CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, a tool designed to help decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace.
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.
Russian-brokered ceasefire continued to hold in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) conflict zone, as de facto NK and Azerbaijani officials cooperated on searching for remains of soldiers and civilians. In NK conflict zone, situation remained stable during month. Azerbaijani govt reported that mine explosions killed at least 18 military and civilians, with 79 others seriously injured, since Nov ceasefire agreement, mainly along pre-war front line. Azerbaijani and de facto NK security services continued coordination on field missions in search of remains of soldiers and civilians in Azerbaijani-controlled areas. NK resident 20 March reported one man missing in village of Karmir Shuka (Krasny Bazar), located at line of separation; de facto authorities 21 March said his body had been found burnt several hundred metres from village and are conducting investigation. Sides made no progress toward releasing Armenian detainees and prisoners held by Azerbaijan; Baku 10 March released one ethnic Armenian woman. In first military drills since Autumn 2020 escalation, Azerbaijan 15-17 March and Armenia 16-20 March held exercises in their respective territories. Swedish FM and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe chairperson-in-office 15-16 March visited Azerbaijan and Armenia to discuss NK issue and situation after recent war, meeting with de facto NK FM David Babayan in Yerevan, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, as well as Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan and Armenian President Armen Sarkissian. Russian President Putin 11 March had phone conversation with Aliyev, and 12 March with Pashinyan, reportedly to discuss practical implementation of ceasefire agreements; Putin and Pashinyan 26 March again spoke after Armenian govt held joint Security Council session with de facto NK leadership on situation in conflict zone.
Ceasefire continued to hold, and Russia hosted Azerbaijan and Armenia for trilateral talks to consolidate Nov 2020 agreement and develop economic ties in region. Russian-brokered Nov ceasefire largely held despite occasional incidents mainly near towns of Stepanakert and Shusha. Armenia 13 Jan reported one soldier injured in shooting; Baku denied incident. Armenia and Azerbaijan reported soldiers and civilians killed in mine explosions in different parts of conflict zone throughout month. Russian President Putin, Armenian PM Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Aliyev 11 Jan met in Russia’s capital Moscow for Russian-initiated trilateral talks. Talks concluded with signing of joint statement on steps to develop economic ties and infrastructure projects – building on ninth point of ceasefire agreement relating to opening of all regional economic and transport links between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic through Armenia. Statement indicated that working group will be set up to help unblock transport and communication lines between Azerbaijan and Armenia; group 30 Jan held first meeting to focus on key tasks, with rail and road links as priorities. Armenian, Azerbaijan and Russian representatives 30 Jan agreed to set up three other subgroups on transport issue during meeting held in Moscow. Pashinyan 11 Jan noted that exchange of prisoners of war and detained civilians – which he described as most sensitive issue – excluded from joint statement. Previously, Armenian MFA 9 Jan condemned Baku’s decision to prosecute Armenian soldiers detained during war, accused Azerbaijan of refusing to comply with eighth point of ceasefire agreement mandating parties to exchange all prisoners and casualties; Azerbaijan MFA same day responded that Armenian soldiers were sent to Azerbaijan after ceasefire so they are not considered prisoners of war. Aliyev’s aide 22 Jan said exchange of prisoners of war will continue. Russia 28 Jan facilitated exchange of five Armenian prisoners of war with one Azerbaijani detainee. After Armenian FM Ara Aivazian 5 Jan visited Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) main city Stepanakert, which sparked complaints in Azerbaijani social media and political groups, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov 18 Jan reaffirmed right to free travel between Armenia and NK, urged Armenian officials to avoid politicised statements when visiting Stepanakert.
