YEREVAN — The European Union will likely send next month a new and larger monitoring team to Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan in an effort to ease lingering tensions there, sources told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Tuesday.
The EU already deployed 40 civilian monitors to Armenian border areas in late October on a two-month mission agreed during an Armenian-Azerbaijani summit organized in Prague by EU head Charles Michel and French President Emmanuel Macron. The agreement followed the September border clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces which left more than 300 soldiers dead.
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, did not rule out a “longer term EU mission in Armenia” in the near future when the monitors completed their mandate on December 19. EU representatives afterwards visited Yerevan to discuss such a possibility with Armenian officials.
The sources said that a crisis management committee of the EU’s top decision-making body, the European Council, on Monday formally recommended the dispatch of another, 200-strong team of monitors to Armenia, saying that their presence would lower the risk of fresh armed incidents on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. They said that the foreign ministers of EU member states are expected to discuss the proposal in Brussels on January 23.
The new mission, if confirmed, will be launched on February 20 and last for at least two years, the sources told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev last week blasted the EU’s plans to again monitor the volatile border from the Armenian side without Baku’s consent. He threatened to block further EU mediation of Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks.
“The dispatch of that mission is certainly very unpleasant,” said Aliyev. “It will not improve security and will on the contrary undermine the format of negotiations.”
The Armenian government has praised the work of the European monitors deployed last fall. It should therefore welcome the larger mission planned by the EU.