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.
Armenia and Azerbaijan completed first prisoner swaps as part of Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement, and some clashes erupted mid-month. After several weeks of discussion, Baku and Yerevan 14 Dec exchanged first group of prisoners of war, detainees and civilians that included over 44 Armenian and 14 Azerbaijani detainees, with active participation of Russian peacekeeping forces deployed to Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) under Nov ceasefire deal; second group of four Armenian and two Azerbaijani detainees released on 28 Dec. In first violation of ceasefire agreement, clashes 11-12 Dec took place between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces near villages of Hin Tagher and Khtsaberd in Hadrut region under Armenian control; shortly after, Russian peacekeepers deployed to area to stabilise situation. President Aliyev 12 Dec raised incident in his meeting with Minsk Group co-chairs, holding Armenia responsible for new clashes; Armenian MFA next day said Azerbaijani troops exploited absence of peacekeeping forces in area. De facto authorities 16 Dec confirmed handover of nine corpses of its soldiers killed in clashes, and 73 others captured by Azerbaijani forces. Azerbaijan’s defence ministry and State Security Service 13 Dec issued joint statement announcing launch of “anti-terror operation” in response to “acts of provocation” against their servicemen in village of Sur in Nov and on 8 Dec, during which four Azerbaijani soldiers were killed and two injured. French and American co-chairs of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Minsk Group 12-14 Dec visited Baku and Yerevan, but did not travel to NK capital Stepanakert; co-chairs’ meeting with de facto leader of NK Arayik Harutyunyan in Yerevan was cancelled last minute for no clear reason.
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.
The threat of coronavirus looms large in six self-declared republics that have broken away from post-Soviet states. War and isolation have corroded health care infrastructure, while obstructing the inflow of assistance. International actors should work with local and regional leaders to let life-saving aid through.
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.
Rivalry persists between Russia and Turkey in their shared neighbourhood of the Black Sea and the South Caucasus. But Moscow-Ankara relations have warmed overall. Building on their wider rapprochement, the two powers can work together to tamp down flare-ups of regional conflicts.
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.
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 Karabakh itself.
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 other’s capabilities
[A border clash between Armenia and Azerbaijan] is really very strange and surprising. There have been very few incidents outside Nagorno-Karabakh this year.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Rob Malley and guest host Richard Atwood talk about the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh with Crisis Group’s Europe Program Director Olga Oliker and examine Myanmar’s identity crisis with Crisis Group expert Richard Horsey.
In this week’s episode of Hold Your Fire!, Nigar Göksel, Crisis Group’s Turkey director, dissects Turkey’s assertive moves in places ranging from Syria and Iraq to Libya, the eastern Mediterranean, and now Nagorno-Karabakh.
In this week’s episode of Hold Your Fire!, Olesya Vartanyan, Crisis Group’s senior South Caucasus analyst, opens up about how the recent flare-up in Nagorno-Karabakh is affecting her personally. It could be the “big war” between Armenia and Azerbaijan that everyone was dreading would happen.
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.