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.
Former PM Arayk Harutyunyan 14 April won second round of de facto presidential elections in entity; his opponent, current FM Masis Mayilian, called on supporters to abstain from vote to contain spread of COVID-19; turnout lower by nearly 30 per cent in comparison to first round on 31 March. Armenian NGOs serving as election observers in NK capital Stepanakert reported voting violations, but Armenian leadership praised results. Armenian PM Pashinyan faced unprecedented criticism among his supporters who claimed Harutyunyan could turn NK into safe haven for former Armenian officials facing corruption charges, while Mayilian supporters said Pashinyan had “betrayed the revolution”, due to possible increased influence of former political elite. Harutyunyan 1 April proposed cooperation with all politicians and political parties in de facto entity, saying “I am ready to cooperate with any [political] force except for Azerbaijan”, also pledged support for Pashinyan’s policy and development plans in NK. Armenian and Azerbaijani FMs and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group co-chairs 21 April held online conference; parties agreed to postpone implementation of previously agreed humanitarian measures citing COVID-19 crisis. Russian FM Sergei Lavrov 21 April advocated phased approach in NK peace process, starting with return of territories adjacent to NK to Azerbaijan’s direct control and resumption of transport and economic links between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey; Armenian FM denied Lavrov’s claim that plan was discussed in April 2019 and called for more clarity on NK final status; Azerbaijan accused Armenia of disrupting negotiation process.
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.
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.
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.
A preliminary breakthrough in the two-decades-old Nagorno-Karabakh conflict – a framework agreement on basic principles – may be within reach.
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.
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.
Armenia’s new government will likely adhere to long-held positions in its 30-year conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. But the two sides need more direct communication in the conflict zone. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2018 – Second Update early warning report, Crisis Group urges European policymakers to help forge these links to avoid renewed fighting.
Crisis Group’s second update to our Watch List 2018 includes entries on seizing a chance for peace in Mali, avoiding escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh, mitigating conflict in Syria’s peripheral regions, and helping Somalia overcome obstacles to reform. This annual early-warning report identifies conflict situations in which prompt action by the European Union and its member states would generate stronger prospects for peace.
Crisis Group's Europe & Central Asia Program Director Magdalena Grono talks about the relations between Russia and Turkey as they reflect on the Black Sea and the South Caucasus.