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After long pause, high-level talks with Azerbaijan resumed as fatal clashes erupted along border.
U.S., EU and Russia facilitated parallel negotiations between Yerevan and Baku. Amid fears of major violence between Armenia and Azerbaijan after latter in late April installed checkpoint along Lachin road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) with Armenia, FMs 1 May met in U.S. capital Washington for talks. Key issues discussed included future of Armenians in NK, state border and resumption of transport links. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 4 May said parties “made tangible progress” and were “within reach of an agreement”; FMs 19 May held second meeting in Russian capital Moscow. PM Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Aliyev, meanwhile, 14 May met in Brussels, agreed to resume work on border delimitation agreement and made progress on transport routes. Leaders 25 May met Russian President Putin in Moscow, who said on “principal issues, there is an agreement”, though Aliyev and Pashinyan exchanged harsh words regarding Lachin. Meanwhile, Pashinyan 22 May told news conference that “Azerbaijan’s territory includes Nagorno-Karabakh”, but called for special arrangements to protect rights and security of ethnic Armenians living in enclave (see Nagorno-Karabakh).
Sides traded blame for cross-border shelling. Armenia 11, 12 May blamed Azerbaijan for attack on its forces at tensest part of state border between Azerbaijan’s Kelbajar district and Armenia’s Gegharkunik region, reporting one casualty and several injured; Azerbaijan blamed Armenia for escalation, reporting two casualties. Armenia 17 May said Azerbaijani gunfire killed a serviceman at same section of border. Baku 26 May reported detention of two Armenian soldiers who had crossed into Azerbaijan’s Zangelan district, allegedly to mount “sabotage” operations; Armenia denied accusation and said Azerbaijan abducted soldiers. Detentions came after leaders recommitted to releasing soldiers found on their territory during mid-May European Union meeting.
Tensions with Azerbaijan continued to escalate as fresh fighting along border left seven dead; international efforts to restart stalled peace talks persisted.
Border skirmish killed seven, Azerbaijani soldiers detained after entering Armenia. Baku and Yerevan 11 April reported that renewed fighting on Armenian side of border close to Lachin road killed four Armenian and three Azerbaijani soldiers, with sides exchanging blame for incident; EU 12 April deplored “armed clashes”. Azerbaijani foreign ministry 13 April said Armenia had captured two Azerbaijani soldiers who entered Armenian territory and claimed video circulating on social media showed one soldier (who allegedly praised Azerbaijani troops for beheading Armenians and was later charged with killing Armenian citizen) was subjected to “torture and inhumane treatment” by civilians. EU 13 April, U.S. and UK embassies 14 April criticised “unacceptable” treatment; ombudsman 17 April denied mistreatment. Prosecutor’s office 11, 14 April charged soldiers with border trespassing and weapons smuggling, 17 April charged one with killing Armenian citizen. Meanwhile, tensions spiked over Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) after Azerbaijan installed checkpoint along Lachin Corridor (see Nagorno-Karabakh).
Foreign actors, notably U.S., worked hard to restart direct peace talks. U.S. officials 17 April travelled to Azerbaijani capital Baku, 18 April met Armenian officials in capital Yerevan as U.S. ramped up efforts to prompt resumption of negotiations; FMs late April arrived in U.S. for talks beginning 1 May. Meanwhile, PM Pashinyan 18 April restated Yerevan’s recognition of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and readiness to sign peace treaty, while emphasizing that both sides need to recognise other’s territorial integrity “without ambiguities” for durable peace; Azerbaijani President Aliyev same day reiterated demand that Armenia recognises that “Karabakh is Azerbaijan”, and said Armenians in NK should accept “Azerbaijani citizenship or find another place to live”.
Tensions with Azerbaijan ran high as sides exchanged blame for attacks along border; peace talks remained stalled amid increasingly hostile rhetoric.
Armenia and Azerbaijan reported number of incidents along border. Azerbaijan 9 March claimed Armenian troops 8-9 March fired at its forces stationed along border in order to provoke reaction and create “a false opinion” about Azerbaijani forces among representatives of EU civilian mission. Azerbaijan 20 March also reported one soldier injured at border, suggesting Armenia was “abusing the presence” of the EU mission “to increase tensions in the region and cover up its military provocations”; Armenia same day rejected “disinformation”. Armenia 22 March announced “enemy fire” had “lethally wounded” serviceman at Yeraskh town near Azerbaijani exclave Nakhichevan. Meanwhile, tensions escalated in Nagorno-Karabakh (see Nagorno-Karabakh).
Sides made no progress on diplomatic front and ramped up aggressive rhetoric. No in-person meetings occurred in March, and although sides continued exchanging draft peace treaty, their increasingly hostile public statements suggested little progress on diplomatic front. Notably, PM Pashinyan 14 March confirmed receiving Azerbaijan’s reaction to Armenia’s draft agreement, but claimed Baku was using it to try and “form territorial claims” in Armenia and “obtain a mandate for genocide or ethnic cleansing in Nagorno-Karabakh”; Pashinyan then warned that “the danger of a new escalation is very high”. Azerbaijani President Aliyev 18 March responded that “Armenia must accept our conditions […], sign a peace treaty with us and carry out [border] delimitation” if it is “to live comfortably”.
Foreign mediation produced no breakthrough. EU Special Representative for South Caucasus Toivo Klaar and U.S. Senior Adviser for Caucasus Negotiations Louis Bono 5, 6 March visited Azerbaijan’s capital Baku to advance peace process. FM Mirzoyan 20 March met with Russian FM Lavrov, who same day said date for trilateral meeting would be decided “in the near future”. European Council President Charles Michel 25 March called Pashinyan and Aliyev separately to advance “Brussels process”.
International efforts to advance peace negotiations continued but with little progress, European Union (EU) launched monitoring mission, and earthquake in Türkiye opened up opportunities for cooperation.
Armenia and Azerbaijan exchanged draft peace treaty, but talks between FMs did not resume. Blockade of Lachin corridor connecting Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) with Armenia (see Nagorno-Karabakh) continued to hinder diplomatic efforts, with no meetings in Feb between Armenian and Azerbaijani FMs, who are responsible for formal negotiations on peace treaty. Still, PM Pashinyan 16 Feb announced Yerevan had sent draft proposal of peace treaty to Baku, which Azerbaijani President Aliyev 18 Feb confirmed receiving. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 18 Feb chaired meeting with Pashinyan and Aliyev at Munich Security Conference to discuss progress on draft, among other issues. Meanwhile, Russia intensified its own mediation efforts amid growing competition with West over peace agenda. Notably, Russian Special Representative Igor Khovayev 9, 14 Feb visited Yerevan and Baku, respectively; Russian President Putin 14 Feb spoke with Aliyev; and Russian FM Sergei Lavrov 27 Feb met with Aliyev in Baku.
Armenia and Azerbaijan debated control of corridors, EU launched monitoring mission. Aliyev 18 Feb 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; FM Ararat Mirzoyan 22 Feb rejected proposal, saying Russian peacekeepers should retain control of Lachin corridor (see Nagorno-Karabakh). Meanwhile, EU 20 Feb launched civilian monitoring mission along Armenian side of international border with Azerbaijan, aimed at contributing to border stability, building confidence and supporting efforts toward normalisation.
