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.
Severest escalation since 1994 ceasefire erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan along front line in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) conflict zone, raising risk of worsening fighting in Oct. Large-scale fighting 27 Sept erupted as Azerbaijani army attacked Armenian troops located along key sections of 200km-long front line in NK conflict zone: most intense fighting involving tanks, artillery, helicopters, drones and infantry took place south, north and north east of frontline. Fighting reportedly killed dozens and wounded hundreds of military personnel on both sides. Azerbaijan 27 Sept reported taking control of several Armenian positions in southern part of NK conflict zone; de facto leader Arayik Harutyunyan next day said Armenian troops regained control of initially lost positions. Armenia, Azerbaijan and de facto NK entity 27 Sept declared martial law and started to mobilise reserve troops; on both sides, groups of volunteer fighters, mainly veterans of 1992-1994 war in NK, arrived in conflict zone to support fighting. Civilian areas on both sides located close to front line suffered regular attacks, leading to at least 14 civilians killed and dozens wounded, including children. Towns situated far from front line faced artillery, rocket and drone attacks, including Armenian-controlled Stepanakert city 27 and 29 Sept, and Azerbaijani city Naftalan 28 Sept; Armenia 29 Sept reported attack on its town of Vardenis located close to NK conflict zone. Russia, France, Germany, EU, U.S., Iran, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Minsk Group co-chairs and UN Security Council 27-29 Sept called for immediate ceasefire and return to talks. Turkey’s President Erdogan 27 Sept said Ankara would support Azerbaijan “with all means”; Armenia 29 Sept accused Turkey of downing its military jet, but Ankara same day denied its involvement. Reuters 28 Sept reported that Turkey deployed up to 1,000 Turkish-backed Syrian National Army fighters from Syria to Azerbaijan days before outbreak of fighting; Ankara and Azerbaijani President Aliyev 29 Sept separately denied report. Previously, deadly clashes 16-21 Sept broke out along state border between Armenia and Azerbaijan; Armenia 16 Sept reported one soldier killed and Azerbaijan 14-21 Sept reported one killed and two wounded; both countries called on public to prepare for imminent war or to be ready for adversary attack.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Online Event to discuss International Crisis Group's briefing "The COVID-19 Challenge in post-Soviet Breakaway Statelets".