Azerbaijan and Armenia are continuing to swap threats following the 12 November shooting down of a helicopter from the disputed Armenian-populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh by the Azeri armed forces. The Armenian and Karabakh authorities say that the Mi-24 helicopter was unarmed and was on a training mission; Azerbaijan says that it was shot down after it attacked Azeri positions along the ‘contact line’ dividing the two sides in the conflict.
On 17 November, the Armenian Mediamax news agency reported the president of Nagorno-Karabakh, Bako Sahakyan, as saying that Azerbaijan will not remain “without response” to the shooting down and warning that Azerbaijan’s “demeanour…poses a threat to maintaining stability and peace in the region”.
On the same day, the Azerbaijani news agency APA reported the Defence Ministry’s press service as saying that “if Armenia once again resorts to any military operation, the Azerbaijan armed forces’ immediate strike to the invaders will be extremely effective and destructive, leading to heavy losses and destruction they cannot forget for a long time”.
The Azeri statement quoted by APA went on to say: “The Defence Ministry officially states that the adversary must realize the importance of the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of its troops from the occupied territories and not get the Armenian youth killed in vain... The Azerbaijani armed forces are able and are ready to prevent any act of provocation by the adversary."
Our 13 November Intelligence Brief noted a recent improvement in ties between Azerbaijan, on the one hand, and Russia and Iran on the other. Russia and Iran have in the past sided with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. Iran’s President Hassan Rowhani has recently visited Baku to seek better ties with Azerbaijan; and Moscow, Baku, and Tehran are cooperating over a project to link Iran’s railway system to Russia via Azerbaijan. In September, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin highlighted the importance of the project at the Caspian Summit in Astrakhan. Putin said: "The work on the western semicircle linking Azerbaijan and Iran should be completed in 2016. The aim is to link the main Caspian ports to cut freight transport times and costs considerably and thereby help to make our economies more competitive."
At the same summit, Rowhani told Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev: "The security and development of Iran and Azerbaijan are interconnected and we should not allow those countries that are against progress in Tehran-Baku friendly relations to disrupt such ties."