Ankara and Yerevan made progress on opening border following earthquake. In aftermath of devastating earthquake that hit Türkiye, Armenia 7 Feb sent rescue team, while border 11 Feb symbolically opened for first time since 1988 to allow humanitarian aid to pass through. Mirzoyan 15 Feb visited Türkiye and sides agreed to repair border bridge and work toward opening land border for diplomats and third-country nationals. Pashinyan 18 Feb expressed optimism that increased communication and collaboration could lead to more progress on political front.
Continued blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) led to standoff in peace talks with Azerbaijan, and European Union (EU) approved civilian monitoring mission to Armenia’s border areas.
Blockade of NK brought peace talks with Azerbaijan to near standstill. Azerbaijan-backed protesters’ continued blockade of Lachin corridor, only road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia (see Nagorno-Karabakh), derailed all diplomacy built around Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process. Communication between Yerevan and Baku throughout Jan was almost non-existent as sides exchanged blame for standoff, despite EU and Georgian attempts to arrange talks. Notably, EU early Jan tried to convene associates of Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders, but Baku cancelled participation. Georgia also reportedly proposed trilateral cooperation format after receiving request from Baku. However, Azerbaijani President Aliyev 19 Jan said at World Economic Forum that Yerevan had rejected proposal; FM Ararat Mirzoyan 20 Jan responded, saying “Armenia is greatly interested in developing trilateral dialogue” but that initiative failed due to disagreement with Baku over Armenian demand for joint statement against hate speech. Russian foreign ministry 27 Jan emphasised Moscow’s “readiness to organise talks between the Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers”.
EU approved monitoring mission to Armenia. In positive move aimed at preventing new escalation along Armenia-Azerbaijan border, EU 23 Jan announced it will deploy two-year civilian monitoring mission to Armenia in border areas to contribute to “stability”, “build confidence on the ground and ensure an environment conducive to normalisation efforts”. Azerbaijan next day warned that EU mission must not be used “for derailing the normalisation process, including in the context of border delimitation process”.
In other important developments. PM Pashinyan 10 Jan said Armenia would not host annual drills for Russian-led military Collective Security Treaty Organisation alliance due to regional instability. Six months after Armenian and Turkish special envoys announced renewed efforts to normalise relations, Türkiye 6 Jan lifted ban on direct cargo flights with Armenia.
Situation along Armenia-Azerbaijan border stabilised but tensions rose over blockade of Lachin corridor; sides missed end-of-year deadline for peace treaty.
Situation at border with Azerbaijan calmed as tensions rose over Lachin Corridor. After numerous reports of ceasefire violations along Armenia-Azerbaijan border in Nov, situation stabilised in Dec, possibly due to reduced military activity during winter season. Elsewhere, tensions rose over blockade of only road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, known as Lachin Corridor (see Nagorno-Karabakh).
Baku and Yerevan missed deadline for peace deal. Despite hope for peace agreement by end of 2022, sides missed deadline due to delays in drafting treaty, gap in vision for terms of deal, lack of outside mediation and worsening relations since Sept border clashes. Sides offered new proposals for peace treaty during month but tensions over Lachin corridor hindered diplomatic efforts; notably, Yerevan requested postponing meeting between Armenian, Azerbaijani and Russian FMs scheduled for 23 Dec in Russia. Still, Russian President Putin 26 Dec met with PM Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Aliyev separately on sidelines of Commonwealth of Independent States summit in Russia’s St. Petersburg city; Putin also said three leaders met, but gave few details on what was discussed.
In other important developments. European Union (EU) temporary civilian monitoring team, deployed after Sept border clashes along Armenian side of international border with Azerbaijan, 19 Dec completed activities; EU, in agreement with authorities, same day announced new transitional team to “prepare the ground for a possible longer term EU mission in Armenia”. Azerbaijani FM Bayramov 27 Dec said Baku had received no report on Oct-Dec monitoring mission and that any new mission should be done in coordination with Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, Armenia and Hungary 1 Dec agreed to restore diplomatic relations.
Tensions with Azerbaijan persisted amid numerous reports of shooting along border and in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK), efforts to reach peace deal continued, and CSTO summit took place in Yerevan.
Armenia and Azerbaijan traded accusations of shooting along border. Situation at Armenia-Azerbaijan border remained fragile following Sept clashes, with both sides reporting shooting along front line during month. Kremlin 7 Nov called on parties to refrain from actions that could spark “escalation”, while U.S. State Dept 12 Nov said it was “deeply concerned” by reports. Meanwhile, tensions simmered in NK conflict zone, with de facto authorities reporting one civilian and at least two servicemen killed 10, 28 Nov respectively (see Nagorno-Karabakh).
Support for bilateral diplomacy continued, but Azerbaijan contested French efforts. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 7 Nov hosted Armenian and Azerbaijani FMs in U.S. capital Washington, praising “courageous steps” toward peace. French President Macron and PM Pashinyan 19 Nov highlighted importance of “strengthening stability and security in the South Caucasus” during Summit of International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF) in Tunisia; according to Pashinyan’s press office, PM also “stressed the need to eliminate the consequences of Azerbaijani aggression”. Azerbaijan same day criticised OIF members’ “anti-Azerbaijani position” while country’s President Aliyev 25 Nov cancelled Dec meeting with Pashinyan over Armenian request to involve Macron. Meanwhile, Pashinyan 10 Nov made public Armenian proposal to establish demilitarised zone along state border after Azerbaijani troops withdraw from Armenian territory; Baku had not responded by end of month.
Armenia hosted CSTO summit. Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) summit 23 Nov took place in capital Yerevan for discussions on international and regional security issues. Pashinyan refused to sign declaration on “joint measures on providing assistance to Armenia”, saying it did not address Yerevan’s concerns regarding CSTO’s “lack of a clear political assessment” on conflict with Azerbaijan.
Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders engaged in flurry of diplomatic activity amid ongoing tensions; PM Pashinyan met with Turkish President Erdoğan to discuss normalisation process.
Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders met in Prague for EU/French-mediated talks. Following border violence in Sept that killed almost 300 people, PM Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Aliyev 6 Oct met in Czech Republic’s capital Prague for meeting mediated by French President Macron and EU Council President Michel. Both leaders committed to respecting each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, agreed to two-month EU civilian mission to observe situation on Armenian side of border with Azerbaijan; first monitors 20 Oct deployed. Aliyev 6 Oct said sides were gradually moving toward peace, reiterated that Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) was Azerbaijan’s internal affair (see Nagorno-Karabakh).
Moscow held separate summit in Russia. Russian foreign ministry 6 Oct criticised West’s “not quite balanced” approach to reaching peace agreement; Russian President Putin 27 Oct said “so-called Washington option envisages recognition of Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over Karabakh” but emphasised that “if the Armenian people and leadership believe that Karabakh has its own specificities and these specificities must be taken into account, mentioned in a future peace agreement, this is also possible”. Putin 31 Oct hosted Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders at summit in Sochi city; sides, echoing part of outcomes from Prague, committed to respecting each other’s territorial integrity and emphasised “crucial contribution” of Russian peacekeepers.
Tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan persisted. Aliyev 14 Oct said Armenia had failed to provide access from mainland Azerbaijan to its exclave Nakhichevan or to pull troops out of NK, as agreed in Moscow-brokered deal to end 2020 war; Pashinyan same day rejected accusations and warned of “high risk” of new “military aggression” by Azerbaijan. Pashinyan 17 Oct accused Azerbaijan of violating Sept ceasefire and blaming Armenia as “pretext for new military aggression”, which Azerbaijan denied. Meanwhile, at Armenia’s invitation, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe sent mission 21-27 Oct to assess situation in certain border areas; Azerbaijan 20 Oct rejected “unilateral” mission.
In other important developments. Pashinyan 6 Oct met with Turkish President Erdoğan in Prague in highest-level meeting in over a decade to discuss normalisation process.
Clashes erupted along border with Azerbaijan, marking deadliest escalation since 2020 war as fighting spilled deeper into Armenian territory; fighting could escalate once more as negotiating positions harden.Renewed hostilities with Azerbaijan killed hundreds. Clashes 13 Sept erupted along border with Azerbaijan, marking deadliest violence between two countries since six-week war in 2020. Sides blamed each other for renewed fighting; defence ministry 13 Sept said Azerbaijani forces shelled 200km stretch of southern border in Syunik and Gegharkunik provinces, attacking civilian and military infrastructure in “unprovoked aggression” and moving deep inside Armenian territory; Baku same day rejected characterisation, saying its forces took action to prevent Armenian “saboteurs” from mining supply roads on border near Azerbaijani army positions. PM Pashinyan 14 Sept said Azerbaijani army had taken control of at least 10 sq km of Armenian territory. Yerevan and Baku 14 Sept issued statements committing to ceasefire, although both countries 14, 21, 23, 24, 28 Sept accused each other of violating it. Fighting in two days killed at least 207 Armenian and 80 Azerbaijani soldiers; Yerevan 19 Sept said four Armenian civilians were killed and that authorities had been forced to evacuate over 2,700 civilians from Syunik and Gegharkunik provinces. Addressing UN General Assembly (UNGA), PM Pashinyan 22 Sept said threat of new offensive remained “very high” and “Azerbaijan intends to occupy more territories of Armenia”.Clashes prompted flurry of diplomatic activity. Before fragile ceasefire was announced, Russia, U.S., EU and France 13 Sept called for peace and restraint, with Moscow announcing it had brokered ceasefire, though fighting persisted into following day. In rare show of unity, UN Security Council members 15 Sept condemned violence and urged talks. On sidelines of UNGA, U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 19 Sept brought together both Armenian and Azerbaijani FMs, urging “strong, sustainable diplomatic engagement” to reinforce fragile ceasefire. In less measured response, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blamed Azerbaijani forces for “illegal and deadly attacks on Armenian territory” during visit to Yerevan day before; Baku 18 Sept said Pelosi’s “groundless” accusations dealt blow to peace efforts.
Azerbaijan launched military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) ahead of high-level meetings in Brussels and Moscow; opposition announced return to parliament after five-month boycott. After weeks of relative calm in NK, clashes erupted early Aug between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces answering to de facto authorities in NK, with Baku 3 Aug launching new military operation; both sides reported casualties, as international community called for end to hostilities (see Nagorno-Karabakh). 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, agreed to “step up substantive work to advance on the peace treaty”; deputy PMs of both countries 30 Aug met in Russian capital Moscow to discuss issues related to transport, communication and delimitation of international borders (see Nagorno-Karabakh). Azerbaijani foreign ministry 25 Aug criticised appointment of new U.S. co-chair of OSCE Minsk Group, saying “attempts to revive the almost defunct Minsk Group” could lead to sidelining of U.S. from normalisation process of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations. Armenian foreign ministry same day said OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs still had international mandate to support comprehensive settlement of NK conflict. Meanwhile, opposition leader Ishkhan Saghatelyan 23 Aug announced return of opposition MPs to parliament in Sept; opposition had boycotted parliamentary sessions since April and organised protests in bid to force resignation of PM Pashinyan over alleged compromises on NK’s independence.
Border with Azerbaijan remained calm as EU and Russia continued mediation efforts; govt and Türkiye took tentative steps toward normalisation. Despite occasional reports from Baku and Yerevan of shooting at tensest part of state border between Azerbaijan’s Kelbajar district and Armenia’s Gegharkunik region, calm largely persisted along front lines ahead of new EU-mediated summit, expected to take place in Aug. Meanwhile, thanks to EU and Russian mediation efforts, Azerbaijani and Armenian FMs 16 July met in Georgian capital Tbilisi, reconfirmed readiness for continued diplomatic engagement. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 25 July spoke with PM Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Aliyev separately about “historic opportunity to achieve peace” and urged “further progress towards peace and stability in the region” (see Nagorno-Karabakh). After six months of contact between Türkiye and Armenia, sides 1 July met in Austrian capital Vienna. In historic move, they agreed to open border crossings for foreign citizens and to open their countries’ airspace to cargo movement “as soon as possible”; their respective leaders 11 July confirmed deal in rare telephone call. President Khachaturyan 14 July appointed Maj-Gen Edvard Asryan, who was among senior officers who 25 Feb 2021 signed letter demanding PM Pashinyan’s resignation, as chief of general staff of armed forces. Meanwhile, opposition activist Armen Grigoryan, arrested in March 2022 during protests in capital Yerevan, 15 July died in courtroom of possible heart failure, following numerous reports that he had health problems. Human rights defender Kristina Grigoryan 16 July said his treatment was “absolutely unacceptable” and promised to investigate. Opposition same day dedicated its street rally to Grigoryan, accusing leadership of unfair detention and neglect contributing to his death. In surprise visit, U.S. CIA Director William Burns 15 July met with PM Pashinyan in Yerevan along with other govt officials; statement issued following meeting gave few details of what was discussed. Russian Foreign Intelligence Chief Sergei Naryshkin 19 July travelled to Yerevan and Azerbaijani capital Baku, respectively; visits prompted speculation about possible secret talks on war in Ukraine; Naryshkin same day refuted claims that there was any connection between U.S. and Russian trips.
Transport corridor remained central sticking point between Yerevan and Baku, while opposition continued protest over PM Pashinyan’s perceived readiness to soften stance on status of Nagorno-Karabakh (NK). Russia 3 June mediated talks on transport corridor between Deputy PM Mher Grigoryan and Azerbaijani counterpart Shahin Mustafayev in Russian capital Moscow, where pair agreed to continue efforts to unblock transport links. Russian FM Sergei Lavrov 9 June visited Armenia’s capital Yerevan, said that “simplified” border crossing procedures would be used on railway and motorway connecting mainland Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan exclave via Armenia. While providing few details, Lavrov did not exclude possibility of route being under Armenia’s jurisdiction. Pashinyan 14 June told media outlet Al Jazeera that “narrative about the so-called corridor [between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan exclave] is unacceptable”, referencing 2020 agreement that mentioned only Lachin corridor, which connects NK to Armenia via Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani President Aliyev 23 June again accused Armenia of failing to provide transport link connecting Azerbaijan with Nakhichevan exclave, as per 2020 agreement. Disagreements over status of NK persisted, hindering peace talks (see Nagorno-Karabakh). Speaking to local media, Pashinyan 27 June accused Azerbaijan of undermining diplomatic efforts in order “to legitimise a new war”. Meanwhile, defence ministry 20 June said one soldier was killed 18-19 June on border with Azerbaijan. Since mid-April, Armenia has reported two soldiers killed at military positions between Azerbaijan’s Kelbajar district and Armenia’s Gegharkunik region, which have seen particularly deadly skirmishes since 2020. Opposition leader Ishkhan Saghatelyan 14 June announced switch from daily anti-govt demonstrations, which opposition had been staging since late April, to weekly rallies, saying it will bring “new impetus” to “our resistance movement”; added that opposition’s main aim was still to ouster Pashinyan and prevent new “capitulation agreement” with Azerbaijan, referring to possible treaty on status of NK (see Nagorno-Karabakh). Pashinyan 15 June told parliament that “any status” guaranteeing security, rights and freedoms of NK people should be considered “real solution” and claimed alternative would be “annihilation not only of Nagorno-Karabakh, but of Armenia as well”.
