While the war over Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020 moved the front lines in Azerbaijan’s favour, it has not brought peace. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2021, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to engage in humanitarian initiatives in both Armenia and Azerbaijan and continue to engage diplomatically through the OSCE Minsk Group.
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.
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.
Stronger international engagement is needed to help prevent the deadly conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan from escalating gravely at a time of internal political tensions in both.
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.
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.
Settlements in proximity to the trenches on the Armenia-Azerbaijan state border render civilians on both sides equally vulnerable.
Water was once abundant in the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, thanks to a network of reservoirs and irrigation pipes, but today shortages are chronic.