CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, an early warning tool designed to help prevent deadly violence. It keeps decision-makers up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises every month, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace. In addition, CrisisWatch monitors over 50 situations (“standby monitoring”) to offer timely information if developments indicate a drift toward violence or instability. Entries dating back to 2003 provide easily searchable conflict histories.
Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on provisional measures for ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh (NK).
International Court of Justice announced provisional measures for NK. Following Armenia’s Oct submission to ICJ requesting provisional measures against Azerbaijan for what it calls “ethnic cleansing” in NK, ICJ 17 Nov published preliminary order: court decided that Azerbaijan should ensure free return and departure of ethnic Armenians from NK, along with protection of those who decide to stay; it also called on Azerbaijan to preserve their “registration, identity and private property documents”. ICJ ordered Azerbaijan to submit report to Court in two months. Baku same day welcomed decision, highlighting how court had “reconfirmed Azerbaijan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and rejected Armenia’s call for Azerbaijan to withdraw troops from NK, protect cultural sites and release all military and civilian detainees.
Azerbaijan handed out fifteen-year sentence for war crimes in first NK war. Baku court 7 Nov sentenced ethnic Armenian from NK Vagif Khachatryan, arrested in July while travelling along Lachin road to Armenia for medical treatment, to fifteen years in prison for alleged involvement in 1991 Meshali massacre; according to court, Armenian armed attack on Meshali village killed 25 Azerbaijanis, injured fourteen and forcibly expelled 358 people. Khachatryan has repeatedly denied all charges.
President Aliyev visited Nagorno-Karabakh following military offensive in September, Baku unveiled reintegration plan for ethnic Armenians, and speculation mounted about future of Russian peacekeepers.
Azerbaijani leader raised national flag in empty towns across Nagorno-Karabakh. Following Azerbaijan’s one-day military offensive in Sept that ended Nagorno-Karabakh’s (NK) de facto self-governance, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev 15 Oct visited enclave. He raised Azerbaijani flags in various abandoned towns and delivered speech from main city of Stepanakert, known as Khankendi to Azerbaijanis, proclaiming nation had “fulfilled the decades-long wish of the Azerbaijani people” and announcing appointment of Maj Gen Sardar Safarov as new commandant.
Baku’s integration plans for ethnic Armenians rang hollow amid mass exodus. Baku 2 Oct unveiled plan for integrating NK’s ethnic Armenian population into Azerbaijan, promising to ensure equal rights regardless of ethnicity, religion or language; document also outlined plans for governance, security, taxation and cultural rights, and vowed to protect Armenian cultural and religious sites. Almost all residents had fled enclave by early Oct, however, leaving virtually no one left for Azerbaijan to integrate.
Future of Russian peacekeepers remained uncertain. Mass exodus from NK triggered speculation about future of Russian peacekeepers stationed in enclave. Moscow continued to insist that any decision about their future would be made with Baku and denied any intent to exit prematurely; 11 Oct it clarified that peacekeepers’ activities “will be adapted” given that “conditions under which the Russian peacekeeping contingent was deployed to the region have changed”. Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan previous day dismissed possibility of Russian redeployment to Armenia amid mounting concern in Yerevan.
Armenia condemned arrest of former NK officials. Armenia 4 Oct condemned Azerbaijan’s late Sept arrests of several former NK leaders; Azerbaijan same day justified actions, saying detainees were accused of serious abuses, including war crimes. Military court in Baku 17 Oct began trial of NK resident Vagif Khachatryan, arrested late July for alleged war crimes.
Azerbaijan launched military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh, claiming victory after 24 hours and ending three decades of de-facto self-governance; mass exodus followed.
Azerbaijan’s 24-hour offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh ended de facto self-rule. Baku 19 Sept launched “anti-terrorist” campaign in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK), attacking territory with heavy bombardment and ground offensive. 24 hours later, Azerbaijani forces had advanced to outskirts of Stepanakert city, forcing de facto authorities 20 Sept to surrender in Russian-brokered ceasefire. Fighting reportedly left hundreds dead and many more wounded. Baku and Stepanakert held follow up talks and on 28 Sept, de facto leaders announced their self-declared govt would “cease to exist” by Jan 2024.
Military offensive followed escalating tensions and intense diplomacy. Initial signs early Sept raised fears of new war. Officials in Yerevan start of Sept reported military build-up in several areas along Armenia-Azerbaijan border (see Armenia, Azerbaijan), while de facto authorities in NK 5 Sept released video showing movement of Azerbaijani armoured vehicles near frontline; EU civilian monitoring mission 7 Sept echoed concerns about stepped-up tensions. Despite intensive EU and U.S. diplomacy to avert conflict, including agreement that led to humanitarian deliveries 18 Sept into NK, Azerbaijan launched offensive.
Humanitarian crisis exploded. Humanitarian crisis, already fraught due to Baku’s blockade of Lachin corridor connecting Armenia with NK, escalated. Stepanakert flooded with ethnic Armenians from villages seized by Azerbaijani forces amid scarce supplies of food, medicine and electricity. Azerbaijan 26 Sept announced measures to respond to needs but failed to appease locals, whose fears for their future under Baku’s rule mounted after its forces 26 Sept detained former de facto senior official Ruben Vardanyan as he tried to leave. Beginning 24 Sept, locals streamed out of enclave and as of 30 Sept, over 100,000 had crossed into Armenia; many more expected in coming weeks (see Armenia).
Baku’s actions drew mixed responses from international community. EU and U.S. condemned offensive; Turkish President Erdoğan 20 Sept expressed his support for Azerbaijan before 25 Sept meeting with Azerbaijani President Aliyev in Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave; and Moscow refrained from criticising Baku, 25 Sept criticised Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan’s “reckless approach” toward NK.
Escalating humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh triggered emergency session at UN Security Council (UNSC); de facto authorities and Baku remained at loggerheads.
Humanitarian crisis deteriorated further. Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) continued to experience acute shortages of food, fuel and medical supplies due to Baku’s blockade of Lachin road, which connects NK to Armenia, fuelling humanitarian crisis. International Committee of Red Cross, unable to deliver aid since late July, 18 Aug reiterated appeal to resume assistance. Baku 30 Aug blocked French humanitarian convoy from entering NK via Lachin. Azerbaijani Red Crescent society 29 Aug sent food trucks via Agdam road, which connects NK to Azerbaijan-controlled Agdam region; de facto authorities 30 Aug declared it would not accept aid (many in Armenia and NK view Baku’s preference for Agdam route as tactic to integrate enclave into Azerbaijan and entrench Lachin blockade). Meanwhile, Azerbaijani border guards 28 Aug detained three ethnic Armenians from NK as they attempted to cross Lachin checkpoint; detainees allegedly members of football team filmed stepping on Azerbaijani flag in 2021.
UNSC failed to pass NK resolution during emergency session. UNSC 16 Aug held emergency session on crisis at Yerevan’s request, highlighting worsening humanitarian situation and urging resumption of aid deliveries but failing to pass resolution. Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan 17 Aug said UNSC “reaffirmed the existence of a humanitarian crisis”, which therefore contradicted Azerbaijan’s denial of blockade; Azerbaijan same day dismissed Armenia’s failed “attempt to instrumentalise” UNSC.
