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.
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.
President Aliyev visited Nagorno-Karabakh following military offensive in September, Baku unveiled reintegration plan for ethnic Armenians, and speculation mounted about future of Russian peacekeepers.
Azerbaijani leader raised national flag in empty towns across Nagorno-Karabakh. Following Azerbaijan’s one-day military offensive in Sept that ended Nagorno-Karabakh’s (NK) de facto self-governance, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev 15 Oct visited enclave. He raised Azerbaijani flags in various abandoned towns and delivered speech from main city of Stepanakert, known as Khankendi to Azerbaijanis, proclaiming nation had “fulfilled the decades-long wish of the Azerbaijani people” and announcing appointment of Maj Gen Sardar Safarov as new commandant.
Baku’s integration plans for ethnic Armenians rang hollow amid mass exodus. Baku 2 Oct unveiled plan for integrating NK’s ethnic Armenian population into Azerbaijan, promising to ensure equal rights regardless of ethnicity, religion or language; document also outlined plans for governance, security, taxation and cultural rights, and vowed to protect Armenian cultural and religious sites. Almost all residents had fled enclave by early Oct, however, leaving virtually no one left for Azerbaijan to integrate.
Future of Russian peacekeepers remained uncertain. Mass exodus from NK triggered speculation about future of Russian peacekeepers stationed in enclave. Moscow continued to insist that any decision about their future would be made with Baku and denied any intent to exit prematurely; 11 Oct it clarified that peacekeepers’ activities “will be adapted” given that “conditions under which the Russian peacekeeping contingent was deployed to the region have changed”. Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan previous day dismissed possibility of Russian redeployment to Armenia amid mounting concern in Yerevan.
Armenia condemned arrest of former NK officials. Armenia 4 Oct condemned Azerbaijan’s late Sept arrests of several former NK leaders; Azerbaijan same day justified actions, saying detainees were accused of serious abuses, including war crimes. Military court in Baku 17 Oct began trial of NK resident Vagif Khachatryan, arrested late July for alleged war crimes.
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].
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.
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.
This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Elissa Jobson speak with Olesya Vartanyan and Zaur Shiriyev, Crisis Group’s South Caucasus experts, about where things stand between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the deadly border clashes in September and whether a peace agreement might be within reach.
A fragile truce concluded on 14 September halted fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia that left hundreds of soldiers dead. In this Q&A, Crisis Group explains what occurred and what needs to happen now to restart the peace process between the two foes.
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