While the armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh has subsided, Armenia and Azerbaijan are still far from a political settlement. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2021 – Autumn Update, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to press for negotiations between Baku and Yerevan, aid to the affected regions and cooperate with Moscow, which has peacekeepers on the ground and the most leverage over the conflict parties.
The 2020 war over Nagorno-Karabakh left many issues unresolved and the front lines volatile. The parties should establish a formal communication channel to address urgent post-war problems, Russian peacekeepers need a clearer mandate and aid agencies must be granted access to the conflict zone.
Russian mediation succeeded in ending the six-week war in Nagorno-Karabakh but left much unresolved, chiefly the region’s future status. If the cessation of hostilities is to become a sustainable peace, the parties should start by cooperating on humanitarian relief and trade before tackling larger questions.
As elections draw near, increased tension at the line of separation with South Ossetia has helped put the future of normalisation with Russia in doubt. But whoever wins at the polls should not abandon dialogue, but rather build on it to frankly discuss these problems.
Fighting in July interrupted what had been a stretch of relative quiet on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. The incidents underscored how quickly and unexpectedly this front can erupt. The two countries should take better advantage of a hotline created in 2018 to avoid dangerous misunderstandings.
The threat of coronavirus looms large in six self-declared republics that have broken away from post-Soviet states. War and isolation have corroded health care infrastructure, while obstructing the inflow of assistance. International actors should work with local and regional leaders to let life-saving aid through.
If they move quickly, Armenia and Azerbaijan could break out of their long impasse over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. They could pursue quiet talks on thorny issues – settlements, peacekeepers and final status – but along separate tracks rather than in a single package.
This is a more serious escalation [over Nagorno-Karabakh], much better prepared, with more troops, and happening simultaneously on all parts of the front line.
We are a step away from a large-scale war (between Armenia and Azerbaijan).
The Kurdish leadership has every reason to suspect that Russia will not push Damascus to accept anything that Turkey might interpret as protecting or legitimizing the YPG.
At some point there are things that require somebody to set a leadership agenda. [OSCE] can’t do all of that without somebody in charge.
It seems unlikely the [Azerbaijan-Armenia] crisis would escalate, as neither side has territorial claims on northern border areas and the fighting had not spread to Karabakh itself.
Many people would be very surprised if clashes at the Armenia-Azerbaijan border spiral out into war, but that doesn’t mean something cannot happen, say, in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.
Every year Crisis Group publishes two additional Watch List updates that complement its annual Watch List for the EU, most recently published in January 2021. These publications identify major crises and conflict situations where the European Union and its member states can generate stronger prospects for peace. The Autumn Update of the Watch List 2021 includes entries on Afghanistan, Burundi, Iran, Nagorno-Karabakh and Nicaragua.
This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope discuss with researchers Edward Geist and Ivan Kalugin what planning for the worst looks like in the U.S. and Russia, comparing today to the peaks of nuclear anxiety during the Cold War.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Rob Malley and guest host Richard Atwood talk about the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh with Crisis Group’s Europe Program Director Olga Oliker and examine Myanmar’s identity crisis with Crisis Group expert Richard Horsey.
A Russian-brokered deal has silenced the guns in Nagorno-Karabakh, the region disputed for decades by Armenia and Azerbaijan. It falls short, however, of a clear, sustainable peace. The parties and foreign stakeholders should work to ensure that the new arrangements have benefits for all concerned.