Baku and Stepanakert disagreed on proposal to resolve crisis. Azerbaijani foreign ministry 11 Aug announced that international “shuttle diplomacy” had produced deal to resolve crisis; agreement (based on Russian proposal put forward in July) envisioned opening Agdam road and in reciprocation, 24 hours later, traffic through Lachin road would be allowed to increase. Despite reportedly considering proposal, de facto authorities 17 Aug rejected it on grounds it gave Baku full control over deliveries via both roads; Baku consequently accused Stepanakert of sabotaging efforts to resolve crisis. De facto leader of NK Arayik Harutyunyan 31 Aug announced intention to resign, marking further blow to work on resolving crisis. Meanwhile, de facto forces and Azerbaijan throughout month traded blame for near daily “ceasefire violations”.
Lachin blockade continued to aggravate humanitarian suffering, tensions between Baku and de facto authorities ran high, and Armenia-Azerbaijan talks continued amid international pressure.
Humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) deteriorated. NK residents continued to face severe shortages of food, electricity and medical supplies due to Azerbaijan’s blockade of Lachin corridor connecting NK with Armenia. Azerbaijan 11 July suspended International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) deliveries after contracted drivers attempted to smuggle cigarettes and mobile phones into enclave; ICRC same day acknowledged wrongdoing and humanitarian operations restarted 14 July. ICRC 25 July said it was again unable to deliver aid and warned of humanitarian consequences. Situation worsened after Azerbaijani forces 29 July arrested NK resident, Vagif Khachatryan, whom ICRC was evacuating for urgent medical treatment in Armenia; all medical evacuations were halted and had not resumed by end of month. Yerevan and Stepanakert 29 July said move violated international law but Baku justified arrest, accusing Khachatryan of genocide and ethnic cleansing during first NK war.
Baku and Stepanakert traded blame for multiple incidents throughout July. Baku and de facto authorities throughout month traded blame for clashes along line of contact, while Baku accused de facto forces of attempting to install fortifications. De facto authorities throughout month claimed Azerbaijani forces attacked farmers working near front. More clashes occurred between Armenia and Azerbaijan along border (see Armenia and Azerbaijan).
Armenia and Azerbaijan continued to engage in high-level dialogue. Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders 15 July convened in Brussels for talks mediated by European Council President Charles Michel (see Armenia and Azerbaijan). Michel reiterated need to unblock Lachin road and noted possibility of sending aid to enclave from Azerbaijan-controlled Agdam region, saying “both options [are] important … to ensure the needs of the population are met”; EU High Representative Joseph Borrell 26 July warned that Agdam route “should not be seen as an alternative to the reopening of Lachin” after Baku earlier that day began blocking humanitarian convoy from Yerevan on Lachin, arguing aid should be delivered via Agdam. Meanwhile, Russia 25 July held talks with Armenian and Azerbaijani FMs in Moscow; meeting produced no tangible results.
Azerbaijan’s blockade of Lachin corridor continued to fuel tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) as sides exchanged fire across territory.
Tensions ran high amid Baku’s restrictions along Lachin corridor. Russian Foreign Ministry 14 June urged Azerbaijan to “completely unblock” Lachin corridor connecting NK to Armenia and “not to hold Karabakh’s population hostage”. Azerbaijan 15 June reported injury of solider at its border checkpoint on Lachin road after shots were allegedly fired from Armenian territory; Armenia same day reported injury of its soldier in same incident, alleging Azerbaijanis sought to advance into Armenian territory to plant flag. Following incident, Azerbaijan closed all traffic on Lachin road; de facto NK authorities 16 June accused Azerbaijan of fully shutting corridor for food and medical supplies, including for “all humanitarian transport”, while International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) same day confirmed inability to pass with medical patients. EU 23 June said “near total blockage” of corridor “directly threatens the livelihoods of the local population”. Azerbaijan 25 June restored passage through Lachin checkpoint, allowing ICRC to go into Armenia with 31 patients. Reopening came days ahead of scheduled talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia in Washington. Risk of military escalation remains elevated notwithstanding dialogue (see Armenia and Azerbaijan).
Azerbaijani and de facto armed forces exchanged fire. Azerbaijan reported several clashes in NK during June, including in Fuzuli, Agdam, Shusha and Khojaly regions, and accused “illegal Armenian armed detachments” (military forces reporting to de facto NK authorities) of seeking to construct fortifications. De facto NK authorities 22 June reported an injury from clashes in Martakert region and rejected accusations of building fortifications. Azerbaijan 27 June accused de facto NK authorities of “wounding” one soldier; Armenia and de facto NK authorities next day returned accusation, alleging Baku’s forces killed four de facto NK soldiers near Martakert region. De facto NK parliament same day called on Armenia to cease Washington dialogue, but negotiations continued.
Tensions ran high in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) amid Azerbaijan’s blockade of Lachin corridor, which aggravated humanitarian crisis and heightened fears of ethnic cleansing; clashes occurred along line of contact.
Checkpoint on Lachin corridor faced fierce opposition amid humanitarian crisis. After Azerbaijan late April installed checkpoint on Lachin road connecting Armenia to NK, Azerbaijani-backed protesters ended months-long rally, which had hampered NK residents’ access to basic necessities. Azerbaijani military consolidated blockade, however, leading to even fewer crossings and reduced transportation of goods. De facto NK authorities early May said reinforced checkpoint caused “acute humanitarian crisis”. Armenia 22 May urged UN Security Council to ensure unimpeded humanitarian access to NK by “sending an international mission”. Meanwhile, thousands 9 May protested in de facto capital Stepanakert, chanting “No to ethnic cleansing”, amid fears checkpoint could be precursor to such acts.
Azerbaijani leader urged de facto officials to dissolve parliament in NK. Amid resumption of talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan (see Armenia and Azerbaijan), Armenian PM Pashinyan 22 May said “Azerbaijan’s territory includes Nagorno-Karabakh”, while still calling for special arrangements to protect rights and security of ethnic Armenians living in enclave. De facto President Arayik Harutyunyan 23 May called possible Armenian recognition of Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over NK “unacceptable and inadmissible”. Azerbaijani President Aliyev 28 May said NK population should “obey the laws of Azerbaijan” and called for dissolution of parliament, warning Baku was capable of launching “operation” in region immediately; de facto authorities 29 May decried statement, while Armenian foreign ministry said Aliyev was threatening “the people of Nagorno-Karabakh with ethnic cleansing”.
De facto armed forces and Azerbaijan traded blame for unrest in northern NK. Azerbaijan 12 May reported de facto NK armed forces fired on Azerbaijani army; de facto defence ministry same day denied allegations. De facto authorities 18, 21 May accused Azerbaijan of violating ceasefire “in the northern & eastern directions” of NK contact line, attacking civilians.
Azerbaijan installed checkpoint along Lachin corridor, prompting condemnation from Yerevan Moscow and others for breaching 2020 ceasefire deal; tensions could escalate further over uncertainty wrought by checkpoint despite talks in U.S.
