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.
Tensions persisted with Azerbaijan, PM Pashinyan resigned ahead of June elections, and U.S. President Biden recognised 1915 Armenian genocide. PM Pashinyan 7 April asked Russian President Putin for help in releasing dozens of prisoners of war captured by Azerbaijan during and after the military escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) in late 2020. Govt next day said that it expected group of prisoners of war to be repatriated to its capital Yerevan from Azerbaijan’s capital Baku; transport plane however arrived empty, prompting authorities 9 April to accuse Azerbaijan of violating terms of Russian-brokered Nov 2020 agreement (see Nagorno-Karabakh). Azerbaijani President Aliyev 12 April opened new Military Trophy Park in Baku, displaying installations of Armenian trenches and soldiers in NK, prompting public outcry in Armenia. Meanwhile, PM Pashinyan 14 April told Parliament that govt was considering possible expansion of existing Russian military base in Gyumri town amid concern over attempts by Azerbaijan and Turkey to take over some parts of region; Armenian chief of general staff next day discussed expansion of Russian troops to Armenia’s south with Russian counterparts during visit to Moscow. Domestically, judge 6 April dropped criminal case against former President Robert Kocharyan and co-defendants over deadly crackdown on protesters in 2008; Constitutional Court found that basis on which they were prosecuted in Criminal Code was “invalid”. Pashinyan 25 April resigned as PM as part of preparations for elections anticipated for 20 June. U.S. President Joe Biden 24 April became first U.S. president to formally recognise 1915 Armenian genocide; Pashinyan said Biden “honoured the memory” of those who died.
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.
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.
Many people would be very surprised if clashes at the Armenia-Azerbaijan border spiral out into war, but that doesn’t mean something cannot happen, say, in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.
The general public sees Mr. Kocharian as a person responsible for accelerating the political stagnation that led to economic decline and social problems in [Armenia].
The [Armenian] government generally supports a deeper militarization of society. The reforms discussed plan to merge everyday life with military service – the so-called 'army-society' model.
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.
Settlements in proximity to the trenches on the Armenia-Azerbaijan state border render civilians on both sides equally vulnerable.
Water was once abundant in the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, thanks to a network of reservoirs and irrigation pipes, but today shortages are chronic.