After three decades of on-and-off conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, relations between the two countries are at a turning point. Their 2020 war saw Baku regain most of the territory it lost to Armenia in the 1990s. Azerbaijan’s one-day operation in September 2023 took back the rest of the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, part of which had de facto remained governed by ethnic Armenian officials. Now Armenia faces a humanitarian crisis as it struggles to manage both the refugees who fled in 2020 and over 100,000 more who vacated Karabakh in 2023. The risk of further fighting persists: the two states remain at odds on issues regarding, among other things, border demarcation and transport links. Through fieldwork and advocacy, Crisis Group works to promote integration and resettlement prospects for displaced people including, but not limited to, the Armenians who left Karabakh and the Azerbaijanis who were pushed out of the territory 30 years ago and seek to return. The long-term goal is to build peace via normalised relations between the two countries, renewed trade and transport links and regional integration.
You can find more about the history of this conflict and access a downloadable database on The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: A Visual Explainer.
Armenia is having problems integrating over 100,000 refugees who fled Nagorno-Karabakh when Azerbaijan took control of the enclave in September 2023. Yerevan has tried to be generous, but it lacks funds and a long-term plan, leaving the displaced people exposed and facing an uncertain future.
Nagorno-Karabakh formally ceased to exist.
Nagorno-Karabakh formally dissolved. Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) 1 Jan officially ceased to exist following Azerbaijan’s lightning military operation in Sept 2023 that ended three decades of de facto self-rule. In lengthy interview about conflict with Armenia (see Armenia, Azerbaijan), Azerbaijani President Aliyev 10 Jan threatened military action if Yerevan ever sought to reclaim enclave; he also announced govt’s goal is to return 140,000 Azerbaijani internally displaced people “to their ancestral lands by the end of 2026” and reiterated that “the Armenians of Karabakh… would live as Azerbaijani citizens” should they choose to return to region. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan 25 Jan extended pre-trial detention of fifteen members of former de facto authorities.
France-Azerbaijan tensions persisted over latter’s Sept military operation. French Senate 17 Jan adopted non-binding resolution calling on govt to condemn Azerbaijan’s military takeover of NK and impose sanctions, and to demand guarantees for right of ethnic Armenian population to return to NK; Azerbaijan’s legislature next day responded with similar calls to impose sanctions on France. Parliament Assembly of the Council of Europe 24 Jan did not ratify credentials of Azerbaijani delegation, citing among other things concern about Baku’s Sept 2023 military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh, “which led to allegations of ‘ethnic cleansing’”.
Azerbaijan does not trust Western incentives for peace talks … [Azerbaijanis] would like to see more emphasis on issues such as investments and reconstruction.
In my meetings with displaced people scattered throughout Armenia … I have not met a single person who is considering returning to Nagorno-Karabakh any time soon.
Nagorno-Karabakh is at the center of Armenian identity, and the Russians allowed it to collapse. They lost Armenian society.
It was quite obvious … that any military action [by Azerbaijan] that was to take place in [Nagorno-Karabakh], it would lead to the defeat of the local Armenian side.
The biggest problem … is what to do with the many displaced [Armenians] who cannot return to the villages that were captured by Azerbaijan [in Nagorno-Karabakh].
The fall of Nagorno-Karabakh did not resolve all the problems between Armenia and Azerbaijan. These two neighbors have never established diplomatic ties and do not engage in trade, and their citizens cannot freely visit one another. Both countries have now raised three generations of people who view the other side as the enemy.
This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker talks with Crisis Group’s South Caucasus experts Olesya Vartanyan and Zaur Shiriyev about Azerbaijan’s military action in Karabakh, its humanitarian fallout and prospects for peace between Baku and Yerevan.
Tens of thousands of people from Nagorno-Karabakh have streamed into Armenia following Azerbaijan’s one-day offensive ending the enclave’s de facto self-governance. Outside powers should focus on meeting the refugees’ needs, protecting those few residents who wish to remain and preventing renewed conflict in the region.
In this online event Crisis Group experts discuss the latest developments in Nagorno-Karabakh and prospects for de-escalating tensions and a peace agreement.
Armenia and Azerbaijan are holding peace talks in Washington DC. It’s a critical moment for Nagorno-Karabakh
As peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan continue, Baku has opened a checkpoint on the Lachin corridor, the sole road connecting Armenia to the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, raising fears of a new surge in fighting. In this Q&A, Crisis Group experts discuss the risks.
The EU is sending a mission to monitor the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2023, Crisis Group explains what else the EU and its member states can do to avert another war and revitalise peace talks.
The European Union is sending monitors to Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan, so as to lessen the danger of renewed fighting between the two countries over Nagorno-Karabakh and other issues. Brussels must give the mission the means and mandate it will need to succeed.
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