelled by Azerbaijani forces.
Here is a chronology of official updates.
First Responder Killed, Five Others Wounded in Artsakh
1:30 a.m.: Artsakh Government Ombudsman Artak Beglaryan tweeted that the employees of the State Emergency Service of Artsakh were again targeted by Azerbaijani forces. Five of them have been wounded and another one was killed while carrying out a humanitarian mission.
9:30 a.m.: According to the Artsakh Defense Ministry, the Defense Army units continued their overnight reconnaissance and shelling operations in the areas where Azerbaijani forces are located, destroying large numbers of Azerbaijani manpower and ammunition.
After midnight, Azerbaijani forces tried to launch a new attack in the southeastern direction, which was repelled by Defense Army units. Azerbaijani forces also tried to advance in the northern part of the front line, which was also stopped, again inflicting significant losses.
The adversary continues targeting civilian settlements. Armenian forces continue to locate and neutralize Azerbaijani groups.
Armenian Civilian Dies in Azerbaijani Captivity
9:55 a.m.: Armenia’s Human Rights Defender Arman Tatoyan wrote on his Facebook Page that 84-year-old Misha Melkumyan, a civilian who was in Azerbaijani captivity, has died.
“Taking into account all the evidence and facts on the cruel and inhumane treatment against Armenians captured by Azerbaijani Armed Forces, the reasonable assumption on the reason of our compatriot’s death becomes clear. My condolences to all of Misha Melkumyan’s relatives.”
10:55 a.m.: Artsrun Hovhannisyan of the Defense Ministry announced that the Azerbaijani side launched an offensive in the north earlier than usual today but was pushed back, leaving dozens of bodies on the battlefield.
11:44 a.m.: Artsrun Hovhannisyan of the Defense Ministry said that tense battles are taking place on the southern front.
National Security Service: Inadmissible to Share Information About Situation on the Front Line
11:45 a.m.: The National Security Service (NSS) informed that Armenian users on various social media platforms are regularly spreading announcements asking for information about the situation on the Artsakh-Azerbaijani Line of Contact, ongoing military operations in Artsakh and the “heroic deeds taking place on the battlefield.” The NSS mentioned a Facebook user by the name of Vahe Petrosyan, who introduces himself as a religious preacher and asks his followers in one of his Facebook Live broadcasts to send him “testimonies” about the soldiers on the front line and “how they were saved thanks to God.”
“We once again remind you that, during war, it is inadmissible to share any information about the situation on the front line, behind the front line, movement of troops, accumulation of people, including information that is seemingly insignificant to others. Such information can directly or indirectly be used for actions undermining the security of the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh,” the statement read.
The NSS is urging the population to be vigilant and refrain from disseminating information about the situation on the front during any communication on social media platforms.
Artsakh Presidential Advisor on the Planned Attack on Shushi
1:35 p.m.: Speaking about the situation in Shushi, Davit Babayan, adviser to the President of Artsakh, said in an interview with Azatutyun that Shushi has a strategic importance for Azerbaijan and that taking control of the ancient capital will solve a number of military-political problems for them. It will allow the Azerbaijani side to have a dominant position over the capital Stepanakert, which could have a negative psychological impact. Earlier, President Arayik Harutyunyan said the “enemy is five kilometers away from Shushi.” Babayan explained that the President wanted to stress that the Azerbaijani side has such aspirations and wants to fulfill them. “The protection of Shushi is a pan-Armenian mission,” he added.
Babayan said that the Azerbaijani side accumulated a large number of forces and equipment to launch the attack against Shushi yesterday but they were all neutralized. That is, the Artsakh Defense Army, along with the civilian militia, have effectively stopped the first planned attack on the city. Babayan urged everyone “to not panic, be vigilant and do everything in their power to contribute to the final victory.” Although Babayan said that the danger has been neutralized for now, it is possible that Azerbaijani forces will plan new attacks.
2:20 p.m.: Artsrun Hovhannisyan of Armenia’s Defense Ministry said that Azerbaijani subversive groups that had been operating in a number of villages east of Karin Tak, were neutralized and pushed back.
Meeting of Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan Kicks Off in Geneva
5 p.m.: According to Foreign Ministry spokesperson Anna Naghdalyan, the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan commenced in Geneva with the mediation and participation of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs.
Former Presidents of Armenia Might Depart to Moscow to Discuss the Situation in Nagorno-Karabakh
5:50 p.m.: Mane Gevorgyan, the Spokesperson of Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, announced that, during a meeting with the PM on October 20, former presidents of Artsakh Arkady Ghukasyan and Bako Sahakyan announced that the first and second presidents of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosyan and Robert Kocharyan want to leave for Moscow to discuss the situation around Nagorno-Karabakh with representatives of the Russian elite and, as a result, offer concrete solutions to the Government of Armenia.