Azerbaijan set up checkpoint on Lachin corridor, violating 2020 ceasefire deal. In move fuelling already heightened tensions, Azerbaijan 23 April announced it had installed “border checkpoint” along Lachin corridor connecting Armenian-populated Nagorno-Karabkah (NK) with Armenia. Reiterating past allegations (to which Armenian and de facto authorities have proposed independent monitoring), Baku said checkpoint aims to stop “rotation of personnel of Armenian armed forces that continue to be illegally stationed in the territory of Azerbaijan, the transfer of weapons and ammunition, entrance of terrorists, as well as illicit trafficking of natural resources”. Checkpoint violates 2020 ceasefire agreement, which delegated responsibility for Lachin road to Russian peacekeepers. Azerbaijani-backed protesters, who had blocked road since Dec 2022, 28 April ended rally and Azerbaijani forces reportedly began asserting control over that section of road while allegedly continuing to hamper humanitarian deliveries into NK.
Ceasefire deal signatories and international actors condemned Baku’s actions. Armenia 23 April condemned move and urged Russia – third signatory to 2020 ceasefire deal alongside Armenia and Azerbaijan – to ensure “withdrawal of Azerbaijani forces” from corridor’s “entire security zone”; Azerbaijan same day rejected demand as interference in its “internal affairs”. Russia 24 April condemned move and expressed “extreme concern” about increase in ceasefire violations. Other international actors, including U.S., France and EU, also condemned Baku, saying move could undermine peace efforts.
Armenian and Azerbaijani FMs arrived in U.S. for talks. Armenian and Azerbaijani FM’s late April arrived in U.S. capital Washington for talks beginning 1 May; tensions could escalate should dialogue fail to yield tangible results. Meanwhile, amid disagreement over place and format of direct negotiations between Stepanakert and Baku, de facto authorities 11 April proposed Russian-mediated talks take place at headquarters of Russian peacekeepers in NK; Azerbaijan had not responded by end of April.
Tensions soared in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) as sides reported multiple incidents along front line and Russia accused Azerbaijan of violating 2020 ceasefire agreement.
Multiple attacks occurred, Azerbaijan accused of violating ceasefire deal. Amid elevated tensions over blockade of Lachin corridor, serious incident 5 March occurred between Azerbaijani soldiers and de facto police, leaving five dead. De facto authorities said Azerbaijani soldiers had fired at police car first, which Russian peacekeepers corroborated; Baku said Russia had “distorted the facts”, claiming its soldiers had attempted to search vehicle suspected of transporting weapons from Armenia to NK via alternative road and were fired upon from NK positions. Tensions further escalated after Azerbaijan 25 March announced its forces had cut off alternative roads to prevent transport of “manpower [and] military equipment” into NK; Russia’s defence ministry same day said Azerbaijan had violated 2020 ceasefire deal. De facto authorities 30 March reported that Azerbaijani troops had blocked road used to transport humanitarian supplies to NK. Elsewhere, Russian peacekeepers and de facto authorities reported attacks on farmers near military positions in conflict zone, while Armenia and Azerbaijan reported incidents along border (see Armenia and Azerbaijan).
Talks between Stepanakert and Baku failed to resolve Lachin blockade. De facto authorities and Azerbaijan 1 March met to discuss issues “exclusively of a humanitarian nature”, which led to fixes on pipeline supplying gas from Armenia to NK via Azerbaijani-controlled territory. Talks, however, failed to produce steps toward Lachin corridor’s unblocking. Azerbaijan 13 March proposed third meeting take place in Baku; Stepanakert next day rejected proposal, requesting “same venue as on 1 March” and insisting on “an internationally recognised and established format”, which Baku refused.
Yerevan and Baku made no progress on talks and ramped up aggressive rhetoric. Armenia and Azerbaijan exchanged draft peace treaty, but no in-person meeting occurred in March and sides made harsh public statements (see Armenia and Azerbaijan). Most notably, Azerbaijani President Aliyev 18 March urged Armenia to “accept our conditions [and] officially recognize Karabakh as the territory of Azerbaijan and carry out delimitation work according to our conditions. Only under these circumstances can they live comfortably”.
Efforts to unblock Lachin corridor connecting Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) with Armenia failed to produce results, and Baku and de facto leadership met to discuss energy supply issues.
Lachin blockade continued throughout month. Azerbaijani govt-backed activists’ blockade of Lachin corridor, only road linking Armenian-populated NK to Armenia, continued, worsening humanitarian crisis. Diplomatic efforts failed to produce breakthrough. Armenian PM Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Aliyev 18 Feb met with U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken at Munich Security Conference (MSC) (see Armenia and Azerbaijan), where Blinken highlighted importance of “free and open commercial and private transit through the Lachin corridor”. However, leaders same day engaged in panel discussion on security in South Caucasus, where Aliyev denied blockades’ existence. International Court of Justice 22 Feb ordered Azerbaijan to “ensure unimpeded movement” along Lachin corridor. Pashinyan 23 Feb said decision was “extremely important” and “satisfies Armenia’s claim”, while Azerbaijan claimed Armenian authorities had misrepresented ruling; UN and EU same day released statements noting court decision and repeating calls to open road.
Armenia and Azerbaijan debated control of corridors. During MSC, President Aliyev proposed establishing Azerbaijani checkpoints along Lachin corridor and creating similar Armenian checkpoints at Azerbaijan-Armenia state border along any future railway and motorway connecting mainland Azerbaijan to its exclave Nakhichevan via Armenia; Aliyev claimed Europe and U.S. had found proposal “logical”. Armenian FM Ararat Mirzoyan 22 Feb rejected proposal, saying Russian peacekeepers should retain control of Lachin corridor, as stipulated in 2020 ceasefire deal to end second NK war.
Baku and Stepanakert resumed meetings after dismissal of controversial de facto official. NK’s de facto leader, Araik Harutyunyan, 22 Feb dismissed Russian businessman Ruben Vardanyan as state minister, citing strategic differences in their approaches to internal and external issues; Vardanyan’s appointment in Nov 2022 had angered Baku, which claimed Moscow had sent him to NK “with a very clear agenda” and thus ruled out negotiations with him. One day after Vardanyan’s removal, Russian peacekeepers reported first talks between de facto leadership and Azerbaijani representatives on gas and electricity supply issues, which began after start of Lachin blockade.
Lachin corridor connecting Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) with Armenia remained blocked, exacerbating humanitarian crisis and provoking international condemnation.
Blockade of NK remained in place, deepening humanitarian crisis. Azerbaijani-govt-backed “environmental activists” throughout month continued blocking Lachin corridor, which links NK with Armenia. Amid diminishing food and medical supplies in mountainous enclave, de facto authorities 17 Jan began rationing food using coupon system. Reports of hours-long queues to purchase food products from rural areas in de facto capital Stepanakert, home to around roughly half the entity’s population, also emerged. Local energy company ArtsakhGaz 17 Jan reported disruptions to gas and electricity supplies, forcing civilians to begin installing wood stoves for cooking and heating homes. De facto authorities 19 Jan closed schools over gas and electricity disruptions.
