Laurence Broers

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Armenian soldiers patrol the mountains near the frontier with Azerbaijan in the Gegharkunik valley. Photo by Celestino Arce/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Azerbaijan has increasingly tested the will and capacity of the Russian peacekeeping mission deployed to the residual territory remaining under Armenian control at the end of the 2020 Karabakh war.

In early March, Azerbaijani forces were observed circling close to Armenian villages with loudspeakers urging the inhabitants to evacuate, and reports of increased ceasefire violations soon followed. On 8 March, a crucial pipeline supplying gas to the Karabakh Armenian population was cut off on Azerbaijani-held territory, leaving residents without heat for two weeks. Although the pipeline was repaired, it was reportedly cut off again, then restored.

Azerbaijani forces then advanced into the area which is ostensibly under Russian peacekeeper control, forcing the evacuation of one Armenian village, taking strategic heights overseeing others, and reportedly using drone strikes to kill three local Armenian servicemen and wound a further 15.…  Seguir leyendo »

Armenian soldiers at an observation post by the Sotk gold mine on the border with Azerbaijan. Photo by Alexander Ryumin\TASS via Getty Images.

The 2020 Karabakh war was widely framed as breaking the preceding status quo of 26 years, but assessments of its transformative potential overlook the fact the war resulted in outcomes satisfying only a minority of stakeholders – Turkey and, to a considerable but ambiguous extent, Azerbaijan. Two false narratives have circulated widely which obscure this absence of consensus – that the war ‘ended’ the Karabakh conflict, and that Russia ‘won’ the war.

Two significant post-war dynamics contradict the notion that the Karabakh conflict is now resolved. The first is the widening of the spaces and issues in conflict. Azerbaijan’s restoration of sovereignty over territories it lost in 1990s surfaced the long-submerged issue of border demarcation between Armenia and Azerbaijan.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters of Nikol Pashinyan in the Republic Square in Yerevan watch him deliver a speech to mark victory for his Civil Contract party in the 2021 Armenia election. Photo by Celestino Arce/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

Armenia’s snap election was extraordinary in many ways. A record number of parties and blocs contested the ballot – including all of Armenia’s former presidents dating back to 1991. After a bitter campaign, the scale of Nikol Pashinyan’s Civil Contract party’s win came as a surprise, with Civil Contract securing an outright 54 per cent of the vote – a majority obviating the need for tense coalition negotiations or a second round of voting.

Although the presence of old faces seemed to preserve the polarity between new and old elites, which was key to 2018’s Velvet Revolution that brought Pashinyan to power, the grand coalition that made the revolution possible had begun to fray.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sign to the Armenian village of Sotk on the border with Kalbajar District, now in control of Azerbaijan via the 2020 ceasefire agreement between Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia. Photo by Alexander Ryumin\TASS via Getty Images.

Despite the elapse of six months since the ceasefire which brought the second Karabakh war to a close, there has been little respite in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.

Relations have remained sharply polarized by issues such as the continued imprisonment of up to 200 Armenians with reports of torture and death in custody, post-war casualties among Azerbaijanis due to mines in areas transferred to Azerbaijani control in 2020, and the destruction or alteration of Armenian cultural heritage in those areas.

Now a new crisis is unfolding with reports of a number of territorial encroachments by Azerbaijani troops across the international Armenia-Azerbaijani border.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man shows a piece of shrapnel after attacks carried out by the Armenian army at Dondar Kuscu village near Tovuz, Azerbaijan. Photo by Aziz Karimov/Getty Images.

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 »

World War II veteran Ivan Timchenko, 103, with his granddaughter in Baku, Azerbaijan during the 75th anniversary of the Allied victory. Photo by Aziz Karimov/Getty Images.

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 »

A building in Nagorny Karabakh flies the flag of the self-proclaimed republic. 'Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorny Karabakh have evolved into examples of what scholars call "de facto states" that, to differing degrees, control territory, provide governance and exercise internal sovereignty,' writes Laurence Broers. Photo: Getty Images.

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 »

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev meets with Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan in Vienna on 29 March. Photo: Getty Images.

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 »

Azerbaijan's president Ilham Aliyev and Armenia's prime minister Nikol Pashinyan ahead of a CIS Heads of State Council meeting in September 2018. Photo: Getty Images.

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 »

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan poses for pictures with locals during his visit to the disputed territory of Nagorny Karabakh on 9 May. Photo: Getty Images.

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 »

People celebrate Serzh Sargsyan’s resignation in downtown Yerevan on 23 April 23. Photo: Getty Images.

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 »

On the Nagorny-Karabakh line of contact. Photo via Getty Images.

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 »

A damaged wall in the village of Mataghis on 6 April 2016. Photo by Getty Images.

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 »

Global Powers Scramble to Contain Neglected Armenian-Azerbaijani Conflict

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 »