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.
Govt completed first prisoner swaps with Armenia as part of Russia-brokered ceasefire and bolstered ties with Turkey. Baku and Yerevan 14 Dec exchanged first group of prisoners of war, detainees 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 Azerbaijani detainees released on 28 Dec. Govt 10 Dec held victory parade in capital Baku with participation of Turkish political and military leadership, including group of Turkish soldiers joining Azerbaijani troops in parade; govt 28 Dec revealed it had lost 2,823 soldiers during war. President Aliyev 10 Dec discussed opening of Turkey’s borders with Armenia with Turkish President Erdoğan; Erdoğan stated that Turkey was ready to reopen border with Armenia if Yerevan takes unspecified “positive steps”, and later recited poem lamenting division of Azerbaijani lands along Aras river that runs between Azerbaijan and Iran, prompting Iranian lawmakers 13 Dec to condemn such “unacceptable and divisive” remarks (see Iran). 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). Govt 15 Dec signed memorandum of understanding with Turkey, under which Ankara is due to supply natural gas to Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan via new gas pipeline from Turkey’s Igdir region; deal could reduce Nakhchivan’s current dependence on Iranian gas. French and American co-chairs of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Minsk Group 12 Dec visited Baku for first time since start of Oct 2019; Aliyev 12 Dec told co-chairs that they had not been invited. Govt 18 Dec closed land border with Russia until 1 March 2021 due to stark rise in COVID-19 cases in both countries.
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.
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.
Fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan in early April killed up to 200 people, forcing international attention back to resolving the generation-old Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The time has come for a decisive push for progress in the peace talks. Both sides are on an unprecedented war footing, and any new clashes risk dragging outside parties into a wider war.
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.
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.
In this week’s episode of Hold Your Fire!, Aaron Miller, a veteran U.S. diplomat, unpacks President Trump’s unconventional foreign relations with our President Rob Malley and co-host Naz Modirzadeh, a Harvard professor of international law and armed conflict.
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.