Despite international pressure, Baku warned blockade could last for long time. Russian peacekeepers 15 Jan facilitated meeting between representatives from Azerbaijan and de facto leadership to resolve crisis, but came away empty-handed. Armenian FM Ararat Mirzoyan mid-Jan embarked on diplomatic offensive in Europe to spotlight “humanitarian crisis”, meeting with European Union (EU) institutions and EU member states, NATO and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. European Parliament 19 Jan condemned blockade, urging Azerbaijan “to immediately reopen” road. Armenia 30 Jan urged International Court of Justice to break up blockade, calling it part of an act of “ethnic cleansing”; Azerbaijan next day rejected claim, accusing Armenia of using dispute to create leverage at peace talks. Despite mounting pressure, President Aliyev 10 Jan told reporters blockade could continue for long time but did not clarify what actions could be taken to unblock corridor.
In other important developments. De facto NK leader Arayik Harutyunyan 11 Jan appointed Sergey Ghazaryan, previously Stepanakert’s envoy to Yerevan, as de facto foreign minister. Azerbaijan 18 Jan filed interstate arbitration against Armenia under Bern Convention on Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats for destruction of environment and wildlife in NK.
Azerbaijan-backed protesters blocked vital transport link between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh (NK), fuelling fears of looming humanitarian crisis.
Blockade of Lachin corridor fuelled concerns over humanitarian situation. While Armenia-Azerbaijan border stabilised in Dec (see Armenia, Azerbaijan), new crisis emerged at Lachin corridor, only road connecting Armenian-populated NK with Armenia. Tensions rose after Azerbaijani officials and AzerGold mining company 3 Dec started negotiations with Russian peacekeepers to allow inspections of two mines in NK due to alleged “illegal economic activity” and “damage to the environment”. Russian peacekeepers failed to secure visit, prompting dozens of Azerbaijani govt-backed “environmental activists” 12 Dec to conduct round-the-clock protests near Shusha town. Protesters blocked road during month, preventing movement of people and goods into and out of NK and fuelling fears of humanitarian crisis. Disruptions 12 Dec in natural gas supplies further aggravated situation, with de facto NK authorities 13 Dec announcing school closures due to weather conditions; gas supply 16 Dec resumed. Armenian PM Pashinyan 29 Dec announced Yerevan had approved additional $10mn in aid to ethnic Armenian population in NK.
Baku denied involvement in blockade and underplayed humanitarian risks. Azerbaijani foreign ministry 13 Dec blamed Russian peacekeepers for blocking corridor while Azerbaijani pro-govt media 16, 25 Dec released videos of Russian peacekeepers’ vehicles passing unhindered through Shusha to show that activists are not “blocking the road”. Azerbaijani state-owned Azariqaz gas company 14 Dec denied Azerbaijan’s role in disruption of gas supplies to NK. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s FM Bayramov 15 Dec dismissed fears of imminent humanitarian crisis as “an exaggeration”, saying Azerbaijan is “always ready to meet humanitarian needs of the Armenian residents living on our territories”.
Local and international pressure failed to resolve crisis. International actors, including European Union, U.S., Russia and UN Sec-Gen António Guterres called on Azerbaijani authorities to ensure free movement through corridor, while UN Security Council 20 Dec convened emergency session. Russian FM Sergei Lavrov 23 Dec said Russian peacekeepers were working tirelessly to secure free passage through corridor amid criticism from Pashinyan. Meanwhile, thousands 25 Dec rallied in de facto capital Stepanakert, but Lachin corridor remained blocked by end of Dec.
Azerbaijan and de facto Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) authorities accused each other of targeting military positions and civilian areas in NK; disagreements over format of future NK negotiations continued.
Azerbaijan and de facto NK authorities traded accusations of ceasefire violations. Reports of sharp increase in attacks at military positions and nearby civilian areas along front line in NK conflict zone drew accusations and denials from Azerbaijan and de facto authorities in equal measure. Notably, Stepanakert 10 Nov said Azerbaijani shooting injured one farmer; Azerbaijan’s defence ministry 26 Nov reported downing of quadcopter allegedly used by de facto forces for surveillance purposes; Stepanakert 28 Nov said Azerbaijani forces injured two soldiers with mine launchers. Russian peacekeepers’ reports of stepped-up shootings aggravated tensions with Baku, which 24, 25 Nov accused mission of partial and biased reporting. Meanwhile, situation at Armenia-Azerbaijan border remained fragile following Sept clashes, with both sides reporting shooting along front line during Nov (see Armenia, Azerbaijan).
Azerbaijan accused Armenia of planting mines in NK conflict zone. Azerbaijan 23 Nov invited military attachés of several foreign states to observe hundreds of mines, reportedly produced in Armenia in 2021 and discovered around Sarybaba heights near Lachin corridor after being captured by Azerbaijani troops during Aug escalation. Baku also invited Russian peacekeeping mission and Russian-Turkish observation centres, mandated to prevent transportation of any weapons from Armenia to NK, to site. Yerevan and Stepanakert 24 Nov denied planting mines in area and accused Baku of staging it as pretext for provocation.
Stepanakert and Baku disagreed over format of future NK negotiations. Russian businessman Ruben Vardanyan 4 Nov became de facto state minister of NK; Azerbaijani President Aliyev 17 Nov ruled out possibility of negotiations with Vardanyan, who he said was sent from Moscow “with a very clear agenda”. In same statement, Aliyev confirmed willingness to speak with “Armenians who live in Karabakh” but excluded talks with de facto NK authorities; de facto FM Davit Babayan next day reiterated readiness to negotiate with Azerbaijan but only in “internationally recognised” format, namely “the OSCE Minsk Group”.
De facto authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) declared willingness for direct negotiations with Baku, while talks between Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders drew mixed reactions.
Stepanakert declared readiness for direct talks with Baku. Armenia 5 Oct confirmed negotiations to establish “international discussion mechanism” between Baku and Stepanakert were under way. De facto NK FM Davit Babayan same day confirmed readiness for direct talks with Baku, adding that Baku should recognise NK as “full-fledged party to the conflict” so that all sides could negotiate as “equals”; Babayan also said talks should include Armenia and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Minsk Group in order “to achieve a comprehensive settlement”.
Talks in Prague between Armenia and Azerbaijan prompted mixed reactions in NK. Following deadly violence along Armenia-Azerbaijan border in Sept, Armenian PM Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Aliyev 6 Oct met in Czech Republic’s capital Prague for EU and French-mediated meeting (see Armenia and Azerbaijan). Aliyev same day said sides were gradually moving toward peace, but reiterated that NK was Azerbaijan’s internal affair; added that Azerbaijani govt would continue to develop informal relations with NK Armenians. Prague meeting prompted mixed reactions in NK. Notably, protesters 8-9 Oct held sporadic rallies against being placed under Baku’s rule, while de facto authorities same day complained that Prague statement made no reference to NK. NK residents 30 Oct once more gathered in huge numbers for rally while de facto parliament, who organised rally, issued statement rejecting any peace deal envisaging Azerbaijani control over NK and urging authorities in Yerevan to “approach recognizing Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity with reservations, taking into account the fact that the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict is not settled.”
