Although the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict is focused on the Line of Contact around Nagorny Karabakh, a new – and significant – outbreak of violence has happened some 300 kilometres away on high ground along the de jure Armenia-Azerbaijan border.
Although not a first, violence in this area has generally been contained by the proximity of major transport and infrastructure arteries, and of civilian populations on both sides of the border. Plus, unlike in Nagorny Karabakh, the extended deterrents conferred by Armenia’s membership of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and bilateral agreements with Russia are also – theoretically at least – in force.… Seguir leyendo »
Eighteen months on from a reported agreement by Armenia and Azerbaijan’s foreign ministers to prepare their populations for peace, both states have in reality remained largely preoccupied with consolidating domestic power due to enduring socio-economic frustration and populations radicalized by the ‘four-day war’ back in 2016.
A rapidly evolving international context since then has been dominated by regional tensions in Ukraine and the Middle East, and between the United States and Iran. And the COVID-19 pandemic now presents both Yerevan and Baku with new threats and problems.
Armenia’s measures to contain the virus were roundly criticised as ‘too little, too late’, while the de facto authorities in Nagorny Karabakh were rebuked by many in civil society for pressing ahead with elections despite risks to public health.… Seguir leyendo »
What does Britain’s departure from the EU mean for the country’s policy towards the South Caucasus, a small region on the periphery of Europe, fractured by conflict? Although Britain is not directly involved in any of the region’s peace processes (except in the case of the Geneva International Discussions on conflicts involving Georgia, as an EU member state), it has been a significant stakeholder in South Caucasian stability since the mid-1990s.
Most obviously, Britain has been the single largest foreign investor in Caspian oil and gas. Yet beyond pipelines, Britain also has been a significant investor in long-term civil society-led strategies to build peace in the South Caucasus.… Seguir leyendo »
At their first official summit on 29 March, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan exchanged views on several key issues relating to the settlement process and ‘ideas of substance’. They committed themselves to maintaining the ceasefire, developing humanitarian measures and the continuation of direct dialogue. This follows on from the surprising announcement by the OSCE Minsk Group in January that Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Elmar Mammadyarov had agreed on the necessity of preparing their peoples for peace.
These outcomes sustain a positive outlook for the long-stagnant peace talks. Leadership rapport is of course crucial.… Seguir leyendo »
Is the long-stagnant Armenia–Azerbaijan peace process finally moving forward? The 16 January meeting in Paris between foreign ministers Elmar Mammadyarov and Zohrab Mnatsakanyan was the fourth in nine months. It followed measures that in recent months have defused the considerable tensions of the last few years. These include the establishment of an ‘operative channel’ between the armed forces deployed along the Line of Contact and a sustained reduction in the number of ceasefire violations.
Against this backdrop, the press statement issued on 16 January by the OSCE’s Minsk Group, the international body mediating between Armenia and Azerbaijan, was remarkably positive. Noting the stabilization of the political environment around the negotiations, it also stated that Mammadyarov and Mnatsakanyan had ‘agreed upon the necessity of taking concrete measures to prepare the populations for peace’.… Seguir leyendo »
Armenia’s new prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, sensibly avoided foreign policy issues during his protest campaign. As his new government takes office, this will be a harder balancing act, nowhere more so than with the part-foreign, part-domestic issue of Karabakh. He is right to be wary: in the 1990s the conflict in Karabakh was the undoing of several leaders on both sides of the divide.
Recent history has seen surges of public euphoria on both sides. Azerbaijan’s army, in the ‘four-day war’ of 2–5 April 2016, reclaimed occupied territory for the first time since 1994. Armenia’s Velvet Revolution has fired up Armenians to believe that anything is possible.… Seguir leyendo »
Armenia’s former president and just appointed prime minister, Serzh Sargsyan, resigned Monday after a 10-day campaign of nationwide protest and civil disobedience. Protests began as soon as Sargsyan announced 11 April that he would, after previously stating otherwise, seek the ruling Republican Party’s nomination to the newly created post of prime minister.
By doing so, he laid to rest any lingering doubt about the reasons for Armenia’s switch to a parliamentary system. Introduced through a contested constitutional referendum in December 2015, the new system came online just as Sargsyan’s second, and by law final, presidential term ended. Executive powers now lie with the prime minister, and the president is relegated to a largely ceremonial role.… Seguir leyendo »
The last year has demonstrated the resilience of Armenian-Azerbaijani deadlock in resisting movement in the direction of either war or peace. On 2 April it will be one year since a major escalation, widely referred to as the four-day ‘war’, that claimed more than 200 lives. Yet while pundits warned plausibly of contagion, the violence quickly subsided as Moscow brokered a ceasefire.
A few weeks later at talks in Vienna brokered by the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE), President Serzh Sargsyan of Armenia and President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan gave their formal assent to long called for confidence building measures. … Seguir leyendo »
Last week’s outbreak of Armenian-Azerbaijani fighting along the Line of Contact (LOC) has yet again demonstrated that preserving the status quo – a self-regulated ceasefire and a defunct political process – is unviable. Azerbaijan’s exasperation, and capacity to challenge the status quo, has been made clear once again. New ceasefire support infrastructure is essential, but this alone is insufficient. It needs to be coupled with a re-activated political process to re-validate politics over frontline violence.
Components of an agreement
Diplomats leading the shuttle diplomacy effort have affirmed that the components of an agreement are in place. This is true: for nearly a decade the OSCE Minsk Group, the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents and their foreign ministers have discussed the Madrid Principles, presented in 2007.… Seguir leyendo »
For three days a long-feared large-scale escalation between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces has raged around the disputed territory of Nagorny Karabakh. For the first time since 1994 slivers of territory have changed hands. Reports from the ground remain confused and contradictory, but at least 30 combatant and two civilian fatalities are confirmed. What is certain is that the conflict parties have abandoned their self-regulated ceasefire, and the South Caucasus is today suspended in a security vacuum.
Escalation of violence
Large-scale clashes began in the early hours of 2 April in the northern, north-eastern and south-eastern zones of the Line of Contact (LOC), a 160-mile long line that for Armenians is a heavily fortified security belt and for Azerbaijanis a frontline against occupying forces.… Seguir leyendo »