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.
Turkey and Russia sought to deepen military cooperation with Azerbaijan. Following Turkey’s expression of support to Azerbaijan amid July escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) conflict (see Nagorno-Karabakh), political consultations between both govts and joint military drills increased in Aug. FM Ceyhun Bayramov 11 Aug made first official visit to Turkey; Turkish delegation headed by Defence Minister Hulusi Akar 13-14 Aug visited Baku and met with President Aliyev; ten Azerbaijani opposition parties 6 Aug issued joint statement urging Turkish and Azerbaijani authorities to discuss greater military cooperation, and calling for Ankara to establish military bases in Azerbaijan, despite Azerbaijan’s 2010 military doctrine prohibiting foreign military bases on its territory; Turkish and Azerbaijani military forces 29 July-10 Aug held joint military drills in five cities in Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, Russia made efforts to defuse tensions over recent media reports about weapons it reportedly supplied to Armenia soon after mid-July clashes along state border between Armenia and Azerbaijan; Aliyev 13 Aug told Russian President Putin during phone conversation that media report had raised “concerns and serious questions in the Azerbaijani society”. During visit to Baku 25 Aug, Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu said that shipment in question contained construction materials for Russian military base in Armenia’s Gyumri city and did not include weapons for Armenia; he proposed more military cooperation with Azerbaijan next year. FM Ceyhun Bayramov 26 Aug visited Moscow to discuss NK peace process and bilateral relations. Following 4 Aug deadly blast in Lebanese capital Beirut, govt 5 Aug offered $1mn in assistance to Lebanese authorities; opposition groups criticised financial support to Lebanon on grounds that govt was diverting public funds away from COVID-19 financial relief to support foreign country with pro-Armenian bias. Govt 29 Aug extended some COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, including closure of borders, until 30 Sept. Aliyev 10 Aug congratulated Belarusian President Lukashenko on controversial re-election for sixth term in office.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A new communication channel has sparked hope for negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh. But as Crisis Group Analyst Zaur Shiriyev found talking to Azerbaijani soldiers and villagers living near the front, decades of conflict mean that the path to peace will be rocky.
The April 2018 “velvet revolution” in Armenia has brought new meetings and helped improve the dynamics of the three-decade-long conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. Much more needs to happen to reach peace, but Azerbaijan’s old scepticism is giving way to cautious hope in diplomacy.
With his party’s victory in the snap parliamentary elections and a new calm on the frontlines with Azerbaijan, Armenia’s leader Nikol Pashinyan and his team will have more space to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.