In other important developments. Ahead of 31 Oct summit in Russia’s Sochi city, in which Russian President Putin brought together Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders to discuss peace process, de facto NK leader Arayik Harutyunyan 29 Oct expressed hope that meeting would “extend the term of the Russian peacekeeping force deployed in NK indefinitely, since the Russian peacekeepers have undertaken a significant share of the effort to ensure the security of Artsakh and its population”.
Fragile calm prevailed in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) as deadly clashes erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan along state border.Disputed NK territory saw relative calm as deadly clashes flared in other areas. Amid high tensions following Baku’s military operation in NK early Aug, clashes 13 Sept erupted along Armenia-Azerbaijan state border, marking deadliest violence between two countries since six-week war in 2020. Fighting killed at least 207 Armenian and 80 Azerbaijani soldiers and forced 2,700 Armenian civilians from their homes (see Armenia and Azerbaijan). Addressing UN General Assembly, PM Pashinyan said threat of new offensive remained “very high” and that “Azerbaijan intends to occupy more territories of Armenia”.International actors urged sides to continue normalisation process. Russia, U.S., EU and France 13 Sept called for peace and restraint. Russia 15 Sept called on Baku and Yerevan to “refrain from steps that could lead to increased tensions” and to fulfil “the ceasefire agreements mediated by Russia” that ended 2020 war; U.S. same day called for “comprehensive settlement of all remaining issues between Armenia and Azerbaijan”.
Azerbaijan launched military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK), ending period of relative calm as clashes with ethnic Armenian forces left three dead. Amid reports Baku was pressing for speedy launch of new road linking NK with Armenia and demanding disarmament of local Armenian forces, de facto authorities 1 Aug said Azerbaijani forces wounded one soldier during clashes at north-eastern front, which Russian peacekeepers confirmed; same day said Azerbaijani forces were advancing in western and north-western fronts, and near main road connecting entity to Armenia, known as Lachin corridor. Baku 3 Aug launched military operation in NK, saying de facto NK forces killed Azerbaijani soldier in Lachin region during exchange of fire. Stepanakert same day said strikes killed two of its soldiers. Azerbaijan 5 Aug announced military had taken control of strategic Mount Buzdukh and adjacent heights. International community, including Brussels, Washington, Moscow and UN, 3-4 Aug urged parties to respect ceasefire. Azerbaijani defence ministry 4 Aug said tensions had eased. Following flare-up, de facto authorities in NK 5 Aug instructed Armenian residents from Lachin city and Zabukh village, located along Lachin corridor connecting NK with Armenia, to leave their homes by 25 Aug when area came under Azerbaijan’s control as part of 2020 ceasefire agreement. Armenian PM Pashinyan day before told congress that 2020 truce agreement required Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia to establish joint “plan” for construction of new Armenia-Karabakh road before sections of existing Lachin corridor could be transferred to Azerbaijan’s control; he said no plan had been drawn up despite agreement. Azerbaijan 15 Aug announced completion of its part of new road to replace existing Lachin corridor. EU Special Representative for South Caucasus Toivo Klaar 19 Aug met with senior representatives from Armenia and Azerbaijan in first senior bilateral meeting after escalation. Both countries’ leaders 31 Aug met in Brussels for EU-mediated talks, which concluded without major announcement. European Council President Charles Michel nonetheless said talks were “open and productive”, focused on humanitarian issues, transport links and border delimitation, and that both sides agreed “to step up substantive work to advance on the peace treaty”.
Situation in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) remained calm amid EU and Russian mediation efforts. Calm persisted along front lines as Armenia and Azerbaijan prepared for new EU-mediated summit, with neither side reporting casualties during month. Russian President Putin 4 July spoke to Azerbaijani President Aliyev on sidelines of Caspian summit in Turkmenistan ahead of first substantial meeting between Armenian and Azerbaijani officials on border demarcation and related security issues, which will take place in Russian capital Moscow in Aug. EU also continued to facilitate diplomatic efforts. European Council President Charles Michel 4 July spoke with Aliyev; EU Special Representative Toivo Klaar 13 July travelled to Armenia for meeting with Armenian PM Pashinyan and 15 July met Aliyev in Azerbaijan. Subsequently, Azerbaijani and Armenian FMs 16 July met for first bilateral talks in Georgian capital Tbilisi, where they reconfirmed their readiness for continued diplomatic engagement. Meanwhile, U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 25 July spoke with Aliyev and Pashinyan separately about “historic opportunity to achieve peace” and urged “further progress towards peace and stability in the region”. U.S. ambassador to Armenia 26 July reaffirmed willingness to use Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group as “platform” for renewed cooperation with Russia to facilitate settlement to NK conflict.
While security situation remained calm, diplomatic process between Yerevan and Baku did not advance significantly. Situation in NK remained calm throughout month: no reports of clashes, shootings or new causalities. Yet talks made little progress. Speaking to local media, Armenian PM Pashinyan 27 June accused Azerbaijan of undermining diplomatic efforts in order “to legitimise a new war”. Amid ongoing protests organised by Armenian opposition over govt’s stance regarding future status of NK, Pashinyan 15 June addressed parliament, saying that “any status” guaranteeing security, rights and freedoms of NK people should be considered “real solution”; he claimed alternative would be “annihilation not only of Nagorno-Karabakh, but of Armenia as well”. Azerbaijani President Aliyev next day accused Armenian govt of raising NK’s future status despite “verbal agreement” to refrain from discussing topic; also used opportunity to criticise Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, saying it had achieved “zero results” in NK conflict settlement and that there was no need for it. Other parties insisted it remained important international format for negotiations. Notably, U.S. official 20 June praised Minsk Group’s continued relevance and highlighted U.S. readiness to cooperate with Russia on NK; Pashinyan 28 June echoed support for OSCE Minsk Group. Russian FM Sergei Lavrov 24 June once more accused U.S. and France of trying to dismantle Minsk group. Disagreements over resumed operations of transportation route between mainland Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan exclave via Armenia persisted (see Armenia and Azerbaijan).
Conflict zone remained calm, while thousands of Armenian protesters rallied against PM Pashinyan’s perceived negotiating position with Azerbaijan over territory’s future. Amid rising prospect of renewed peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan following both leaders’ statements in April, situation in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) conflict zone remained calm during month, with no reports of clashes, shootings or casualties. Thousands of protesters 28 May rallied in de facto capital Stepanakert in support of Armenian opposition, while raising concerns about Armenian PM Pashinyan’s plans to enter talks with Azerbaijan on NK with perceived low demands on status of entity (see Armenia); largest protest held in Armenian-populated areas of NK since 2020 war. On diplomatic front, Pashinyan during visit to Netherlands 11 May criticised Azerbaijan for not responding to proposal to start discussions of NK status; Azerbaijan 12 May rejected criticism. Azerbaijani President Aliyev 19 May accused Armenia of making excuses to avoid real talks and border demarcation process; Armenia same day rejected accusation. After FMs of both sides met in Tajik capital Dushanbe, Pashinyan and Aliyev 22 May met in EU-facilitated talk in Belgian capital Brussels, agreeing that border demarcation teams would meet “in the coming days” (see Armenia and Azerbaijan). Parties maintain different approaches to talks: Azerbaijan sees NK as domestic problem and wants Armenia to renounce territorial claims, while Armenia states its readiness to do so, providing Azerbaijan recognises that under revised NK’s status Armenians should be allowed to continue living in conflict zone.
