Azerbaijan regards Armenia’s “velvet revolution” as both hopeful and worrying. Baku hoped Yerevan’s new leadership might bring a fresh approach to negotiations over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. But, thus far, to many Azerbaijanis that leadership sounds less flexible than its predecessor.
Turbulence in second-largest city Ganja after attacker 3 July shot city’s unpopular mayor, seriously wounding him; police detained suspect identified as Russian national Yunis Safarov, later described by authorities as belonging to a radical Islamist group. Estimated 150-200 people 10 July joined protest in Ganja city centre, interpreted by some opposition politicians and observers as show of anger against corruption; two policemen stabbed and killed as they were confronting demonstrators. Next day govt launched security operation detaining more than 100 people and arresting more than 60; one suspect in death of police officer was shot dead 13 July. Interior ministry 9 July reported fourteen people jailed for online comments about shooting and about nationwide power blackout 3 July. President Aliyev 13 July made statement blaming events in Ganja on “religious radicals”; Iran dismissed and criticised speculation by Azerbaijani politicians of Islamic extremists with links to Iran. Azerbaijan took part in Russia-led military exercises “International Army Games” late July.
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.
As negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia to resolve the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh stall, the Azerbaijan government has improved living conditions for the internally displaced (IDPs), though return to the occupied territories remains by far the preferred solution.
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.
If it continues to ignore the need for economic and political reform, Azerbaijan will squander an historic opportunity to use the country’s energy resources to build a more durable state system and a prosperous nation.
A rare meeting between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan on 16 October 2017 could lead to a breakthrough. But the two countries have very different ideas on how to reconcile their competing narratives and goals in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Originally published in JAM News
Originally published in Factor