According to Gevorgyan, the former presidents also suggested discussing the results of the possible visit in a meeting of the former and current leaders of the Republic of Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. As the spokesperson noted, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan agreed with the proposal, emphasizing that there cannot be obstacles to any step directed towards the resolution of the situation and he, together with the Government of the Republic of Armenia, are open to proposals for resolving the situation and has never refused discussing such cases.
[Later, it was revealed that Robert Kocharyan has contracted COVID-19 and will not go to Moscow, according to his spokesperson.]
Armenia’s Foreign Minister Meets With President of ICRC in Geneva
7:15 p.m.: On October 30, Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan met with Director of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Peter Mauer in Geneva to discuss the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Mnatsakanyan briefed ICRC President Peter Mauer on Azerbaijan’s war crimes against the people of Artsakh, including gross violations of international humanitarian law, the deliberate targeting of the civilian population of Artsakh by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, the resulting damage, the use of weapons prohibited by international conventions, the humiliating treatment of the civilian population of Artsakh, and the humiliating treatment of prisoners of war. The Minister emphasized that human rights and their protection are universal, regardless of the status of Artsakh.
Referring to Turkey’s destabilizing policy in the South Caucasus and its aspirations to turn the region into a hotbed of terrorism, Mnatsakanyan stressed that Turkey’s direct military involvement in the war unleashed by Azerbaijan’s import of foreign militants from the Middle East poses a serious threat to regional and international security.
The parties stressed the need to implement the ceasefire agreements reached on October 10, October 17 and October 25, as well as the need to resolve the conflict peacefully within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs.
The ICRC President stressed the need to step up diplomatic efforts to implement the ceasefire agreement and the agreement on the collection and exchange of bodies.
7:20 p.m.: According to the Artsakh Infocenter, Azerbaijani forces were more active today on the left flank of the front line towards Berdzor. During military operations, after suffering significant human losses, Azerbaijani forces retreated from their previously-held positions. Military operations to eliminate Azerbaijani subversive units in different areas continued. Also, one unit of military equipment of the Azerbaijani military was destroyed by artillery fire near Tsakhkaberd.
The information was provided by the Artsakh Freedom Fighters Kashatagh Territorial Union.
One Civilian Killed, Six Others Wounded in Aknaghbyur
8:08 p.m.: Artak Beglaryan, Artsakh’s Ombudsman, tweeted that, following Azerbaijani shelling in the direction of Aknaghbyur village in Artsakh, 60-year-old Sergey Balayan was killed and six other civilians were wounded. According to Beglaryan, Azerbaijan continues deliberately targeting civilian areas and populations.
Armenia, Artsakh Ombudsmen Issue Joint Statement
9:50 p.m.: Joint announcement by Armenia’s Ombudsman Arman Tatoyan and Artsakh’s Ombudsman Artak Beglaryan
Today, the Human Rights Defender of Armenia and the Human Rights Ombudsman of Artsakh sent joint invitations to all Heads of diplomatic representations and international organizations accredited in the Republic of Armenia to visit Artsakh.
Since September 27, 2020, the military forces of Azerbaijan have been carrying out targeted and indiscriminate intensive strikes and shelling against civilian settlements and the peaceful population of Armenia and Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh). Attacks are indiscriminate and in most cases targeted with clear purpose to cause as much damage to civilians as possible, including injuries, death and mass destruction.
This is demonstrated not only by the grave consequences of targeted air and artillery attacks, but also by the repeated use of forbidden cluster munitions, cluster warhead missiles toward villages and cities, schools and kindergartens, hospitals and Armenian religious and cultural heritage sites. Attacks on the peaceful population have become more and more intensive.
At least 44 civilians have been killed and 141 injured, including children, women and the elderly, as of October 30. On October 28, the Azerbaijani military heavily struck the Central Hospital and the Maternity Hospital of Stepanakert, as well as residential areas of Stepanakert, Shushi and other communities.
As a result of the Azerbaijani attacks, 24,000 children have been deprived of education and more than 29,000 children had to leave their homes for other communities of Artsakh or for Armenia.
In addition to targeting civilian objects and populations, jihadists and members of terrorist groups from Libya, Afghanistan, northern parts of Syria and other countries, together with members of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces and with the extensive support of Turkey, commit atrocities: beheadings of members of Artsakh Defense Army, mutilations, willful killings of prisoners of war and civilians.
