MOSCOW, (BM) – More than a hundred servicemen from Russia and Turkey will monitor the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh around the clock in real-time, learned BulgarianMilitary.com citing Izvestia. And also consider issues related to violations of peace agreements. Izvestia attended the joint monitoring center’s opening and, in particular, learned what tasks the drones of the two countries will solve. And why the center has two chiefs at once.
At the very edge
The Joint Russian-Turkish Center [SRTC] locates on Azerbaijan’s territory near the contact line between the parties. The place of his deployment is the village of Marzili, Aghdam region. From SRTC to Stepanakert, Shushi, and Lachin corridor, there are only several tens of kilometers.
Russia and Turkey decided to form the center immediately after the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh. On November 11, 2020, Turkey and Russia’s military departments signed a memorandum on establishing the Joint Russian-Turkish Center to Control the Ceasefire and All Military Operations in the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict Zone. As Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu noted at the time, the SRTC “will form a solid basis for resolving the long-standing conflict.”
Moscow and Turkey spent almost three months on the project’s technical approval and infrastructure and a military camp. On January 30, Azerbaijani Defense Minister Colonel General Zakir Hasanov, Deputy Head of the Russian Defense Ministry Colonel General Alexander Fomin, and Turkish Deputy Defense Ministry Yunus Emre Karaosmanoglu officially opened the center. On the same day, the Russian and Turkish military took up joint duty.
The importance of the work of the SRTC can hardly be overestimated. Thus, in his speech, Alexander Fomin stressed that the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh was the longest and bloodiest in the post-Soviet space. And his Turkish counterpart Yunus Emre Karaosmanoglu noted that Moscow and Ankara already have a successful joint action experience to maintain peace, particularly in Syria.
“Our task is to control the regime of compliance with fire and all hostilities on the contact’s line. The center provides with the necessary weapons and military equipment, as well as material resources,” Colonel Zavalkin, a representative of the Russian part of the SRTC, told Izvestia.
Azerbaijan undertook the construction of the center itself and the infrastructure and residences of Russian and Turkish service members. All technical work took about a month. During this time, in a field near the village of Marzili, a site was asphalted, where then several dozen module houses were placed.
The Russian contingent includes 60 people, the same number from the Turkish side. It is noteworthy that the joint center does not have a single head. The Russian and Turkish contingents have their commanders and headquarters. Therefore, the territory invisibly divides into two parts. On the right – “Russian,” on the left – “Turkish.”
The primary “weapon” of the SRTC is unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs]. “We are monitoring the situation on the line of contact with the help of UAVs such as “Orlan-10” and “Outpost.” Our drone launch sites are near the center. But the Turkish side plans to use Bayktar-type drones for monitoring,” Colonel Zavalkin said.
According to Izvestia’s interlocutor, modern Russian drones’ capabilities make it possible to monitor the situation on the front line day and night in any weather conditions.
The UAV sends the information to the Russian contingent’s headquarters, processed, and further transmitted to the monitoring center. Service members of the two countries are on duty there around the clock. There are also two offices here: one of the Russian general, the other of the Turkish.
When Armenia and Azerbaijan violate the truce, the monitoring center duty shift decides what to do in this situation. In this matter, the SRTC command has the broadest powers. For example, you can contact the Russian peacekeepers base or go straight to Armenia and Azerbaijan’s defense departments.
Now the Russian contingent is mainly staffed by servicemen from the Southern Military District. It includes operators of unmanned systems and experienced “staff officers,” translators, and specialists in communications, logistics, etc. The term of a business trip is 60 days.
According to Colonel Zavalkin, the Russian headquarters and the monitoring center’s change lasts half a day; the watch starts at 9 and 21 hours.
Azerbaijan understands very well the importance of the center, as well as how difficult it is to serve there. Therefore, the national military department tried to organize the maximum comfort for the Russian and Turkish military, took upon itself all the issues of material and technical support.
The fighters live in three-room modules. Two rooms have sleeping places for two people. In addition to beds, they have TVs, split systems, refrigerators, and wardrobes. The third room is a combined shower and toilet. Also, on the territory of the SRTC, there are leisure modules and prayer rooms. There is also a well-equipped medical center.
Azerbaijan and Armenia had conflicted for Nagorno-Karabakh since February 1988, when the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region announced its withdrawal from the Azerbaijan SSR.
During the armed conflict in 1992-1994, the Azerbaijani side lost control of Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven areas. Since 1992, negotiations were conducted within the OSCE Minsk Group framework on a peaceful conflict settlement. The group led by co-chairs – Russia, the USA, and France.
In 1994, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, through Russia’s mediation, signed the Bishkek Armistice Protocol. At the same time, military operations did not stop there, which periodically renewed. The most significant exacerbation of the conflict was the four-day war of 2016. Then hundreds of soldiers on both sides became victims.
During a meeting with the President of Azerbaijan last year, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for rhetoric that would go against the fundamental principles endorsed by both sides and enshrined in the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act when resolving the situation around Nagorno-Karabakh. Simultaneously, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry admitted that much more needs to be done to achieve a long-term political settlement.
The situation in Nagorno-Karabakh escalated on September 27, 2020, active clashes are taking place in the disputed territory. Martial law introduced in Azerbaijan and Armenia and both countries announced mobilization. Both sides reported killed and wounded, including civilians. In Baku, they told the control of several Karabakh villages and strategic heights. Yerevan also says about the shelling of the territory of Armenia. After six weeks of fighting, Baku gained a significant advantage and territorial gains. A trilateral peace agreement was signed on the night of November 9-10, 2020.
It led to a ceasefire and deployed Russian peacekeepers in the region to remain there for at least five years. Armenia undertook to transfer to Azerbaijan the occupied territories in Nagorno-Karabakh and three adjacent areas. The road connecting Armenia with the separatist region’s capital, Stepanakert, is protected by Russian troops.
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