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
Peace process between Armenia and Azerbaijan gained momentum. After major flare-up in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) in March that resulted in Azerbaijani forces taking control of strategic mountains inside Armenian-populated areas, EU 6 April facilitated third meeting between Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Aliyev; pair agreed to instruct respective FMs to work on peace treaty and convene joint border commission by late April (see Nagorno-Karabakh). President Aliyev 23 April said in phone conversation with European Council President Charles Michel that Baku had set up commission for delimitation and demarcation of state border and delegation to draft peace treaty between Azerbaijan and Armenia (see Nagorno-Karabakh). Aliyev 12 April said that Armenia during 6 April meeting accepted five principles of settlement proposed by Baku, which included mutual recognition of sovereignty and territorial integrity, and mutual affirmation of absence of territorial claims. Aliyev 22 April said that EU “is very actively involved in the normalisation process between Azerbaijan and Armenia” and added that Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group was no longer involved in process; Armenia’s Security Council secretary previous day had said peace process with Baku was proceeding with assistance from Russia, U.S. and EU. State Border Service 23 April said it detained member of Armenian “subversive group” who attempted to cross border in Zangilan district; Armenian defence ministry same day said soldier had crossed border under unknown circumstances.
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.