All this is accompanied with widespread hate speech and aggressive calls for violence, including killings, from Turkish and Azerbaijani media and social network sources against ethnic Armenians. Children are targeted with social media attacks illustrating violence and torture. And these efforts enjoy state support from Azerbaijan.
All these factors clearly demonstrate the policy of ethnic cleansing and terror-inspiring means by Azerbaijan against the Armenian civilian population. These have already caused a humanitarian disaster and suffering for tens of thousands of peaceful innocent people, including children, women and elderly.
Thus, we kindly invite all heads of diplomatic missions and international organizations accredited in Armenia [by individual invitations] to carry out a humanitarian mission to Nagorno-Karabakh to verify the real situation with human rights violations, evidence of cluster munitions used and damage caused to the peaceful population of Artsakh.
The Human Rights Defender of Armenia undertakes the responsibility to accompany you to Artsakh, namely Stepanakert and Shushi, and, together with the Human Rights Ombudsman of Artsakh and in close coordination with respective authorities of Armenia and Artsakh, guarantee the security of the mission and ensure its pure humanitarian nature.
It should be ensured that the international principle “No one should be left behind and no human right ignored” is not just a nice expression, but an idea with the purpose of protecting real people in real life.
National Security Advisor Says Any Turkish Mediation or Peacekeeping Role is a Non-Starter
10 p.m.: During a meeting with representatives of the Armenian community in Los Angeles, U.S. President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien said: “Despite Turkish denials that they’ve made to me personally, there are credible reports in the open source press that Turkey has deployed fighters from Syria’s opposition Syrian National Army into the conflict.” O’Brien also said that both sides must maintain the ceasefire, “but this is especially true of Azerbaijan, which today is quite reluctant to agree to a ceasefire without preconditions.”
Regarding Turkish involvement in mediating the situation, O’Brien said: “Any sort of Turkish mediation or peacekeeping role is a non-starter for the United States, as well as for Armenia. We believe that both countries should accept Scandinavian peacekeepers, and we are working with Scandinavian governments to put together a peacekeeping force that could be deployed into the region to keep the ceasefire.”
Defense Ministry Live Press Briefing
10 p.m.: During a live press briefing, Artsrun Hovhannisyan of the Defense Ministry said that Azerbaijani Armed Forces launched an offensive in a number of directions since the early morning. In the north, using infantry, they tried advancing toward a number of military posts but were pushed back after suffering significant losses. Throughout the day, battles continued in the south as well from the direction of the Araks River toward a number of heights. Although Armenian forces have advantages in terms of their positions in this direction, the battles are still ongoing. In the central position, two different processes unfolded. First, in the direction of Martuni and Chartar, Azerbaijani forces tried to break through the battlefield through intensive military operations. Armenian forces fought back and the military positions did not change significantly as a result. At the same time, Artsakh Defense Army units registered successes in the fight against subversive groups in a number of villages and their surrounding forests. The fight against the subversive groups is ongoing.
Hovhannisyan reminded that the mercenary captured by Armenian forces confessed in a video as to who is training them and how they are transferred to the conflict zone. He went on to say that the Armenian side has reliable information that terrorist groups are being used by the Azerbaijani forces to overcome the minefields (he meant they are used as shields against Armenian forces). Hovhannisyan stressed that this has always been the case and that it is critical that the world starts speaking about it. Although the intensity of the war has substantially decreased, the same artillery and air forces continue to be used during battles.
While answering reporters’ questions, Artsrun Hovhannisyan said that there were military operations near Davit Bek village in Armenia’s Syunik region and that Azerbaijani forces had shelled the village. He noted that he does not have information about casualties or damage caused by the shelling.
Regarding a video that has appeared on social media networks of Azerbaijani forces using white phosphorus, causing forests to burn, Hovhannisyan said they are investigating the matter. He added that the use of banned weapons by Azerbaijan targeting Artskah’s peaceful population in Shushi, Stepanakert, Martuni, Martakert, Askeran and other settlements needs to be at the center of the world’s attention as a crime.”The Armenians of Artsakh were subject to Azerbaijani aggression and if someone anywhere in the world still thinks that Artsakh does not have a legitimate right to target and eliminate positions in Azerbaijan’s territory from where the civilian population is targeted then needs just to think about this,” he said.
Hovhannisyan went on to say that there are different military objects located in large cities in Azerbaijan, particularly airports from where F-16s controlled by the Azerbaijani and Turkish Air Forces operate, as proven several times by the Armenian side and the U.S. If there are aggressions from this side toward the population of Artsakh, then it’s Artsakh’s legitimate right to target and eliminate those targets.
