EU authorises another monitoring mission to Armenia-Azerbaijan border

EU authorises another monitoring mission to Armenia-Azerbaijan border
The EUMA mission will conduct routine patrolling and report on the situation, strengthening the EU's understanding of the situation on the ground. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews January 24, 2023

The European Council is establishing a civilian European Union Mission in Armenia (EUMA) under the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP).

The goal of the mission is to contribute to stability in the border areas of Armenia, build confidence on the ground, and ensure an environment conducive to normalisation efforts between Armenia and Azerbaijan supported by the EU, the Council said in a press release on January 23. 

Establishing an EU mission in Armenia launches a new phase in the EU's engagement in the South Caucasus. The EU will continue to support de-escalation efforts and is committed to working closely with both sides towards sustainable peace in the region.

In response to Armenia's request, EUMA will conduct routine patrolling and report on the situation, strengthening the EU's understanding of the situation on the ground. The mission will also contribute to the mediation efforts in the framework of the process led by the President of the European Council Charles Michel.

EUMA will have an initial mandate of two years, and its operational headquarters will be in Armenia. The Civilian Operation Commander will be Stefano Tomat, EEAS Managing Director of the Civilian Planning and Conduct Capability (CPCC). A head of mission leading operations on the ground will be appointed soon.

"We very much welcome the European Union's decision to send a fully-fledged civilian mission to Armenia. We will readily cooperate with the mission and support its activities. This mission will contribute to the peace, stability and security of the region," posted Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ararat Mirzoyan on Twitter. 

During the European Political Community meeting in Prague on October 6, 2022, the Republic of Armenia and Azerbaijan confirmed their commitment to the UN Charter and the CIS Alma-Ata Declaration of December 21 1991, through which both states recognised each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty. Armenia also agreed to facilitate a civilian EU mission alongside the border with Azerbaijan.

In contrast, Azerbaijan decided to cooperate with this mission, as far as it is concerned, for a maximum period of two months. The number of deployed observers is unknown. RFE/RL's Armenian Service wrote that according to their sources in the EU, it would likely involve about 200 civilian monitors who will start their work by February 20.

At the Foreign Affairs Council on October 17, the EU decided to set up the EU Monitoring Capacity in Armenia (EUMCAP) by deploying in Armenia EU observers from the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) in Georgia.

The EUMCAP became fully operational on October 20, 2022. It conducted 176 patrols and completed its activities, as agreed in Prague, on December 19 2022.

In a letter to the high representative received on December 27, 2022, the Armenian foreign minister invited the EU to deploy a civilian CSDP mission in Armenia.

The EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, did not rule out a "longer-term EU mission in Armenia" when the monitors completed their mandate on December 19. EU representatives afterwards visited Yerevan to discuss such a possibility with Armenian officials.

Earlier in January, Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev criticised the EU's plans to again monitor the volatile border from the Armenian side without Baku's consent. According to Aliyev, such a move "will not improve security" and will only complicate further EU mediation of Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks.

Russia similarly condemned Yerevan for seeking another EU monitoring mission. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned last week that it "could produce the opposite results and create additional problems instead of boosting confidence".

Lavrov also underlined that Russia and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russia-led military block that Armenia is a part of, had offered to send a team of monitors during a summit of the CSTO held in Yerevan in November. He said Armenia cold-shouldered the offer because its ex-Soviet allies refused to voice "tough criticism" of Azerbaijani military operations along the frontier.

Armenia has been increasingly unhappy with the CSTO since the latter failed to come to the country's aid when officially summoned during the Azerbaijani invasion of Armenia's own territory in September 2022. Armenia also recently refused to allow CSTO joint drills to take place in the country.