Armenia and Azerbaijan completed first prisoner swaps as part of Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement, and some clashes erupted mid-month. After several weeks of discussion, Baku and Yerevan 14 Dec exchanged first group of prisoners of war, detainees and civilians that included over 44 Armenian and 14 Azerbaijani detainees, with active participation of Russian peacekeeping forces deployed to Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) under Nov ceasefire deal; second group of four Armenian and two Azerbaijani detainees released on 28 Dec. In first violation of ceasefire agreement, clashes 11-12 Dec took place between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces near villages of Hin Tagher and Khtsaberd in Hadrut region under Armenian control; shortly after, Russian peacekeepers deployed to area to stabilise situation. President Aliyev 12 Dec raised incident in his meeting with Minsk Group co-chairs, holding Armenia responsible for new clashes; Armenian MFA next day said Azerbaijani troops exploited absence of peacekeeping forces in area. De facto authorities 16 Dec confirmed handover of nine corpses of its soldiers killed in clashes, and 73 others captured by Azerbaijani forces. Azerbaijan’s defence ministry and State Security Service 13 Dec issued joint statement announcing launch of “anti-terror operation” in response to “acts of provocation” against their servicemen in village of Sur in Nov and on 8 Dec, during which four Azerbaijani soldiers were killed and two injured. French and American co-chairs of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Minsk Group 12-14 Dec visited Baku and Yerevan, but did not travel to NK capital Stepanakert; co-chairs’ meeting with de facto leader of NK Arayik Harutyunyan in Yerevan was cancelled last minute for no clear reason.
Following deadly fighting throughout Oct in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) conflict zone, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement recognising Azerbaijani gains. Govt 8 Nov announced capture of Shusha, strategically significant city in NK; Armenian side 10 Nov signed Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement with Russian President Putin and Azerbaijani President Aliyev. Deal stipulates that Azerbaijan retain captured territories, including Shusha, while Armenia must hand over control of three adjacent areas – Agdam, Kelbajar and Lachin districts – by 15 Nov, 25 Nov and 1 Dec, respectively; deal also called for deployment of 2,000 Russian peacekeepers as well as return of internally displaced persons and refugees to NK and surrounding territories with support of UN High Commissioner for Refugees; deal did not include provisions to ensure safe evacuation of ethnic Armenians wishing to leave NK conflict zone and adjacent territories, nor to protect those staying. Announcement of deal sparked unrest in Armenia, with thousands 10-11 Nov taking to streets and hundreds storming govt buildings in Armenia’s capital Yerevan and calling for Pashinyan’s resignation (see Armenia entry); Azerbaijani President Aliyev 10 Nov called deal “glorious victory” amid celebrations nationwide. Russia 10 Nov launched deployment of peacekeeping troops and national aid agencies to NK, while Armenian army commenced removal of troops from adjacent territories. Azerbaijan regained control of Agdam district 20 Nov and Kelbajar 25 Nov. Despite deal only citing Russian peacekeepers, Azerbaijani govt 11 and 16 Nov called for stationing of Turkish peacekeepers in NK. Russian and Turkish defence ministers 12 Nov signed memorandum for establishment of joint monitoring centre in Azerbaijan; Russian govt 10 Nov stated that there was no agreement on positioning Turkish peacekeepers in NK. Turkish parliament 17 Nov overwhelmingly approved bill to deploy troops to Azerbaijan for peacekeeping mission to monitor ceasefire deal. Russian defence ministry 19 Nov confirmed establishment of 23 observation points around NK; also reported that around 23,510 people returned to Russian-controlled NK area by 28 Nov.
Fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani troops left hundreds killed and tens of thousands displaced; deadly attacks could further intensify and spread in Nov. Clashes took place in all parts of NK conflict zone, involving artillery, missile, and drone strikes on Armenian positions. Fighting reportedly killed thousands of Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers. Civilian areas on both sides near front line also suffered continued attacks, resulting in over 100 civilians killed and hundreds injured on both sides. Armenian-controlled NK capital Stepanakert and other towns and villages throughout month faced Azerbaijani artillery, missile and drone attacks, decimating infrastructure and displacing some 90,000 people (out of estimated total population of 150,000). NGO Amnesty International 5 Oct revealed M095 DPICM cluster munitions appeared to have been fired by Azerbaijani forces into Stepanakert; NGO Human Rights Watch 23 Oct confirmed Azerbaijan used cluster munitions four times in NK. Fighting also hit Azerbaijani cities near line of contact, killing dozens of civilians (see Azerbaijan), and spread to Armenian regions close to NK border (see Armenia). Meanwhile, Russia, France, U.S. 1 Oct called for immediate cessation of hostilities and resumption of dialogue; 10, 17 and 26 Oct brokered humanitarian ceasefire agreements, but failed to stop progression of Azerbaijani military in NK as both sides accused other of violating terms. Both Baku and Ankara repeatedly denied Armenian accusations that Turkey had deployed military advisers and provided intelligence; France and Russia 1 Oct corroborated reports that Turkish-backed Syrian National Army fighters had been deployed in support of Baku. President Aliyev and Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan 19 Oct confirmed readiness to cease hostilities and start peace negotiations under certain conditions; Aliyev raised need for Armenia to accept basic settlement principles developed by Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, cease fighting and start immediate withdrawal of its troops from NK, while Pashinyan said that any settlement should be based on “compromise, not capitulation.”
Severest escalation since 1994 ceasefire erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan along front line in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) conflict zone, raising risk of worsening fighting in Oct. Large-scale fighting 27 Sept erupted as Azerbaijani army attacked Armenian troops located along key sections of 200km-long front line in NK conflict zone: most intense fighting involving tanks, artillery, helicopters, drones and infantry took place south, north and north east of frontline. Fighting reportedly killed dozens and wounded hundreds of military personnel on both sides. Azerbaijan 27 Sept reported taking control of several Armenian positions in southern part of NK conflict zone; de facto leader Arayik Harutyunyan next day said Armenian troops regained control of initially lost positions. Armenia, Azerbaijan and de facto NK entity 27 Sept declared martial law and started to mobilise reserve troops; on both sides, groups of volunteer fighters, mainly veterans of 1992-1994 war in NK, arrived in conflict zone to support fighting. Civilian areas on both sides located close to front line suffered regular attacks, leading to at least 14 civilians killed and dozens wounded, including children. Towns situated far from front line faced artillery, rocket and drone attacks, including Armenian-controlled Stepanakert city 27 and 29 Sept, and Azerbaijani city Naftalan 28 Sept; Armenia 29 Sept reported attack on its town of Vardenis located close to NK conflict zone. Russia, France, Germany, EU, U.S., Iran, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Minsk Group co-chairs and UN Security Council 27-29 Sept called for immediate ceasefire and return to talks. Turkey’s President Erdogan 27 Sept said Ankara would support Azerbaijan “with all means”; Armenia 29 Sept accused Turkey of downing its military jet, but Ankara same day denied its involvement. Reuters 28 Sept reported that Turkey deployed up to 1,000 Turkish-backed Syrian National Army fighters from Syria to Azerbaijan days before outbreak of fighting; Ankara and Azerbaijani President Aliyev 29 Sept separately denied report. Previously, deadly clashes 16-21 Sept broke out along state border between Armenia and Azerbaijan; Armenia 16 Sept reported one soldier killed and Azerbaijan 14-21 Sept reported one killed and two wounded; both countries called on public to prepare for imminent war or to be ready for adversary attack.
Following major military escalation along state border in July, tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan continued over foreign arms sales. Following Turkey’s expression of support to Azerbaijan amid July escalation in NK conflict, political consultations between both Ankara and Baku and joint military drills increased in Aug. Meanwhile, Russia made efforts to defuse tensions over recent media reports about weapons supplied to Armenia soon after mid-July clashes; Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu 25 Aug said that shipment in question contained construction materials for Russian military base in Armenia’s Gyumri city and did not include weapons for Armenia; he proposed more military cooperation with Azerbaijan next year (see Azerbaijan). Russian FM Sergey Lavrov 21 Aug blamed Armenia for triggering mid-July clashes by moving its military outpost closer to border and pipelines that deliver gas and oil from Azerbaijan to Europe. Following Baku’s criticism of Serbian weapons being used by Armenia in mid-July clashes, Serbian Deputy PM Nebojsa Stefanovic 11 Aug visited Baku to discuss arms deal and anti-terrorism cooperation with Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, Baku 23 Aug reported detention of one Armenian soldier in north of NK conflict zone; Armenia said officer got lost because of snow in mountainous area and demanded his release. Following 4 Aug blast in Lebanese capital Beirut, de facto NK President Araik Harutyunyan 5 Aug offered support to Lebanese-Armenians and welcomed them to NK; de facto and Armenian govts 9 Aug sent plane with humanitarian aid to Lebanon; Azerbaijan 8 Aug criticised Harutyunyan’s plans. Azerbaijan 17 Aug released new satellite photos allegedly confirming construction of new buildings in one illegal settlement in Kelbajar district.
