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Gen. Levon Mnatsakanyan, commander of the Defense Army of Nagorno Karabakh, discussed his forces’ readiness and possible military scenarios in an interview with Armenia’s Public Television that aired on July 29.
The general said that in case of a fresh Azerbaijani attack on Karabakh, Armenian forces will counter-attack across the Line of Contact and seek to expand the existing “security zone.”
In a report published on June 1, the International Crisis Group noted that “an internal consensus emerged within the de facto Nagorno-Karabakh leadership that – in the event of an Azerbaijani attack – the Armenian side should not only defend their positions, but also attempt to advance deeper into Azerbaijan.” At the same time, Mnatsakanyan acknowledged that Azerbaijani forces were also preparing for both offensive and defensive scenarios, with fortifications being built at 5 to 15 kilometers inside Azerbaijani-controlled territory.
Following the April 2, 2016 Azerbaijani attack, Armenian forces focused on recapturing frontline positions lost in the first hours of fighting and did not attempt to attack across the LoC.
Mnatsakanyan also insisted that with new “early warning” observation systems in his army’s possession, Azerbaijani forces would not be able to catch the Armenian side by surprise again.
Asked about the July 4 incident when two Azerbaijani civilians were killed by Armenian mortar fire, Mnatsakanyan again insisted that his forces did not fight against civilians and that he was “pained” by the deaths. He repeated, however, that his forces would continue to return fire when fired upon by Azerbaijani artillery even if it is positioned in residential areas.
In the meantime, the Karabakh frontline has remained calm with no serious incidents reported since mid-July. Tensions have instead shifted to Armenia’s northeastern Tavush province, where several villages and frontline positions have come under fire since July 20.