Hovhannisyan also noted that the Soviet-era military equipment used by Armenia sometimes miss the targets of military importance, which are located near civilian settlements. But the Azerbaijani side, which has more precise and modern weapons, specifically targets and hits civilian populations. “They definitely did not bomb the church in Shushi or Stepanakert’s Maternity Hospital accidentally. And talks about Artsakh’s Armenian population living peacefully within the Azerbaijan Republic are simply absurd. Let the people in Azerbaijan think about how they will peacefully live with the grandchildren of an old man from Hadrut whom they executed.”
Iran’s Plan for the Settlement of the Karabakh Conflict
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said in an interview with RIA Novosti that the crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh can be resolved at the regional level, with the participation of both Russia and Turkey. The diplomat said that three ceasefire agreements were reached, all of which were violated. He went on to say that the first stage of the Iranian plan focuses on a number of principles and calls on the conflicting countries to prove their adherence to these principles. Some of the principles include ending the occupation, respecting the principles of territorial integrity, sovereignty and inviolability of borders, respecting minority rights and human rights, preventing the attack on civilian settlements and populations, allowing the return of refugees, etc. Already, the second stage of the Iranian plan focuses on the ceasefire between the parties.
Political Discussions Between the Armenian and Iranian Foreign Ministries
The Armenian and Iranian Foreign Ministries held a political discussion. The Armenian delegation was headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharyan and the Iranian delegation was headed by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Seyed Abbas Araghchi.
During the discussion, the parties focused on many issues of the Armenian-Iranian bilateral political agenda. They also touched upon the bilateral economic agenda and exchanged views on other important issues of mutual interest.
The parties stressed the importance of the continuity of bilateral political discussions.
PM Pashinyan: Optimal Solution is the Deployment of Russian Peacekeepers
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan answered questions asked by a number of media outlets: The Telegraph (UK), European Post (Belgium), Foreign Policy (U.S.), Tageblatt (Austria) and Il Giornale (Italy).
Asked about his expectations from the EU, knowing that some EU countries are blocking sanctions against Turkey, Pashinyan said that Armenians are pinning hopes on their own resources and those countries that have reciprocal commitments with Armenia. “…the European Union should take action for itself. It is up to you to make a relevant decision. I am supposed to care about the security of Yerevan, Armenia and the Armenian people; Vienna’s security is not in my working logic. I can only warn you against the imminent threat,” he said. Pashinyan said that, although long-range artillery has not reached Europe, it does not mean that the war has not started yet. “Europe has been living in prosperity for about 60 years, and prosperity prevents us from noticing the war that is taking place in Europe today, because a prosperous person tends to be guided by a ‘wishful thinking logic’ until bombs explode in the courtyards, houses,” he said.
Asked if he could have done anything to prevent the war, Pashinyan said that he could have given up defending the interests of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, but that would not have prevented the war because Azerbaijan is not prepared for any mutual concessions. “I recently made a parallel between the Munich Agreement and our situation. Before the outbreak of World War II, the European powers thought that, by ceding Czechoslovakia to Hitler, they could [appease] his appetite and there would be no war in Europe. And what happened as a result? Hitler swallowed Czechoslovakia and, as the other saying goes, appetite is aroused when eating. If the European leaders had not surrendered Czechoslovakia, and a war started, journalists like you would say, ‘Is there anything you could do better? For instance, why did you not surrender Czechoslovakia?’ While the questioned leaders would say, ‘Yes, we should have been a little more flexible in the case of Czechoslovakia…’ We are not going to concede Czechoslovakia to anyone,” he said.
Regarding Moscow’s intervention to help Armenia, either on a humanitarian or military level, Prime Minister Pashinyan said that this must be viewed in different ways. “There is Moscow as an OSCE Minsk Group co-chair and there is Moscow, which is Armenia’s strategic partner. Moscow the co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group is a mediator; it must act in the logic of balancing, which is understandable. And I said that I am for the deployment of Russian peacekeepers to the conflict zone. But the problem is that the deployment of Russian peacekeepers has to be acceptable to all parties to the conflict. In fact, it is acceptable for Armenia, for Karabakh, and it can happen, as our Russian colleagues stated, if Azerbaijan agrees to it, too. And in general, any peacekeeper can be deployed with the consent of the parties. As far as Armenia’s strategic partner is concerned, Moscow will fulfill its commitments in the event of a real threat to Armenia’s territorial integrity, including through military means,” he said.