Anti-govt protests turned increasingly violent, and PM Nikol Pashinyan met Azerbaijani President Aliyev as part of efforts to launch border demarcation talks. Political situation grew increasingly tense as opposition parties from late April blocked centre of capital Yerevan and organised protests, with at times up to tens of thousands of protestors who demanded resignation of PM Pashinyan for alleged intention to lower “bar a little on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh”. In response, police from mid-May clashed with demonstrators, detained dozens; notably, authorities 30 May arrested over one hundred. Ombudsman 2 May and NGO Freedom House 13 May raised concerns about crackdown and urged police to refrain from using disproportionate force. Despite protests, Pashinyan during month declared intention to remain in office, including his deputy chief of staff 6 May, insisting 2021 election win for Pashinyan’s party confirmed his legitimacy. Meanwhile, FM Ararat Mirzoyan and Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov 12 May met with Russian mediation in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe to discuss main issues related to post-2020 war situation, including border problems and resumption of transport links; Russian deputy FM and deputy PM same day visited Yerevan to explore proceeding of talks on transportation routes. In first meeting since early April, Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Aliyev 22 May met in EU-facilitated talks in Belgian capital Brussels, agreed border demarcation teams would meet “in the coming days” (see Nagorno-Karabakh (NK)). Newly formed Armenian and Azerbaijani border commissions 24 May symbolically met at state border of two countries to launch commission’s work. With support of Russian peacekeepers deployed in NK, Baku 26 May handed over to Armenian side Armenian soldier detained in April at state border. Govt 28 May reported another Armenian soldier killed in shooting from Azerbaijani position at most problematic border area between Kelbajar and Gegharkunik, warned incident could disrupt plans for talks in Moscow; Baku next day denied encounter, accused Yerevan of attempting to disrupt normalisation process; Yerevan 30 May called on Russia, EU and relevant foreign organisations to condemn Baku’s attempts to disrupt border stability.
Peace process between Armenia and Azerbaijan gained momentum, triggering political backlash at home as opposition announced street protests to oust govt. 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 (see Nagorno-Karabakh). In address to parliament, PM Pashinyan 13 April said Yerevan was facing international pressure to scale down demands on status of breakaway NK, that there was no alternative to peace with Azerbaijan, and expressed commitment to signing peace deal “as soon as possible”; Pashinyan also stressed that Karabakh issue was about rights, not territories, and peace negotiations should ensure security guarantees, rights and freedoms for Karabakh Armenians, as well as clarify territory’s final status. Momentum toward peace talks raised fears among political opposition that govt is preparing to cede NK’s control to Azerbaijan. Notably, opposition parties 5 April held large-scale rally in capital Yerevan against signing peace deal with Baku that would compromise Armenian-populated NK’s claim for independence from Azerbaijan. Opposition MPs 12 April brought breakaway NK flags to parliament before walking out of session and travelling to various villages in Armenia and NK; Russian peacekeepers in NK same day denied opposition MPs entry, prompting Armenian foreign ministry 12 April to claim lack of access contradicted Nov 2020 ceasefire agreement. Meanwhile, opposition MP and Deputy Parliament Speaker Ishkhan Saghatelyan 22 April announced start of “non-stop street struggle” to oust govt; leading opposition alliances, Armenia and I Have the Honour, 25 April began small-scale demonstrations ahead of mass protests aimed at toppling Pashinyan, accused PM of planning concessions to Azerbaijan over NK; rallies late April were held over multiple days in Yerevan, as Office of Human Rights Defender 27 April cited evidence of police using disproportionate force to detain some protesters.
Govt and Turkey expressed commitment to ongoing normalisation talks, while govt reiterated demands for resumption of talks with Azerbaijan on Nagorno-Karabakh (NK). On margins of Antalya Diplomatic Forum in Turkey, FM Ararat Mirzoyan 12 March met Turkish FM Mevlut Cavusoglu in first visit by senior official to Turkey in over decade; pair exchanged messages of support for ongoing talks between special envoys and reaffirmed commitment to process without preconditions. New Armenian President Vahagn Khachaturyan 13 March took office, underscoring need for unity to build new country in times of transforming “global security systems”. Govt 14 March publicised its vision for resumption of negotiations with Azerbaijan on NK: Yerevan demanded mediation of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group co-chairs and respect to right for self-determination. In significant escalation, Azerbaijani troops 24-25 March took over small Armenian settlement located inside NK (see Nagorno-Karabakh).
Armenia and Azerbaijan continued diplomatic engagement as number and scope of skirmishes between their armed forces slightly reduced. Month witnessed reduction in number and geographic range of skirmishes between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces along international state border, with direct clashes shifting to Armenian populated areas in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone (see Nagorno-Karabakh). Azerbaijani defence ministry however said its positions in Tovuz district on Armenian border 18 Feb came under fire and its positions in Lachin district 23 Feb faced intermittent fire from Armenia’s Goris town; Armenian defence ministry denied latter report and called on Azerbaijani side “to refrain from spreading obviously false information” on border situation. PM Pashinyan, Azerbaijani President Aliyev, French President Macron and European Council President Charles Michel 4 Feb held video conference at French initiative; govt and Azerbaijan same day announced agreement on UNESCO mission “to both countries”, Baku also reported exchanges on “humanitarian issues, confidence-building”, landmines, communications, as well as border delimitation and demarcation. In positive sign, Azerbaijan 7 Feb returned eight detainees to Yerevan, explaining handover was in return for information about Azerbaijanis missing in 1990s’ first Karabakh war; Pashinyan 9 Feb clarified that, since 2020 war, Armenia had handed over remains of 108 people to Azerbaijan without any preconditions and would hand over remains of two more people in near future. Special envoys of Armenia and Turkey for normalisation talks 24 Feb met in Austrian capital Vienna and reiterated their countries’ commitment to normalise relations; special envoys exchanged views on possible steps that can be taken to achieve normalisation and agreed to take measures to continue the process without preconditions.
