Nagorno-Karabakh, the deep wounds of a contested land

The Republic of Artsakh also known as Nagorno Karabakh is a disputed region in South Caucasus. The conflict appeared in 1921, when according to a Russo-Turkish Treaty Artsakh, at the time part of Soviet Armenia, was left as a part of Soviet Azerbaijan-with a “high degree of regional autonomy”.

Today’s stage of conflict dates back to 1988, when the claim of self-determination of the Nagorno-Karabakh’s population was a cause of ethnic cleanings of the Armenian population in Sumgait, Baku and Kirovabad. These events led to a war from 1991 till 1994, when a ceasefire was signed between the Republic of Artsakh, Armenia and Azerbaijan.  It is worth mentioning that this war took place after the collapse of the Soviet Union, where the borders of states and autonomous regions were decided by the Soviet leaders without the consideration of ethnic problems which eventually resulted in the collapse of communism (similar to the breakup of Yugoslavia as a result of which Balkan countries gained independence).

The azerbaijani perspective in this conflict is that there has to be an insurance of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan within its borders, thus Artsakh is part of Azerbaijani’s territory. In contrast, Armenia claims Artsakh as part of its territory, appealing to the principle of self-determination for the Armenian people living in the region.

On 27th of September, 2020, in the mid of the global pandemic Azerbaijan started an unprovoked military attack along the line of contact as well as against peaceful civilian population. What makes this conflict not just a fight between two states and brings it to a proxy level, is the direct involvement of other key stakeholders and great powers like Turkey and Russia.

Throughout the war, Turkey (NATO member state) was showing “one nation, two states approach” and giving military aid as well as sending Syrian mercenaries to fight on behalf of Azerbaijan.

Armenians believe that the intention of Turkey is the pan-turkic state and that the war was nothing but an intended ethnic cleansing of the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. Accordingly, this approach can be justified since the civilian infrastructures were targeted through the use of banned weapons according to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. On the other hand, Russia, had shown both diplomatic and strategic support to Armenia as well as Azerbaijan because it has close economic ties with both of them. 

As a result, on the 9th of November, an agreement between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia (as a peacemaker side) was signed which resulted in the complete stop of fire and all the military operations in the region, the occupation of 7 regions of Nagorno-Karabakh by Azerbaijan as well as the deployment of the Russian peacekeepers to the region, which in my opinion is similar to the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia or the region of Transnistria in Moldova.

Moreover, recently Russia and Turkey have signed an agreement according to which Turkish-Russian peacekeeping mission in the territory of Azerbaijan will be modeled. Therefore, the competition of Russia and Turkey in various theaters across the Middle East (Syria and Libya), Western Balkans and the Black Sea, has reached to South Caucasus, where both Turkey and Russia have already become top players. Yet, the status of the Republic of Artsakh “remains in a legal limbo” and will be further decided in accordance with the OSCE co-chairing by France, Russia and the United States, which was designed to establish peace in the region through negotiation process for the past 30 years, however it failed to do so in my opinion because the conflict resulted in the exercise of hard power and reached to a military solution.

Aspram Israyelyan


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