Armenia’s Foreign Minister Met With Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran
Armenia’s Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan met with Foreign Deputy Minister of Iran Abbas Araghchi in Armenia’s capital Yerevan.
According to Armenia’s Foreign Ministry, the two ministers discussed the situation around the Nagorno-Karabakh war and security issues in the region. Both sides expressed concern about the presence of international terrorists from the Middle East in the region, considering it a serious threat.
Mnatsakanyan stated that Armenia “understands Iran’s sensitivity toward new security threats in the region” and stressed the importance of Iran’s role in maintaining stability and peace in the region.
Araghchi presented Iran’s approach on how to overcome the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and establish a ceasefire. Mnatsakanyan stated that the Armenian side will look into Iran’s plan in detail.
Mnatsakanyan informed Araghchi about his planned meeting with OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs in Geneva on October 30 and that negotiations will continue in this format.
Canadian Senate on Recognition of Artsakh
Conservative Senator Leo Housakos called on Canada to recognize the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh and “immediately condemn the joint Azerbaijani-Turkish aggression.” The motion, presented by Housakos in the Senate on Tuesday, calls upon the federal government to “recognize the Republic of Artsakh’s inalienable right to self-determination and, in light of the increased escalation and continued targeting of innocent Armenian civilians, recognize the independence of the Republic of Artsakh.”
Housakos said that, if the war continues and the Turkish-backed Azerbaijani forces and foreign jihadist mercenaries enter the Republic of Artsakh, “a second genocide of the Armenian people will take place.” As he added, upholding the right to self-determination and recognizing the Republic of Artsakh as a free, sovereign state is the only viable and long-lasting solution to this conflict.
The non-binding motion also calls on Ottawa to uphold a permanent ban on military exports to Turkey.
Amnesty International Confirms Armenia Used Cluster Munitions
Amnesty International has confirmed use of cluster munitions by Armenia, calling it “cruel and reckless.” The full statement reads as follows:
Amnesty International has verified the use of banned cluster bombs by Armenia for the first time in the current Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, following an attack on the city of Barda in Azerbaijan.
Yesterday (28 October 2020), at approximately 1:30 p.m. local time, one or several Smerch rockets were fired into Barda, striking a residential neighbourhood close to a hospital. The Azerbaijani Prosecutor General’s Office has stated that at least 21 people were killed, with an estimated 70 more injured.
Amnesty International’s Crisis Response experts verified pictures (taken by Vice News reporters in the city) of fragments of 9N235 cluster munitions from Russian-made 9M55 Smerch rockets, that appear to have been fired into the city by Armenian forces.
“The firing of cluster munitions into civilian areas is cruel and reckless, and causes untold death, injury and misery,” said Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
“As this conflict continues to escalate, Armenian, Armenian-backed and Azerbaijani forces have all been guilty of using banned weapons that have endangered the lives of civilians caught in the middle.
“Cluster munitions are inherently indiscriminate weapons, and their use in any circumstances is banned under international humanitarian law. We are again calling on both sides to immediately stop using cluster munitions, and to prioritize the protection of civilians.”
On 5 October, Amnesty International identified M095 DPICM cluster munitions that appear to have been fired by Azerbaijani forces into the city of Stepanakert, the regional capital of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Last week, Amnesty International also called for both Armenia and Azerbaijan to immediately stop the use of heavy explosive weapons with wide-area effects in densely populated civilian areas.
On 27 September, heavy fighting erupted between Azerbaijan and Armenia and Armenian-supported forces in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. In the last month, both sides involved in the conflict have exchanged artillery and rocket fire.
Amnesty International has called on all sides to the conflict to fully respect international humanitarian law, and to protect civilians from the effects of hostilities.
Cluster munitions are inherently indiscriminate weapons that inflict suffering for civilian populations years after their use, and are internationally banned by a treaty backed by more than 100 states. Amnesty International is calling on both Armenia and Azerbaijan to become parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
Cluster munitions scatter hundreds of bomblets, or submunitions, over a wide area. It is estimated that between 5 and 20 percent of cluster bomblets fail to explode. They are then left behind, posing a threat to civilians similar to that of anti-personnel landmines.
The use of these weapons violates the prohibition of indiscriminate attack because of the wide area covered by the numerous bomblets released, and the danger posed to all who come into contact with the unexploded munitions.
New York City Council Resolution
Paul Vallone, a member of the New York City Council, introduced a resolution calling on President Trump and Congress to “work towards a lasting ceasefire and peaceful resolution” and noting an estimated 10,000 people of Armenian descent live in NYC. A date is yet to be set for a Council vote on Vallone’s resolution.