One year after Nagorno-Karabakh’s violent flare-up in April 2016, the danger of even more perilous fighting remains real. Further hostilities risk a larger regional conflagration with far-reaching humanitarian consequences. Crisis Group’s Europe and Central Asia Program Director, Magdalena Grono, assesses risks in the region.
Ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) won 48.15% of vote in 2 April parliamentary elections, gaining 58 of 105 seats in parliament. Opposition claimed “large-scale and systematic violations of the electoral process”, international observers said vote “tainted by credible information about vote-buying, and pressure on civil servants and employees of private companies”. Constitutional Court 28 April declined appeal by opposition “Armenian National Congress-National Party of Armenia” to annual election results. HHK engaged in talks with Armenian Revolutionary Federation/Dashnaktsutyun, which came in fourth with 6.58% of vote, about political coalition. New govt will be in place during one-year transitional period, overseeing move from semi-presidential to parliamentary republic. Former Chief of Staff Yuri Khachaturov named new Sec Gen of Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) 14 April. Defence minister 20 April announced two new programs to promote education among military recruits; programs are part of state “Army-Nation” policy launched November 2016.
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.
Unless Armenia’s next presidential election is fair and gives its winner a strong political mandate, the government will lack the legitimacy needed to implement comprehensive reforms, tackle corruption and negotiate a peaceful end to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Escalating front-line clashes, a spiralling arms race, vitriolic rhetoric and a virtual breakdown in peace talks increase the chance Armenia and Azerbaijan will go back to war over Nagorno-Karabakh, with devastating regional consequences.
Turkey and Armenia are close to settling a dispute that has long roiled Caucasus politics, isolated Armenia and cast a shadow over Turkey’s European Union (EU) ambition.
Armenia’s flawed presidential election, the subsequent lethal crackdown against a peaceful protest rally, the introduction of a state of emergency and extensive arrests of opposition supporters have brought the country to its deepest crisis since the war against Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh ended in 1994.
Armenia, which regained its independence in 1991 and won its 1992-1994 war with Azerbaijan, is at peace and rebuilding its economy but its stability is fragile. Nagorno-Karabakh remains an unsettled problem that easily could reignite, and the regional economic isolation that the war over it produced could become permanent if there is no resolution soon.
Originally published in Council on Foreign Relations
Originally published in The International Herald Tribune
Lawrence Sheets, Crisis Group's South Caucasus Project Director, discusses the risks of renewed war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.