A fragile truce concluded on 14 September halted fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia that left hundreds of soldiers dead. In this Q&A, Crisis Group explains what occurred and what needs to happen now to restart the peace process between the two foes.
Azerbaijan launched military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK), ending period of relative calm as clashes with ethnic Armenian forces left three dead. Amid reports Baku was pressing for speedy launch of new road linking NK with Armenia and demanding disarmament of local Armenian forces, de facto authorities 1 Aug said Azerbaijani forces wounded one soldier during clashes at north-eastern front, which Russian peacekeepers confirmed; same day said Azerbaijani forces were advancing in western and north-western fronts, and near main road connecting entity to Armenia, known as Lachin corridor. Baku 3 Aug launched military operation in NK, saying de facto NK forces killed Azerbaijani soldier in Lachin region during exchange of fire. Stepanakert same day said strikes killed two of its soldiers. Azerbaijan 5 Aug announced military had taken control of strategic Mount Buzdukh and adjacent heights. International community, including Brussels, Washington, Moscow and UN, 3-4 Aug urged parties to respect ceasefire. Azerbaijani defence ministry 4 Aug said tensions had eased. Following flare-up, de facto authorities in NK 5 Aug instructed Armenian residents from Lachin city and Zabukh village, located along Lachin corridor connecting NK with Armenia, to leave their homes by 25 Aug when area came under Azerbaijan’s control as part of 2020 ceasefire agreement. Armenian PM Pashinyan day before told congress that 2020 truce agreement required Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia to establish joint “plan” for construction of new Armenia-Karabakh road before sections of existing Lachin corridor could be transferred to Azerbaijan’s control; he said no plan had been drawn up despite agreement. Azerbaijan 15 Aug announced completion of its part of new road to replace existing Lachin corridor. EU Special Representative for South Caucasus Toivo Klaar 19 Aug met with senior representatives from Armenia and Azerbaijan in first senior bilateral meeting after escalation. Both countries’ leaders 31 Aug met in Brussels for EU-mediated talks, which concluded without major announcement. European Council President Charles Michel nonetheless said talks were “open and productive”, focused on humanitarian issues, transport links and border delimitation, and that both sides agreed “to step up substantive work to advance on the peace treaty”.
This is a more serious escalation [over Nagorno-Karabakh], much better prepared, with more troops, and happening simultaneously on all parts of the front line.
We are a step away from a large-scale war (between Armenia and Azerbaijan).
At some point there are things that require somebody to set a leadership agenda. [OSCE] can’t do all of that without somebody in charge.
It seems unlikely the [Azerbaijan-Armenia] crisis would escalate, as neither side has territorial claims on northern border areas and the fighting had not spread to Karab...
The chances for the potential escalation [of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict] are very high. And the conflict will be more deadly this time, since both sides know each othe...
[A border clash between Armenia and Azerbaijan] is really very strange and surprising. There have been very few incidents outside Nagorno-Karabakh this year.
Several soldiers have been killed in clashes between Azerbaijani troops and ethnic Armenian forces answering to the de facto authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh, raising fears of escalation. Crisis Group experts Olesya Vartanyan, Zaur Shiriyev and Anita Mihaeljana explain what can be done to safeguard the ceasefire.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has raised fears of renewed fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh but also hopes of mediation opportunities. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2022 – Spring Update, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to facilitate diplomatic efforts, preserve Moscow’s role in conflict resolution and make clear that they will support any agreed steps toward an eventual settlement.
Fresh clashes in and around Nagorno-Karabakh imperil the November 2020 ceasefire monitored by Russian peacekeepers. Even as they square off over Ukraine, Russia, Western powers and Turkey should endeavour to reach a quiet agreement on how to avert escalation in the South Caucasus.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood talks to Crisis Group’s Turkey expert, Nigar Göksel, about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent trip to Ukrainian capital Kyiv, Turkey’s involvement in conflicts in Syria, Libya and the Caucasus, and its wider foreign relations.
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.
Every year Crisis Group publishes two additional Watch List updates that complement its annual Watch List for the EU, most recently published in January 2021. These publications identify major crises and conflict situations where the European Union and its member states can generate stronger prospects for peace. The Autumn Update of the Watch List 2021 includes entries on Afghanistan, Burundi, Iran, Nagorno-Karabakh and Nicaragua.
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.