Deadly clashes with Azerbaijan along state border resumed, jeopardising international efforts to reduce tensions, while authorities deployed peacekeepers to Kazakhstan. Azerbaijani defence ministry 8 Jan claimed that Azerbaijani positions in Kelbajar region were “subjected to fire”; Armenian defence ministry same day alleged accusation “does not correspond to reality”. Foreign ministry 11 Jan accused Azerbaijani forces of violating ceasefire using artillery and UAVs against positions in Gegharkunik region in clashes that killed three Armenian and one Azerbaijani soldiers; Azerbaijani defence ministry same day said Armenia “bears full responsibility”. Azerbaijani President Aliyev 12 Jan warned Armenia against not recognising Azerbaijani “territorial integrity”, said Baku would respond in kind. Russian FM Sergey Lavrov 14 Jan announced Armenia had submitted proposal on process of demarcation and delimitation of Armenian-Azerbaijani border, which he would share with Azerbaijan, and underscored importance of establishing agenda of priority issues. However, differences surfaced between Yerevan and Baku as FM Ararat Mirzoyan 19 Jan underlined need for “border stability and security”, and preventative mechanisms, whereas Azerbaijani FM Ceyhun Bayramov same day called Armenian preconditions “absolutely unacceptable”. In response, Armenian foreign ministry 20 Jan said that Yerevan had no preconditions for border demarcation. Regarding agreed corridor connecting Azerbaijan to its exclave Nakhichevan, Aliyev 12 Jan said main condition in negotiations with Armenia is that highway follow “shortest route” and remain “open in all seasons”. As current chair of Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Armenia 7-14 Jan deployed around 100 peacekeepers to Kazakhstan following Nur-Sultan’s request for CSTO assistance; parliamentary opposition bloc Gegham Nazaryan 7 Jan argued that “no Armenian serviceman should have left for that country” due to Kazakhstan’s alleged support to Azerbaijan (see Kazakhstan). Special envoys of Armenia and Turkey 14 Jan held first meeting for normalisation negotiations; after talks, foreign ministry described “positive atmosphere” and Turkish FM announced agreement “to continue negotiations without preconditions”. Armenian President Sargsyan 23 Jan announced his resignation, said he did not have “the necessary tools” to influence country’s domestic and foreign policies.
Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders renewed diplomatic engagement, facilitating prisoners release and easing tensions; Turkey and Armenia took steps toward normalisation. In positive sign, govt participated in meetings with Azerbaijani counterparts following late-Nov breakthrough when Russian President Putin, Azerbaijani President Aliyev and Armenian PM Pashinyan agreed that bilateral commission on delimitation and demarcation of state border should be set by Azerbaijan and Armenia. Armenian FM Ararat Mirzoyan 1 Dec and Azerbaijani FM Jeyhun Bayramov 2 Dec met Minsk Group Co-Chairs at Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Stockholm Ministerial Council. Reportedly with Russian mediation, Azerbaijan 4 Dec returned ten captured Armenian soldiers to Yerevan in return for landmines maps. European Council President Charles Michel 14 Dec hosted discussion with Pashinyan and Aliyev, announcing EU’s readiness to offer technical assistance for border delimitation and demarcation, and praised agreement to restore communication channel between defence ministers, set up rail link and agree on “further tangible steps” ahead of planned launch of negotiations on delimitation and demarcation. Pashinyan and Aliyev 15 Dec informally met at French President Macron’s initiative. Azerbaijan 19 Dec released ten Armenian detainees “with mediation of the European Union”. Armenian soldiers 18 Dec detained two Azerbaijani servicemen after latter crossed into Armenian territory; Armenia 20 Dec returned soldiers. With mediation of Hungary, Azerbaijan 29 Dec handed over to Yerevan five Armenian soldiers detained during 16 Nov border clashes. Aliyev 14 Dec insisted Lachin corridor – which connects Russian peacekeepers stationed in Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia – and Azerbaijan-Nakhichevan corridor should have exactly same legal regime without customs controls; Pashinyan same day countered this would contradict earlier agreements. After Armenia and Azerbaijan in Sept filed cases against each other, International Court of Justice 7 Dec announced provisional decision for both “to refrain from any action” aggravating or extending dispute, to prevent racial hatred, and for Azerbaijan to protect Armenian prisoners and cultural heritage. Turkey and Armenia 13 Dec announced they will mutually appoint special envoys to discuss steps to normalise relations. Armenia 31 Dec lifted ban of Turkish imports in place since Oct 2020.
Deadly escalation erupted at international border with Azerbaijan, prompting international diplomatic efforts to facilitate dialogue. At undemarcated Azerbaijani-Armenian border near Sev Lich Lake, Azerbaijan 10 Nov raised concerns over increased number of Armenian soldiers. Armenian defence ministry 14 Nov reported Azerbaijani forces surrounding two Armenian positions; related videos showed Azerbaijani soldiers expelling Armenian military from area. Azerbaijani forces 16 Nov reportedly began organised advance toward Armenian positions, with videos purportedly showing use of tanks and artillery from inside Azerbaijan for first time since Autumn 2020 war, leading to clashes before Russian defence ministry brokered ceasefire same day; Azerbaijan next day reported seven soldiers killed and ten wounded, and Armenia 19 Nov reported at least six soldiers dead, and over 30 either detained or missing. Armenia 22 Nov accused Azerbaijan’s armed forces of opening fire and killing one Armenian soldier in Gegharkunik province; Azerbaijan same day rejected “false” accusation. Separately, in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone, tensions remained high amid security incidents (see Nagorno-Karabakh). 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. Following resignation of former Defence Minister Arshak Karapetyan following escalation, PM Pashinyan 15 Nov introduced former Deputy Suren Papikyan as replacement.
Diplomatic engagement with Baku increased despite hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh and proceedings at International Court of Justice. Despite rise in hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) conflict zone (see Nagorno-Karabakh), Armenian FM Ararat Mirzoyan and Azerbaijani FM Jeyhun Bayramov 14 Oct met in presence of Russian FM Sergei Lavrov to discuss issues related to NK conflict, including implementation of Nov 2020 trilateral statement. After govt and Baku in Sept initiated cases against each other at International Court of Justice on grounds of violating International Convention on Racial Discrimination, court 14 Oct hosted hearings on Armenian case against Azerbaijan, which focused on Azerbaijan’s Military Trophies Park and Armenian prisoners of war, and 18 Oct hosted hearing on Azerbaijan’s separate case against Armenia, which largely focused on landmines. Following Azerbaijan’s Aug closure of transit road from Iran to Armenia, Iranian delegation 4 Oct visited country to discuss Iran’s possible contribution to construction of alternative transit road in Armenia; Russia’s Deputy Minister of Economic Development Dmitry Volvach 19 Oct announced plans to invest in “concrete programs worth one billion dollars”. Meanwhile, PM Pashinyan 12 Oct travelled to Russian capital Moscow to meet Russian President Putin, reportedly discussing bilateral agenda and post-war situation.
