While the war over Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020 moved the front lines in Azerbaijan’s favour, it has not brought peace. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2021, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to engage in humanitarian initiatives in both Armenia and Azerbaijan and continue to engage diplomatically through the OSCE Minsk Group.
Russian-brokered ceasefire continued to hold in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) conflict zone, as de facto NK and Azerbaijani officials cooperated on searching for remains of soldiers and civilians. In NK conflict zone, situation remained stable during month. Azerbaijani govt reported that mine explosions killed at least 18 military and civilians, with 79 others seriously injured, since Nov ceasefire agreement, mainly along pre-war front line. Azerbaijani and de facto NK security services continued coordination on field missions in search of remains of soldiers and civilians in Azerbaijani-controlled areas. NK resident 20 March reported one man missing in village of Karmir Shuka (Krasny Bazar), located at line of separation; de facto authorities 21 March said his body had been found burnt several hundred metres from village and are conducting investigation. Sides made no progress toward releasing Armenian detainees and prisoners held by Azerbaijan; Baku 10 March released one ethnic Armenian woman. In first military drills since Autumn 2020 escalation, Azerbaijan 15-17 March and Armenia 16-20 March held exercises in their respective territories. Swedish FM and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe chairperson-in-office 15-16 March visited Azerbaijan and Armenia to discuss NK issue and situation after recent war, meeting with de facto NK FM David Babayan in Yerevan, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, as well as Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan and Armenian President Armen Sarkissian. Russian President Putin 11 March had phone conversation with Aliyev, and 12 March with Pashinyan, reportedly to discuss practical implementation of ceasefire agreements; Putin and Pashinyan 26 March again spoke after Armenian govt held joint Security Council session with de facto NK leadership on situation in 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.
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.
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.
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.