Peace process between Armenia and Azerbaijan gained momentum, triggering concern among de facto NK authorities and Armenia’s political opposition. After major flare-up in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) in March that resulted in Azerbaijani forces taking control of strategic mountains inside Armenian-populated areas, EU 6 April facilitated third meeting between Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Aliyev; pair agreed to instruct respective FMs to work on peace treaty and convene joint border commission by late April. President Aliyev 12 April said that Armenia during 6 April meeting accepted five principles of settlement proposed by Baku, which included mutual recognition of sovereignty and territorial integrity, and mutual affirmation of absence of territorial claims (see Azerbaijan). Armenian PM Pashinyan 13 April reiterated that Yerevan had accepted Azerbaijan’s proposals regarding peace agreement, including mutual recognition of each other’s territorial integrity (see Armenia). Momentum toward peace talks raised fears in NK and Armenia that Yerevan is preparing to cede NK’s control to Azerbaijan. Notably, Armenian opposition MPs 12 April travelled various villages in Armenia and NK; Russian peacekeepers in NK same day denied them entry, prompting Armenian foreign ministry to claim lack of access contradicted Nov 2020 ceasefire agreement. De facto NK leader Arayik Harutyunyan 13 April rejected “impossible” Azerbaijani rule over region, while de facto NK parliament 14 April demanded end to “disastrous” Armenian position. Harutyunyan 25 April said Pashinyan had previous day assured him that Armenia would not back any agreements on region’s status unacceptable to Karabakh Armenians. Meanwhile, war in Ukraine strained cooperation between West and Russia and raised doubt over Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group. Russian FM Sergei Lavrov 8 April accused U.S. and France of refusing to work with Russia in OSCE format following Russian invasion of Ukraine. French Co-chair 14 April and U.S. Co-chair 18 April visited Armenia to reiterate importance of Minsk Group in finding comprehensive settlement. Pashinyan and Russian President Putin 19 April met and reaffirmed Minsk Group as valid and important format.
Hostilities escalated in Nagorno Karabakh (NK) conflict zone, raising prospect of further clashes in April. Incidents mid-March rose in Armenian-populated areas of NK. Specifically, sides reported near-daily incidents close to mountainous eastern Agdam region (retaken by Azerbaijan following 2020 war) and road in south that connects Azerbaijan to Shusha town and runs near Armenian settlements. Notably, in first use of heavy weapons since 2020 war, mine shell 10 March injured resident in Armenian village Khramort and 120mm mine shell next day landed in Armenian village Khnapat, damaging local school; Azerbaijan 11 March denied attacks and blamed local Armenian forces for provoking tensions. In significant escalation, Azerbaijani troops 24-25 March took over small Armenian settlement Farukh located inside NK close to Khramort and Khnapat and next to strategic mountainous height called Karaglukh, which overlooks Agdam region and big parts of Armenian-populated NK; at least three Armenian soldiers reported dead and 14 injured, including in Azerbaijani attacks by Bayraktarks TB2 drones. U.S., France and Russian peacekeepers 26 March called on Baku to withdraw troops. Russian peacekeepers 27 March said Azerbaijan removed its troops from Farukh settlement; Azerbaijani Defence Ministry same day denied “changes in positions”. Previously, in sign viewed by Yerevan as increasing assertiveness along front lines, Azerbaijan during month continued use of loudspeakers to warn ethnic Armenians against conducting agricultural work and broadcast call to prayer in areas around Agdam region and in southern parts of Armenian-populated areas of NK. Gas pipeline from Armenia to NK 8 March stopped supply due to damage, leaving NK without heating for over one week; Azerbaijan 19, 27 March made repairs, announced that gas supply would be restored. In sign that prospects for talks remain dim, Armenia and Azerbaijan 14 March publicised their visions for resumption of negotiations, reiterating previous mutually exclusive positions: Baku demanded Armenian support to Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and Yerevan insisted on respect of right for self-determination. With support from Russian peacekeepers, de facto NK authorities 7 March dispatched humanitarian cargo to separatist entities in Ukraine recognised by Russia.
Skirmishes persisted in conflict zone, while diplomatic engagement between Azerbaijan and Armenia led to humanitarian gesture on detainees and information on 1990s war. Incidents erupted at line between Armenian-populated Karabakh and Azerbaijani-controlled area in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) conflict zone. Notably, Azerbaijan’s defence ministry 6 Feb claimed de facto NK troops fired at its military near Qapanli village in Tartar district; de facto NK authorities same day reiterated commitment to ceasefire and accused Azerbaijan of truce violation by firing large-calibre machine gun at locals. Azerbaijan’s defence ministry 15 Feb claimed its forces prevented “Armenian illegal armed groups” from building fortifications in NK allegedly under guise of agricultural work; de facto authorities same day accused Azerbaijani troops of opening fire on farmers carrying out agricultural work in Khramort village, who “managed to escape thanks to the intervention of Russian peacekeepers”. De facto authorities same day reported serious wounding of soldier in truce violation at area of same village; Azerbaijan 15 Feb denied incident. Azerbaijani defence ministry 19 Feb said that Azerbaijani army positions in Taghavard village had come under fire; de facto NK authorities same day said Azerbaijani troops fired at residential houses in Taghavard 18 Feb; Azerbaijani defence ministry denied report. Despite skirmishes, Azerbaijani President Aliyev and Armenian PM Pashinyan 4 Feb attended virtual meeting under French and EU mediation (see Azerbaijan and Armenia); engagement led to Azerbaijan 7 Feb returning eight detainees to Yerevan, arguing handover was in return for information about Azerbaijanis killed in 1990s Karabakh war; Pashinyan 9 Feb clarified that Armenia handed over remains of 108 people to Azerbaijan since ceasefire of 2020 war. Tensions also resurfaced over cultural heritage in NK. Azerbaijani Culture Minister Anar Karimov 3 Feb announced research working group on Caucasian-Albanian heritage in territories regained in 2020 war; Armenia 8 Feb condemned move. Official of Azerbaijani Prosecutor General’s Office 15 Feb said that Baku was seeking to arrest de facto leader of NK Arayik Harutyunyan over missile attacks on Ganja, Azerbaijan’s second largest city, during 2020 war; Armenian justice minister next day said there were no legal grounds for move.
Tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan remained high amid skirmishes, as Baku protested visits to Nagorno-Karabakh by French and Russian politicians. As tensions at Armenian-Azerbaijani state border flared up mid-Jan amid series of deadly clashes (see Armenia and Azerbaijan), de facto Nagorno-Karabakh authorities 10 Jan claimed Azerbaijani troops fired shots in Krasny Bazar (Karmir Shuka) village in Martuni region, and firefighters arriving at scene near kindergarten came under fire; Azerbaijani defence ministry same day denied claims of Azerbaijani troops firing at civilians or civilian facilities. Following Dec visit to Nagorno-Karabakh by Russian MP from ruling United Russia party, Azerbaijani President Aliyev sent letter to United Russia Chairman Dmitry Medvedev “strongly objecting” to visit that he said lacked Baku’s permission. In reaction to Nagorno-Karabakh visit by French presidential candidate Valérie Pécresse, Aliyev 12 Jan said Baku would not have let Pécresse leave if it knew about visit in advance; French FM Jean-Yves Le Drian 18 Jan protested “unacceptable” comment, while noting with regret that Pécresse did not consult French govt beforehand.