Armenia and Azerbaijan commenced legal proceedings against each other at International Court of Justice (ICJ), while tensions surfaced with Baku over control of regional highway. Armenia 16 Sept instituted proceedings at ICJ, accusing Azerbaijan of violating International Convention on Racial Discrimination through decades of state-sponsored discrimination; Azerbaijani foreign ministry 23 Sept filed case against Armenia on same grounds. Tensions surfaced with Azerbaijan over control of highway. Azerbaijani police 13 Sept installed checkpoint on main border zone highway connecting Iran to South Caucasus and Armenia with its southern regions in violation of agreements on restrictions of movement following Autumn 2020 war; in response, Armenia next day closed highway for Iranian trucks (see Azerbaijan). After Turkish President Erdoğan late Aug declared readiness for gradual normalisation of ties with Yerevan, PM Pashinyan 8 Sept affirmed Armenian willingness to begin discussions. Erdoğan 19 Sept, however, refused to meet Pashinyan at UN General Assembly, insisting Yerevan must first open corridor between Azerbaijan and its Nakhchivan exclave; Yerevan 20 Sept reiterated willingness to start meetings, while stating that corridor was not part of Nov 2020 ceasefire statements. Authorities 29 Sept briefly detained former Defence Minister Davit Tonoyan on charges related to investigation into supply of low-quality weapons and ammunition in 2011, which may have been used in 2020 war with Azerbaijan, and court 30 Sept sentenced him to two months’ pre-trial detention; Tonoyan is first senior official in power late last year to face trial in relation to problems that occurred during 2020 fighting.
Deadly clashes with Azerbaijan continued on international border, while Russian border guards deployed in north-eastern region. Clashes on international border persisted throughout month, which – combined with late July hostilities – constituted deadliest period since 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war. Fighting in Aug reportedly killed two Armenian soldiers and left one Azerbaijani and one Armenian wounded. Nearly all incidents occurred in two locations along border, namely between Azerbaijan’s Kelbajar and Armenia’s Gekharkunik provinces and at crossing of Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan enclave, Armenia’s Ararat district and Turkey. Meanwhile, defence ministry 5 Aug announced Russian border guards had deployed to Voskepar village in north-eastern Tavush region bordering Azerbaijan; Russian troops formed new military post near road connecting Armenia with Georgia, and Armenian media outlets reported plans for similar Russian posts in more than ten other locations along Armenian-Azerbaijani border, indicating Moscow’s willingness to establish presence in hotspots of ongoing tensions. PM Pashinyan 18 Aug announced formation of new unit of border guards in next five years to replace regular military units at border. Pashinyan 19 Aug appointed former Parliament Speaker Ararat Mirzoyan as FM, filling post left vacant since late May. Parliament 27 Aug adopted new govt programme for next five years, expressing Yerevan’s readiness to normalise relations with Turkey.
Tensions with Azerbaijan rose along state border with deadliest clashes since Autumn 2020 war; fighting could intensify in coming weeks. On international border, despite striking second deal to exchange prisoners and mine maps (see Nagorno-Karabakh), Armenia and Azerbaijan traded unprecedented number of accusations of ceasefire violations during month as exchanges of fire occurred almost daily, primarily in Gegharkunik/Kelbajar and Yeraskh/Nakhchivan regions of state border of two republics. Fighting 6-26 July killed at least one Azerbaijani and one Armenian, and wounded three Azerbaijanis and five Armenians (one of whom remains in critical condition). Azerbaijan 14-15 July also claimed that Armenian forces inside conflict zone had fired at their positions in Shusha town. Deadliest clashes since Autumn 2020 escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh 27-28 July erupted on international border; Armenian foreign ministry accused Azerbaijani armed forces of infiltrating its territory and attacking its military positions; Baku confirmed incident left two Azerbaijani soldiers wounded and Yerevan said three Armenian soldiers were killed and six wounded. Armenian defence ministry 28 July confirmed Russian peacekeepers brokered ceasefire, which remained in force by end of month despite continued exchanges of fire; concerns remained that fighting could resume in August. Earlier in month, Armenia objected to Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) secretary general’s 3 July characterisation of standoff with Azerbaijan as “border incident”, thus ruling out triggering of CSTO’s collective defence clause; Armenian Security Council Secretary Armen Grigoryan 6 July responded that “border incidents cannot last two months”. PM Pashinyan 7 July met with Russian President Putin to discuss security concerns along border. President of European Council Charles Michel 18 July said EU was ready to support border demarcation efforts. Meanwhile, after opposition bloc Armenia Alliance 2 July requested Constitutional Court to overturn June parliamentary election result, court 17 July upheld Central Election Commission’s decision to award election victory to PM Pashinyan’s Civil Contract party; opposition parties decided to take their seats in new parliament, due to hold its first session on 2 August.
Acting PM Pashinyan won snap parliamentary elections, while diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving weeks-long military standoff on border with Azerbaijan continued. Acting PM Nikol Pashinyan’s Civil Contract party 20 June took on main rivals Armenia Alliance bloc, led by former President Robert Kocharyan, in snap parliamentary elections dominated by bellicose rhetoric and political polarisation; Civil Contract party emerged victorious with 53.91% of votes (amounting to 71 seats) while Armenia Alliance won 21.09% (29 seats). Armenia Alliance bloc 22 June suggested they would soon submit to Constitutional Court report that proves existence of electoral violations; Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) election observers 21 June noted that elections were “competitive and generally well-managed”. Following escalation of border tensions since mid-May with Azerbaijan, diplomatic efforts continued in attempt to resolve border standoff. Russian, Armenian and Azerbaijani representatives 2 June met in Moscow to discuss de-escalation. Pashinyan 15 June proposed that all troops withdraw from frontier to end military standoff and start talks on demarcation of border under supervision of international observers; OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs offered to facilitate negotiations. Series of border incidents further fuelled tensions with Baku. Azerbaijan 2 June reported that about 40 Armenian soldiers 1 June crossed into Azerbaijan’s Kelbajar district; Armenia denied report as “disinformation”. Mine blast in Kelbajar district on Armenian border 4 June killed three Azerbaijani civilians; Azerbaijan 8 June detained and later released Armenian soldier in Lachin district, as alleged member of “reconnaissance-sabotage group”, which Armenian defence ministry denied; Azerbaijan reported shelling in Kelbajar district; Armenia 10 June reported that Azerbaijani Armed Forces tried to carry out engineering work in border area of Armenian Gegharkunik region. Azerbaijan and Armenia 26-27 accused each other of ceasefire violations in several sections of frontier but no casualties were reported.
In most significant escalation since Autumn 2020 war, border tensions with Azerbaijan turned deadly; meanwhile, preparations for 20 June snap elections proceeded. Border tensions rose throughout month. Armenia 12-13 May reported advance of three Azerbaijani military groups in areas close to southern section of its state border, between Azerbaijani-controlled Kelbajar region and Armenian-controlled southern provinces of Syunik and Gegharkunik; Yerevan 27 May claimed up to 1,000 soldiers entered its territory, while Baku countered that new military positions were inside Azerbaijan. In most significant escalation and crisis since ceasefire that ended 2020 Autumn war, Armenian defence ministry 25 May said fighting with Azerbaijani forces along border of Armenia’s eastern Gegharkunik district killed one Armenian soldier; Baku same day said death had “nothing to do with the Azerbaijani side”. Azerbaijani defence ministry 27 May reported detention of six Armenian soldiers after their alleged attempt to cross to Kelbajar district; Yerevan same day said detention took place in its controlled territory. Azerbaijan defence ministry 28 May reported one Azerbaijani soldier wounded in exchange of fire with Armenian military at central location of state border with Azerbaijan’s exclave Nakhchivan; Yerevan denied involvement. After trip to border area, Armenian PM Pashinyan 27 May called on Azerbaijan to create demilitarised zone monitored by international observers or peacekeepers; Armenian FM Ara Ayvazyan same day announced his resignation over disagreements with PM. Prior to escalation, Armenia and Azerbaijan 12-18 May joined Russian-mediated talks aimed at demarcating border. Moscow 18 May proposed establishment of joint demarcation commission to look into border issues. Meanwhile, with political campaigning already under way in recent months, President Sarkissian 10 May signed official decree enabling snap parliamentary elections, scheduled for 20 June. After announcing candidacy, former president Robert Kocharyan (also former leader of de facto Nagorno-Karabakh) 9 May held mass rally in capital Yerevan, during which he claimed to be sole candidate able to guarantee Nagorno-Karabakh’s future. Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe 19 May officially opened observation mission in Yerevan.
