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.
Dozens detained during opposition-organised protests in capital 8 and 19 Oct, prompting criticism of excessive police tactics and govt reshuffle. Umbrella opposition group National Council of Democratic Forces (NCDF) 8 Oct organised demonstration in Baku calling for freedom of assembly, reportedly attended by several hundred people; authorities had sanctioned rally attended by up to 50 people; police reported seventeen protesters detained. NCDF 19 Oct organised unsanctioned protest in central Baku, calling for release of political prisoners and lower energy prices; before and during rally, police detained opposition leaders and some 300 protesters and forced others out of city centre. Amid reports that two opposition leaders were tortured by police, EU and U.S. embassy criticised excessive use of force by police – denied by govt – and called for investigation. Pro-govt news channel 20 Oct distributed leaked recording of conversations about protests between opposition member Gultekin Hajibeyli and EU and U.S. diplomats, prompting govt criticism of outside interference, and accusations that govt had violated Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Responding to anti-govt sentiment, President Aliyev 21 Oct dismissed two deputy PMs and called for all officials over the age of 70 to step down; also dismissed influential head of Presidential Administration Ramiz Mehdiyev; opposition called changes cosmetic. Aliyev also dismissed PM Mammadov 8 Oct, replacing him with economic adviser Ali Asadov.
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 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