Despite deadly incidents along Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) contact line, sides renewed diplomatic engagement, facilitating prisoners release. Insecurity persisted throughout month. Armenia 3 Dec alleged that local from Martuni province lost his way and was killed after Azerbaijani forces forcibly abducted him from neutral zone, labelling killing “gross violation of international humanitarian law”; Azerbaijan defence ministry 3 Dec confirmed civilian’s death, and said ethnic Armenian man had assaulted Azerbaijani soldier who subsequently fired warning shot and “rendered the provocateur harmless”. De facto NK authorities 5 Dec reported one soldier fatally shot; Azerbaijan 7 Dec denied killing Armenian soldier. De facto NK investigative committee 7 Dec alleged Azerbaijan fatally shot Armenian soldier in no-man’s land near Shusha town despite uncertainty over who fired first. Baku 8 Dec reported killing of Azerbaijani soldier in Kalbajar district; Armenian defence ministry 9 Dec reported two Armenian soldiers wounded after Azerbaijani fire in Armenia’s Gegharkunik region. On diplomatic front, meanwhile, there was much progress and diplomatic engagement between both sides during month (see Azerbaijan and Armenia). Notably, European Council President Charles Michel 14 Dec hosted trilateral discussion with Pashinyan and Aliyev, announcing EU’s readiness to offer technical assistance for border delimitation and demarcation, and praising agreement to restore communication channel between defence ministers and set up rail link. Aliyev 14 Dec insisted Lachin corridor – which connects Russian peacekeepers stationed in NK to Armenia – and Azerbaijan-Nakhichevan corridor should have “exactly the same” legal regime without customs controls; Pashinyan same day countered this would contradict earlier agreements.
Insecurity continued in conflict zone, while Armenia and Azerbaijan held second FMs meeting since 2020 war and established hotline to prevent flare-ups. In worrying incident, small group of ethnic Armenian plumbers near Azerbaijani-controlled Shusha were reportedly targeted in shooting, leaving one dead and three wounded 8 Nov; local media attributed shooting to Azerbaijani soldier while Russian peacekeepers next day launched investigation into attack. Local ethnic Armenian resident 13 Nov threw hand grenade at Azerbaijani soldiers at checkpoint near Shusha town; Baku reported three Azerbaijani soldiers lightly injured. Azerbaijan 10 Nov strongly condemned “provocative” visit by Armenian defence minister to Nagorno-Karabakh. On diplomatic front, FMs of Azerbaijan and Armenia 10 Nov met in French capital Paris for second post-Autumn 2020 war meeting under mediation of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group co-chairs; Armenian foreign ministry same day said FM expressed position to “fully resume the peace process”. Following clashes, European Council President Charles Michel 19 Nov proposed bilateral meeting in Dec between Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders, reportedly confirmed by both sides, and reported agreement on direct communication line between defence ministers. Russian President Putin 26 Nov met with both leaders in Russian city of Sochi to discuss situation one year after ceasefire to 2020 war; Sochi summit finished with no progress on establishment of Russia-mediated commission to define state border and instead Armenia and Azerbaijan declared readiness to see prospects to launch bilateral commission; Putin reported progress on unblocking regional transport/communication links with final agreement reportedly expected by end of 2021. On disputed international border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, deadly escalation 16 Nov erupted between armed forces (see Armenia and Azerbaijan).
Despite heightened tensions inside Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone, Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders continued to voice readiness to resume meetings in OSCE Minsk Group format. In Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) conflict zone, hostilities increased during month. Azerbaijani sniper reportedly 9 Oct killed ethnic Armenian farmer next to military positions; Azerbaijan’s defence ministry same day denied responsibility. Azerbaijani trucks 13 Oct came under fire, with no injuries reported, prompting Baku to pause movement of trucks in area; de facto NK defence ministry 13 Oct denied incident. Clashes along one of front-line sections in Agdam district 14 Oct wounded six NK soldiers; sniper in nearby area same day reportedly killed one Azerbaijani soldier. Similar sniper shots same day reported near Azerbaijan’s exclave in south of Armenia, with no deaths or injuries confirmed. Earlier, Azerbaijani President Aliyev 4 Oct visited NK conflict zone, showcasing Israeli-produced drone and announcing construction of “smart settlement” in southern part of NK conflict zone. Despite hostilities, diplomatic contact increased. Aliyev 2 Oct signalled readiness to meet Armenian PM Pashinyan with Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group mediation; Pashinyan 15 Oct confirmed willingness to meet. Armenian and Azerbaijani FMs 14 Oct met in presence of Russian FM Sergei Lavrov to discuss issues related to NK conflict, including implementation of Nov 2020 trilateral statement calling for resolution of “remaining issues”; meeting follows late Sept meeting convened by OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs (see Armenia and Azerbaijan). In positive development, Azerbaijan 6 Oct released one Armenian soldier detained in July at disputed border areas, and 19 Oct freed five Armenian soldiers detained during or shortly after 2020 war, who were previously sentenced to prison terms. Armenian-populated areas of NK 10 Oct held elections in Askeran, Martakert and Martuni regions.
Low-level clashes continued in conflict zone, while Armenian and Azerbaijani FMs met for first time since Nov 2020. Low-level hostilities reported during month, with occasional shootings along front lines. Notably, Russian peacekeepers 17 Sept released report that two Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) soldiers were wounded in shootings; Deputy Chief of Press Service of Azerbaijan’s Defence Ministry Anar Eyvazov 19 Sept denied information and called report “surprising and regrettable”. Further incidents were reported on social media without official confirmation from either side. Azerbaijani and Turkish special forces 6-11 Sept organised first ever training drills in Lachin district located between NK and Armenia. Following Russian mediation, Armenia and Azerbaijan 7 Sept exchanged one Azerbaijani soldier with two Armenian soldiers, all of whom were detained in NK in July-Aug. In first diplomatic contact since Autumn 2020 war, co-chairs of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group 24 Sept facilitated joint meeting between Azerbaijani FM Jeyhun Bayramov and Armenian FM Ararat Mirzoyan on sidelines of UN General Assembly session; meeting focused on “wide range of outstanding unresolved issues”, while co-chairs proposed “specific focused measures to deescalate situation”, according to OSCE. Incoming head of Russian peacekeeping mission in NK Lieutenant General Gennady Anashkin 25 Sept met Armenian defence minister and 28 Sept met Azerbaijani defence minister; previous head of mission faced criticism from Baku. Tensions surfaced between Armenia and Azerbaijan over regional highway. Azerbaijani police 13 Sept installed checkpoint on main highway connecting Iran to South Caucasus and Armenia with its southern regions, violating agreements following Autumn 2020 war (see Armenia and Azerbaijan). Armenian and Azerbaijani leadership marked one-year anniversary of start of Autumn 2020 war on 27 Sept amid series of commemorative events held across countries and in NK. Kamo Vardanyan 11 Sept replaced Mikael Arzumanyan as de facto NK defence minister.
