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.
President Aliyev 5 Dec ordered snap parliamentary election for 9 Feb. Among opposition, Republican Alternative Party (ReAl), Umid Party, and Musavat party confirmed their participation in election, while National Council of Democratic Forces coalition, led by Popular Front party, announced boycott on basis of poor environment for free and fair election. ReAl leader Ilgar Mammadov publicly urged Aliyev to allow free and fair elections to address negative international perception of country and thus strengthen its negotiating position on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Municipal elections held 23 Dec, with for first time active campaign, including on social media, involving former political prisoners and youth. Central election commission said voter turnout was at 32.72%; independent observers reported numerous electoral violations and falsification of results at several polling stations. Prominent anti-corruption blogger Mehman Huseynov said police 27-28 Dec detained and beat him and five others without explanation in downtown Baku; Interior Ministry 28 Dec called accusations “untrue” and “fabricated”. Huseynov ran as candidate in 23 Dec municipal elections and had denounced vote irregularities.
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.
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.
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.
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