Tensions persisted with Azerbaijan, PM Pashinyan resigned ahead of June elections, and U.S. President Biden recognised 1915 Armenian genocide. PM Pashinyan 7 April asked Russian President Putin for help in releasing dozens of prisoners of war captured by Azerbaijan during and after the military escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) in late 2020. Govt next day said that it expected group of prisoners of war to be repatriated to its capital Yerevan from Azerbaijan’s capital Baku; transport plane however arrived empty, prompting authorities 9 April to accuse Azerbaijan of violating terms of Russian-brokered Nov 2020 agreement (see Nagorno-Karabakh). Azerbaijani President Aliyev 12 April opened new Military Trophy Park in Baku, displaying installations of Armenian trenches and soldiers in NK, prompting public outcry in Armenia. Meanwhile, PM Pashinyan 14 April told Parliament that govt was considering possible expansion of existing Russian military base in Gyumri town amid concern over attempts by Azerbaijan and Turkey to take over some parts of region; Armenian chief of general staff next day discussed expansion of Russian troops to Armenia’s south with Russian counterparts during visit to Moscow. Domestically, judge 6 April dropped criminal case against former President Robert Kocharyan and co-defendants over deadly crackdown on protesters in 2008; Constitutional Court found that basis on which they were prosecuted in Criminal Code was “invalid”. Pashinyan 25 April resigned as PM as part of preparations for elections anticipated for 20 June. U.S. President Joe Biden 24 April became first U.S. president to formally recognise 1915 Armenian genocide; Pashinyan said Biden “honoured the memory” of those who died.
Amid ongoing standoff between govt and army, PM Pashinyan announced intention to resign and snap elections for June to pave way out of political crisis. Amid widespread popular anger over govt’s handling of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in Sept-Nov 2020, handful of anti-govt protesters 1 March stormed govt building in capital Yerevan demanding that Pashinyan step down as PM; group left shortly thereafter. Tensions subsequently remained high between Pashinyan and army. Following PM’s request in Feb to dismiss Chief of General Staff Onik Gasparyan for alleged attempted military coup, govt 10 March announced dismissal legally valid as President Armen Sarkissian failed to officially approve request within allotted time; in response, Gasparyan called dismissal “unconstitutional”, confirmed he had appealed to administrative court. Yerevan administrative court 19 March declared that Gasparyan had right to stay in current position; in response Pashinyan 23 March said ruling was unlawful and proposed new candidate for chief of general staff position. Pashinyan’s continued assertion that Gasparyan’s dismissal was effective despite Sarkissian’s refusal to approve it prompted dozens of senior military commanders to join calls for PM to step down. Pashinyan 18 March announced snap elections scheduled for 20 June – subject to parliamentary confirmation – and 28 March said he will resign as PM in April but stay in office as acting PM; Pashinyan 18 March added “snap parliamentary elections are the best way out of the current internal political situation”. Opposition 23 March ceased street protests and removed tents in front of parliament. Constitutional Court 26 March ruled that article 300.1 of Criminal Code is illegal, effectively ending court investigation into former President Robert Kocharyan launched by Pashinyan’s govt in 2018 to investigate Kocharyan’s order to disperse street protests in 2008.
Amid worsening political crisis, standoff emerged between PM Pashinyan and military as pressure mounted on PM to resign. Pashinyan 10 Feb told parliament that govt would continue to work in line with roadmap presented in Nov 2020 as opposition rejected his offer to hold snap parliamentary elections in 2021. Opposition insists PM must first resign. Several thousand 22 Feb marched in capital Yerevan, demanding Pashinyan’s resignation over handling of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in Sept-Nov 2020; protests continued until end of month. In sign of worsening political crisis, Pashinyan 25 Feb dismissed top military leadership, accusing it of attempted coup after top brass called for his resignation; dismissal prompted thousands same day to protest in Yerevan in support of either army or Pashinyan; President Sarkissian 27 Feb refused to dismiss head of armed forces. Meanwhile, govt and Azerbaijan continued dialogue and cooperation. Notably, authorities 9 Feb swapped prisoners of war and post-ceasefire detainees with mediation of Russian peacekeepers (see Nagorno-Karabakh). Russian President Putin 17 Feb held phone conversation with Pashinyan, reportedly to discuss practical aspects of implementation of Nov ceasefire agreement, as well as Moscow agreements signed in Jan.
Authorities attended Russian-sponsored talks with Azerbaijan on steps to further implement Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire. PM Pashinyan 11 Jan met Russian President Putin and Azerbaijani President Aliyev in Russia’s capital Moscow for Russian-initiated trilateral talks following deadly Autumn 2020 escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) conflict zone; talks – which build on ninth point of Nov ceasefire relating to opening of all regional economic and transport links between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic through Armenia – concluded with signing of joint statement on steps to develop economic ties and infrastructure projects (see Nagorno-Karabakh). Meanwhile, after Pashinyan late-Dec invited all political forces for consultations on early parliamentary elections in 2021, ruling My Step party initiated internal consultations to plan snap elections. Former President Robert Kocharyan 27 Jan stated his interest to run in elections to take prime ministerial seat. French President Emmanuel Macron 7 Jan held call with Pashinyan to present France’s plans to assist country with humanitarian aid and reiterated commitment to find political solution for region. Turkish FM Çavuşoğlu 7 Jan said Turkey may be open to normalise relations with Armenia. Azerbaijan 15 Jan filed case against Armenia with European Court of Human Rights for human rights violations during recent conflict and in past 30 years; Armenia 16 Jan announced intention to file similar complaint against Azerbaijan with European Court of Human Rights.
Govt completed first prisoner swaps with Azerbaijan as part of Russia-brokered ceasefire, while opposition protests calling for PM Pashinyan’s resignation continued. Baku and Yerevan 14 Dec exchanged first group of prisoners of war and civilians that included over 44 Armenian and 14 Azerbaijani detainees, with active participation of Russian peacekeeping forces deployed to Nagorno-Karabakh under Nov ceasefire deal; second group of four Armenian and two Azerbaijan detainees released on 28 Dec. Clashes 11-12 Dec took place between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces near villages under Armenian control in first violation of ceasefire agreement (see Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict). Govt announced that it had lifted some martial law restrictions imposed in Sept, including restrictions on holding protests and strikes. Hundreds of opposition demonstrators 8 Dec gathered in capital Yerevan after PM Nikol Pashinyan ignored calls to step down over Nov ceasefire with Azerbaijan. Thousands of Armenians 19 Dec began three days of mourning for victims of hostilities with Azerbaijan, marching through Yerevan. Hundreds of opposition supporters 22 Dec set up protest camp outside govt buildings in Yerevan in response to calls from opposition for national strike. Pashinyan 29 Dec started official discussions about snap parliamentary elections with three main political parties present at National Assembly; no date for possible vote announced yet. Meanwhile, French and American co-chairs of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Minsk Group 14 Dec visited Yerevan for first time since Oct 2019: PM Pashinyan raised with co-chairs need to restore negotiations in format of Minsk Group co-chairmanship with aim of comprehensive settlement, and co-chairs stressed that they remained “committed to providing concrete proposals on issues raised during the meetings for future discussions between the sides.” Lack of clarity on new Armenia-Azerbaijan border 16-17 Dec sparked local protests involving hundreds of residents in southern Syunik region with some briefly blocking roads; defence ministry 17 Dec confirmed that Russian border troops would be stationed along state border in Syunik to ease tensions.
