This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope talk to Crisis Group’s South Caucasus expert Olesya Vartanyan about the conflict in and over Nagorno-Karabakh, a year on from a Russian-brokered ceasefire that put an end to renewed large-scale fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Originally published in ISPI
Transport corridor remained central sticking point between Baku and Yerevan. Russia 3 June mediated talks on transport corridor between Deputy PM Shahin Mustafayev and Armenian counterpart Mher Grigoryan in Russian capital Moscow, with parties agreeing to continue efforts to unblock transport links in region. Russian FM Sergei Lavrov 9 June visited Armenian capital Yerevan, said that “simplified” border crossing procedures would be used on railway and motorway connecting mainland Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan exclave via Armenia; while providing few details, Lavrov did not exclude possibility of route being under Armenia’s jurisdiction. Armenian PM Pashinyan 14 June told media outlet Al Jazeera that “narrative about the so-called corridor [between Azerbaijan and exclave Nakhichevan] is unacceptable”, referencing 2020 agreement that mentioned only Lachin corridor, which connects Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) to Armenia via Azerbaijan. President Aliyev 23 June again accused Armenia of failing to provide transport link connecting Azerbaijan with Nakhichevan exclave, as per 2020 agreement. Disagreements over status of NK persisted, hindering peace talks (see Nagorno-Karabakh). Speaking to local media, Pashinyan 27 June accused Azerbaijan of undermining diplomatic efforts in order “to legitimise a new war”. Meanwhile, Armenian defence ministry 20 June said one of its soldiers was killed 18-19 June on border with Azerbaijan. Since mid-April, Armenia has reported two soldiers killed at military positions between Azerbaijan’s Kelbajar district and Armenia’s Gegharkunik region, which have seen particularly deadly skirmishes since 2020.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.