Turkish and Armenian special envoys will meet in Moscow on 14 January to discuss normalising relations between these long-estranged neighbours. Crisis Group experts Olesya Vartanyan, Nigar Göksel and Zaur Shiriyev unpack how the end of the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2020 opened the way for talks.
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.
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.
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.
Armenia and Azerbaijan are once again on collision course along increasingly active front lines in and around Nagorno-Karabakh. Mediators Russia, France and the U.S., should pressure Yerevan and Baku to tone down inflammatory rhetoric, agree to talks and take steps towards peace.
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.
The general public sees Mr. Kocharian as a person responsible for accelerating the political stagnation that led to economic decline and social problems in [Armenia].
The [Armenian] government generally supports a deeper militarization of society. The reforms discussed plan to merge everyday life with military service – the so-called 'army-society' model.
Originally published in ISPI
Fighting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh is decimating towns and cities, displacing tens of thousands and killing scores. Combatants must cease attacks on populated areas and let humanitarian aid through. International actors, notably the UN and OSCE, should send monitors and push harder for a ceasefire.
Azerbaijan and Armenia are again at war over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region. Russia and France may be best-positioned to broker a ceasefire, but would need to offer parties prospects of attaining goals through talks. It will be a hard sell.
The fresh violence in the Armenia-Azerbaijan state border now threatens the livelihoods of many facing the impossible choice of leaving their crops to rot or risking their lives gathering their produce for market.