Violent protests erupted after PM Pashinyan signed Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement to end deadly fighting with Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) conflict zone. After Azerbaijani govt 8 Nov announced capture of Shusha, strategically significant city in NK, PM Pashinyan 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 – with Russian peacekeepers being deployed to remaining Armenian-controlled parts of NK. PM Pashinyan 10 Nov publicly announced ceasefire, defending decision by saying army and de facto NK authorities had insisted on signing agreement. Announcement prompted national outcry as public had been largely unaware of dire realities of ongoing conflict: thousands 10-11 Nov gathered in Republican Square in capital Yerevan, with hundreds storming PM’s office, parliament and other buildings, and protesters brutally beating parliament speaker. Scuffles 11 Nov took place between police and protesters in Freedom Square; police arrested six people for alleged illegal organisation of mass protests and attempt to overthrow constitutional order. Representatives of 17 opposition parties called for Pashinyan to step down, accusing him of heavy concessions in ceasefire deal, and 12-18 Nov organised series of demonstrations in Yerevan and other cities; National Security Service (NSS) of Armenia 14 Nov arrested three opposition members, including leader of Homeland opposition party and former NSS director Artur Vanetsian, on grounds of alleged attempt to overthrow Pashinyan and violating martial law rules (in place since late-Sept); both were released from custody day after arrest. In response to protests. Senior govt and party officials resigned, including FM and deputy FM 10 Nov and PM’s special envoy 16 Nov, and five ruling party members left party or gave up parliamentary mandate in same week. President Armen Sarkissian 16 Nov called for Pashinyan to resign and snap elections; Pashinyan, however, 18 Nov refused to step down and responded with six-month action plan designed to ensure country’s stability; based on Pashinyan’s proposal, Sarkissian same day appointed Ara Ayvazyan as FM and 20 Nov Vagharshak Harutyunyan as new defence minister.
Deadly fighting with Azerbaijan worsened in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) with attacks extending to Armenia’s border regions; deadly attacks could further intensify and spread in Nov. Largest-scale fighting since 1994 ceasefire continued following Azerbaijani military’s late Sept offensive on line of contact in NK conflict zone: fighting reportedly killed and wounded thousands of military personnel on both sides; civilian areas inside conflict zone suffered continued attacks, killing at least 39 civilians and injuring over 100 (see Nagorno-Karabakh). Missile and drone attacks late Sept-early Oct also spread to Armenia’s regions near NK area, with at least three civilians reported killed and tens injured. After attacks at border regions, PM Pashinyan 31 Oct sent official appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin for military support in line with Russia-Armenia mutual assistance agreements from 1997 and 2006. In interview with Russian state-owned news agency, Pashinyan 19 Oct confirmed readiness to cease fighting and start peace negotiations on condition that settlement be based on “compromise, not capitulation”. Armenia prosecutor’s office 31 Oct said two Syrian fighters detained in NK; in video testimony, one detainee said Turkish officials recruited and transported him to fight along with Azerbaijani troops.
Authorities called on public to prepare for war after major deadly clashes with Azerbaijan along front line of Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) conflict zone, raising risk of escalation in Oct. Largest-scale fighting since 1994 ceasefire erupted 27 Sept as Azerbaijani army attacked Armenian troops located along key sections of 200km-long front line in NK conflict zone: fighting reportedly killed dozens and wounded hundreds of military personnel on both sides (see Nagorno-Karabakh). 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. Govt 27 Sept declared martial law and started to mobilise reserve troops. 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. Meanwhile, Russian protesters stuck in Armenia due to closure of state borders amid COVID-19 3 Sept gathered in front of govt buildings in Yerevan demanding resumption of air travel to Russia.
Govt decision to congratulate Belarusian President Lukashenko following his re-election in disputed vote sparked domestic opposition. PM Pashinyan 10 Aug congratulated Lukashenko on controversial re-election for sixth term in office; President Armen Sargsyan same day sent congratulatory telegram. Pashinyan’s words of congratulations prompted numerous activists to demand that he rescind statement, while politicians, civil society groups and activists gathered in small protests in capital Yerevan and published apology statements, condemning actions of Belarusian police forces and calling for support to opposition groups over following days. In response to criticism, Security Council Secretary Armen Grigoryan 16 Aug said govt had taken decision to congratulate Lukashenko after “comprehensive risk assessment”. Former leader Serzh Sargsyan 19 August spoke for first time in press conference about govt’s alleged mishandling of April 2016 escalation that resulted in loss of life and territory in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone, stating Azerbaijan launched unpredictable offensive and denying army’s corruption and poor performance. Govt 12 Aug extended some COVID-19 lockdown restrictions until 11 Sept with plans to resume school classes on 15 Sept.
Deadly violence erupted along north-eastern part of border with Azerbaijan, fuelling tensions between Armenians and Azerbaijanis living abroad. 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, Armenia reported four military casualties and one civilian wounded; cause of escalation remained unclear and both sides traded accusations of initiating first attack. After border escalation, tensions rose between Armenian and Azerbaijani migrants and members of diaspora living 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 also broke out between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Los Angeles, U.S. (see Nagorno-Karabakh conflict).
Parliament pressed ahead with constitutional changes following cancelled referendum while political infighting centred on persistent COVID-19 outbreak. Following govt’s March decision to cancel referendum vote on constitutional changes due to COVID-19 outbreak, parliament 22 June approved constitutional amendments, which could lead to govt suspension of three out of nine Constitutional Court judges and election of new head of court; opposition criticised changes, calling them politically motivated. Country remained worst-affected by COVID-19 pandemic in South Caucasus, with PM Pashinyan 1 June reporting he had tested positive (and reporting his recovery 8 June). Pashinyan 8 June dismissed heads of army, police and national security service over alleged violations of COVID-19 restrictions; govt extended COVID-19 state of emergency until 13 July. Leader of largest opposition faction Prosperous Armenia party Gagik Tsarukyan 5 June called on govt to resign due to “ineffective efforts” against COVID-19 and country’s “failing economy”; Parliament 16 June voted to strip Tsarukyan of his parliamentary immunity, leading to his arrest on suspicion of vote buying, fraud and illegal land appropriation; Tsarukyan denied wrongdoing. Authorities 20 June released on bail former President Kocharyan who was arrested in June 2019 for ordering violent crackdown against opposition protesters after 2008 election.