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.
Fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan in early April killed up to 200 people, forcing international attention back to resolving the generation-old Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The time has come for a decisive push for progress in the peace talks. Both sides are on an unprecedented war footing, and any new clashes risk dragging outside parties into a wider war.
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.
As negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia to resolve the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh stall, the Azerbaijan government has improved living conditions for the internally displaced (IDPs), though return to the occupied territories remains by far the preferred solution.
Escalating front-line clashes, a spiralling arms race, vitriolic rhetoric and a virtual breakdown in peace talks increase the chance Armenia and Azerbaijan will go back to war over Nagorno-Karabakh, with devastating regional consequences.
If it continues to ignore the need for economic and political reform, Azerbaijan will squander an historic opportunity to use the country’s energy resources to build a more durable state system and a prosperous nation.
Azerbaijan wants to create a strong army to regain Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent districts, either by improving its negotiating leverage with Armenia or going back to war. It has exponentially increased its military budget, though it has not so far gained clear superiority over Armenian forces. If the new military is to be not only stronger but also better governed, however, it needs deep reforms to make it less corrupt and personality driven, more transparent and better directed.
Claims that major terrorist acts were foiled in Azerbaijan at the end of 2007 have prompted discussion about the extent to which Islamic extremism is a genuine threat in the oil-rich land.
Azerbaijan's elections, in which pro-government parties won an overwhelming majority, once again failed to meet international standards. The opposition cried foul, organising peaceful street demonstrations and filing court complaints. Though President Ilham Aliyev has pledged reforms, his actions remain tentative.
Oil-rich Azerbaijan, which borders Iran, Turkey and Russia and is still scarred from its defeat by Armenia ten years ago, gives cause for both hope and concern.