In major escalation, deadly clashes erupted along state border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, killing at least 18, raising risk of further hostilities in August. Following relative calm at frontline since Sept 2018 agreement that launched direct communication channel between Armenia and Azerbaijan, violence 12-16 July flared up at densely populated frontline between Movses in Armenia and Agdam in Azerbaijan during which both sides used heavy weaponry in severest escalation since April 2016; as of 21 July, Azerbaijan reported twelve military fatalities, including a well-regarded general, and one civilian killed, while Armenia reported four military casualties and one civilian wounded; cause of escalation remained unclear and both sides traded accusations of initiating first attack. Azerbaijan authorities 15 July reported detention of Armenian citizen after crossing into Azerbaijan’s southern exclave of Nakhchivan. Armenia 27 July also reported sniper fire killed one Armenian soldier along border. In absence of international mediation and with both sides on high alert, risk of further clashes in Aug remains high. Following mid-July deadly escalation, external actors called for deescalation: Kremlin 15 July called on both sides “to exercise restraint and honour their obligations as part of a ceasefire”; UN Sec-Gen Antonio Guterres 14 and 22 July urged both countries to exercise maximum restraint in clashes at frontline; EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell 14 and 22 July called for both sides to defuse tensions. After escalation, tensions also rose between Armenian and Azerbaijani migrants and members of diaspora abroad: in Russia, home to one of largest Armenian and Azerbaijani diaspora populations, Moscow authorities 18 July arrested more than 25 individuals suspected of attacking several pedestrians and drivers; clashes 21 July broke out between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Los Angeles, U.S..
Heated diplomatic exchanges escalated between Armenia and Azerbaijan over planned road infrastructure development in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK), while negotiation process remained static. Following Armenian National Security Council’s 2019 announcement of controversial highway between Armenia and NK, de facto NK President Araik Arutyunyan 5 June confirmed road will be constructed in 2020. European Parliament’s rapporteurs on Azerbaijan and Armenia and chair of delegation to EU-Armenia Parliamentary Partnership Committee 10 June issued joint statement stating new road “could symbolically entrench the illegal occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and of its surrounding districts”. Azerbaijan 13 June thanked rapporteurs for their statement, saying it was based on EU Council’s 11 May Conclusions on Eastern Partnership Policy beyond 2020; de facto NK authorities 12 June said new road was necessary to combat Azerbaijan’s ongoing efforts to isolate NK; Armenian MPs of EU-Armenia Parliamentary Partnership Committee 13 June criticised statement for referring to NK as “occupied”, while also citing 2009 Basic Principles that stipulate final status of NK should be based on legally binding free expression of NK population. Armenian Foreign Ministry 13 June issued statement to mark “28th anniversary of the occupation of the Shaumyan region by the armed forces of Azerbaijan”, asserting that Armenian population in Shaumyan had suffered “ethnic cleansing” in response; Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry 14 June responded by criticising Armenian statement, while also accusing Yerevan of escalating situation. Armenian authorities 12 June detained Azerbaijani citizen at Areguni village in Armenia’s eastern Gegharkunik region, which borders Gadabey district in western Azerbaijan; detained man handed over to Armenia’s National Security Service while investigation ongoing.