Hostilities intensified in conflict zone, while Russian-mediated talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan on regional transportation links resumed. Exchanges of fire between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces increased in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK), mainly near Shusha town controlled by Azerbaijani forces. Notably, Azerbaijani troops 11 Aug launched unprecedented combat drone attack against positions of local “Nagorno-Karabakhi military troops” since Autumn 2020 war, which prompted Russian peacekeepers to record ceasefire violation for first time in their daily public reports. Russian peacekeepers 20 Aug started regular patrols in three areas in NK, including two along south of front line close to Shusha. De facto NK defence ministry 28 Aug reported one of its soldiers wounded in clashes with Azerbaijani soldiers near Tagavard village. Deadly clashes also continued along state border (see Armenia and Azerbaijan). On diplomatic front, negotiations stalled. Armenian PM Pashinyan 12 Aug called for talks under Minsk Group mediation, while Azerbaijan throughout month insisted that NK conflict had been resolved, implying Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe Minsk Group’s mediation mandate is over, said it prefers bilateral talks with Yerevan, Russian-only mediation or 3+3 format including Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Russia and Iran. Azerbaijani media and experts during month criticised Russian peacekeepers for allegedly favouring Armenian troops in NK; Azerbaijani President Aliyev 14 Aug criticised Russia for not doing enough to implement ceasefire agreement. Despite dim prospect for peace negotiations, trilateral working group on NK comprising Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia 17 Aug resumed talks in Russian capital Moscow on regional transportation routes; talks were launched with Russian mediation in Jan 2021 and had remained deadlocked since May. Aliyev seeks corridor connecting Azerbaijan with Turkey, while Armenia desires cargo transit through Azerbaijani territory to Russia. Turkish President Erdogan 29 Aug expressed readiness for talks on regional transportation and economic cooperation with Armenia if Yerevan joins Ankara’s proposed 3+3 format uniting Russia, Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia (see Armenia).
Azerbaijan and Armenia agreed to second deal exchanging Armenian detainees for landmine maps amid ongoing diplomatic tensions and border hostilities. In second deal of its kind since June, talks under Russian auspices led Baku 3 July to release 15 Armenian detainees in exchange for Armenian landmine maps of Fuzuli and Zangilan districts. Tensions with Yerevan rose, however, after Azerbaijani govt 10 July organised visit with diplomatic delegations and international organisations in Azerbaijan to Shusha town; Azerbaijani pro-govt media and social media accounts immediately criticised absence of U.S., French and Russian ambassadors from visit, said it proved failure of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group to make diplomatic progress. Armenian foreign ministry 13 July praised U.S., France and Russia for not joining trip, stated that it deemed visit to Shusha – which it called “occupied territory” – unacceptable. Azerbaijan 14-15 July claimed that Armenian forces inside conflict zone had fired at their positions in Shusha town. Hostilities and tensions rose along state border as both sides claimed unprecedented number of ceasefire violations including regular exchanges of fire throughout July (see Armenia and Azerbaijan). Meanwhile, Azerbaijan welcomed U.S. participation in peace process; in letter to U.S. President Biden, Azerbaijani President Aliyev 3 July invited U.S. to help establish lasting peace and trust between Baku and Yerevan, adding: “We would like to see U.S. companies as partners” in reconstruction work in Nagorno-Karabakh. OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs 13 July called for resumption of high-level political dialogue; Aliyev next day warned it would be “a very big mistake” for Armenia to refuse peace negotiations and Armenian PM Pashinyan 15 July responded that Yerevan was ready to resume peace talks under auspices of OSCE Minsk Group, while accusing Azerbaijan of “destructive actions and statements”. President Aliyev 7 July signed decree establishing new economic regions that include territories not under Azerbaijani control (see Azerbaijan).
In spite of ongoing border tensions, Azerbaijan exchanged Armenian detainees in return for mine maps from Armenia. Following mediation efforts by Georgian, U.S., EU and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe representatives as well as commander of Russian peacekeeping mission, Azerbaijan 12 June released 15 Armenian detainees in exchange for maps delivered from Yerevan that indicated sites of landmine clusters in Agdam district. Armenian Acting PM Pashinyan 12 June praised handover of Armenian prisoners as “start of a new process” and added that Armenia had provided Azerbaijan with some mine maps back in Dec 2020 “in order to create a constructive atmosphere”. Azerbaijan’s State Security Service and Prosecutor-General’s Office 7 June confirmed that 13 Armenian soldiers were charged with crossing into Azerbaijan and terrorism; 10 June announced criminal cases against 26 more Armenian soldiers had been submitted to court in Azerbaijan. Series of incidents on state border continued to fuel tensions, including deadly mine blast and shelling (see Armenia and Azerbaijan). During Turkish President Erdoğan's visit to Shusha city, Erdoğan and Azerbaijani President Aliyev 15 June signed milestone joint declaration on bilateral tries (see Azerbaijan); Aliyev and Erdoğan also confirmed that declaration bolstered military cooperation, and contained “very clear” statements on importance of transport corridors between two countries and opening of consulate in Shusha; Armenian MFA 15 June denounced joint visit to Shusha as “provocation against regional peace and security”. Meanwhile, protesters in Nagorno-Karabakh 21 and 22 June demanded resignation of de facto President Arayik Harutyunyan following reports that he was seen at office of Armenia’s ruling Civil Contract party on Armenia’s parliamentary election day held on 20 June. Following protests, Harutyunyan remarked that “a snap election will be held in a reasonable time frame” but that he would not stand in elections and would quit politics.
Despite rising border tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia, NK conflict zone remained largely stable. Russian FM Sergey Lavrov 5-6 May visited Armenia’s capital Yerevan and 10-11 May Azerbaijan’s capital Baku, discussing issues with post-war processes and calling for release of Armenian prisoners of war and detainees as well as for access of international organisations to Nagorno-Karabakh (NK). Azerbaijani President Aliyev 10 May criticised Armenia for refusing to allow transport corridor through Armenia’s southern region of Syunik. After Armenia 12-13 May reported advance of three Azerbaijani military groups in areas close to southern section of its state border, rising tensions on state border turned deadly, as one Armenian soldier killed, in most significant escalation since ceasefire that ended 2020 Autumn war (see Armenia and Azerbaijan). Inside NK, de facto General Prosecutor’s Office 17 May reported shooting at military positions of local Armenian forces located close to Sos village, south of line of contact of 2020 war. Defence ministry of Azerbaijan 26 May reported shooting at its soldiers located in Shusha city; Armenia’s defence minister next day denied reports. Meanwhile, three opposition parties of NK’s de facto parliament 20 May called on president Arayik Harutyunyan to resign; Harutyunyan had promised in Dec 2020 to call for snap elections when situation stabilised in de facto entity. NK’s de facto Minister of State and Minister of Finance Grigori Martirosyan 28 May resigned saying that he took decision months ago, but decided to stay in post to help with response to post-war crisis.