Lake Sev is Not a Disputed Territory

7 m.   |  2021-05-20

I t’s has been a week since a group of Azerbaijani servicemen, occupied some positions on the northern border of Syunik region, near Sev Lake, violating the state border of the Republic of Armenia. On both the military and administrative maps of the Soviet Union, the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan passes through Lake Sev, most of which is in Armenia. The Azerbaijani side tries to substantiate its encroachments with a map, where the lake and the hills to the east of the lake are “in their territory”. A few days ago, General Staff of Armenian Armed Forces gave detailed clarifications on the issue, showing maps certifying the border division of Soviet Armenia and Soviet Azerbaijan. The maps published in 1929, 1969 and 1970 were ratified by Secretaries of the Presidencies of the Supreme Councils of Soviet Armenia and Soviet Azerbaijan. The maps are sealed, signed and have all the necessary markings, which is missing in the Azerbaijani version.

Black Lake and surrounding areas on the map based on the coordinate system of the General Staff of the USSR from 1942 (J-38-21, Goris). You can see that the main part of the lake, as well as the hills to the south and south-east of the lake, which have been occupied by Azerbaijan, are within the borders of Soviet Armenia.

Notwithstanding the negotiations and the responses by international organizations and various countries, Azerbaijani servicemen are still in the Armenian territory. Taron Hovhannisyan, an expert on regional issues at Orbeli Analytical Center, was in Syunik region for a few days and presented the situation in the section of Sev Lake.

“Azerbaijani servicemen are on the east and south-east side of the lake and have no advance in the western direction. Geographical location and relief create difficulties. To the west is the Greater and Small Ishkhanasar massif and to the western side of the lake are the units of the Armenian Army. That is, the western and southwestern part of the lake is under the control of the Armenian side. Azerbaijani servicemen most likely took advantage of the terrain and weather conditions and after emerging from the east, moved to the west, occupying several heights (particularly the head of Dzagedzor, which is the third highest in the area after the Greater and Small Ishkhanasar) in the territory of the Republic of Armenia.”

Geolocation of the major points occupied by Azerbaijani saboteurs based on open source footage and our experts' visit to Sev Lake.

The picture shows the Dzagedzor head of the RA Syunik region (3232m, 39°34'44.73"N 46°14'2.81"E) and the adjacent 2924m (39°34'26.89"N 46°15'26.48"E) heights, occupied by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces. The heights are located to south and south-west of Lake Sev.

The Azerbaijani military emerging about 3.5 km. to the east, spread to the villages of Khoznavar and Verishen. From there, several groups moved south-west, the Dzagedzor head, the adjacent heights of which are under the control of the Armenian Armed Forces.

According to the video published by Zangezur TV, there is also another hill (39°35'50.81"N  46°17'17.29"E) occupied by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, located south-east of the Lake Sev, again in the territory of Armenia. You can see that the roads and the opposite hills totally coincide.

As it can be seen from the video screen capture above, the Azerbaijani saboteurs who encroached on Armenia-proper are on the same hill, and Armenian servicemen are stationed right at the fore.

Azerbaijani presented a map, where Lake Sev is allegedly in the “Azerbaijani territory”. “However the study of the maps of the former USSR General Staff and other maps published in open sources shows that that this part has never been part of Soviet Azerbaijan”, said the expert. “We also know that between 1920-40, the borders have significantly been changed to the detriment of Soviet Armenia. For instance, significant territories were given to Azerbaijan in the section of Al Lakes, Vardenis, Goris, Kapan, etc. Initially, this was done due to the development of cattle breeding in the Kurdish province, however later, after the dissolution of Red Kurdistan, these areas passed to Soviet Azerbaijan, where then Azerbaijanis settled”, added Taron Hovhannisyan.

Geolocation of the above-mentioned hill was found through both-side observation based on the video. It shows the road passing through the eastern foothill. Therefore the shooting was carried out from the given location; 39°35'49.31"N  46°17'27.77"E.

The Republic of Armenia has officially applied to the CSTO. What developments may take place?

“They apply on the basis of Article 2, if the member-state has a security threat, Article 4, if there is a direct military attack”, said Hovhannisyan. “However, it should also be noted that the CSTO is not effective enough for a number of reasons. First, some of the member states (e.g. Belarus, Kazakhstan) have closer economic and military ties with Azerbaijan than with Armenia. These days, the Azerbaijani leadership talked to the President of Kazakhstan, and in May 18, Belarus’ Defense Minister arrived in Azerbaijan, while Azerbaijan took aggressive steps towards their member state”.

According to Taron Hovhannisyan, the CSTO should express its position more clearly, otherwise, there the impression may be confirmed that it is not effective. Besides the CSTO, Armenia also applied to the Russian Federation.

This map is part of the Atlas of the Soviet Union, published in 1928 by the approval of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR. It clearly shows that both the section of Al Lakes, the territory of Lake Sev and other territories in the south and south-east were included in the territory of the ASSR. Атлас Союза Советских Социалистических Республик / [сост. и награв. в картоизд-ве НКВД РСФСР ; авт. предисл. А. Енукидзе]. - [М-бы разные]. - Москва : Изд. ЦИК СССР, 1928 (напеч. Упр. гос. знаков "ГОЗНАК": ) ., стр. 93

A number of Western countries have responded to the developments around border violations in recent days. What can be expected from it?

“After the war unleashed against Artsakh by Azerbaijan in autumn 2020, the United States and France were left out of the OSCE Minsk Group’s negotiation process. Azerbaijan rejects them, but Armenia claims that the OSCE Minsk Group format should be restored, which the Russian Federation is also in favor of. France criticizes Azerbaijan for destabilizing the situation. The US also criticizes, however its calls are addressed to both sides, even though Azerbaijan has violated the state border of the Republic of Armenia.”

Our interlocutor also stated that there are no disputed territories in these areas, as there have never been included in Azerbaijan, so “disputed territory” wording is wrong. “Disputed territory” concept is applicable in case of Al Lakes, to which the Armenian Republic may present its rights. Al Lakes were illegally transferred to Soviet Azerbaijan. “Some areas to the east of Kapan, as well as some areas to the east of Shurnukh to Kashatagh region (formerly Kubatlu in Soviet Azerbaijan), which were given to Azerbaijan by the decision of the Soviet central authorities can be considered disputed, without taking into consideration numerous complaints and objections of Soviet Armenia”, clarified Taron Hovhannisyan.

Groups of Azerbaijani Army also entered the territory of the Republic of Armenia in several parts of Gegharkunik region, which has never been part of Azerbaijan either.