Cáucaso

Azerbaijan army soldiers fire artillery in fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh. (Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry via AP)

During a visit four years ago to the disputed area of Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian population that dominates the enclave seemed as solid and immovable as the rocky hills that surround the region. “We are our mountains,” proclaimed a massive stone statue on the road to the capital’s airport.

The Armenians made that confident claim before drone warfare arrived in the rugged terrain of Karabakh. Azerbaijan’s use of Turkish- and Israeli-made drones has altered the balance of this conflict, putting the tough, battle-hardened Armenians on the defensive. Nearly 800 Armenians have died since the war began Sept. 27, according to official reports; the Azerbaijani side hasn’t announced casualties, but they’re also believed to be heavy.…  Seguir leyendo »

While the world is preoccupied with the Covid-19 pandemic, the regional conflict in the remote separatist enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh is threatening to escalate into a wider war on the doorsteps of Europe and Asia. Saturday’s Russia-brokered ceasefire has already crumbled, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov acknowledging Monday that hostilities were continuing.

The violence, which broke out two weeks ago, has killed more than 300 people and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) president Peter Maurer told me that fighting is so intense even staff working close to the contact line had to take shelter frequently.

Nagorno-Karabakh is controlled by ethnic Armenians located in Azerbaijan and both Armenia and Azerbaijan, two former Soviet republics, have accused each other of violating the terms of the ceasefire.…  Seguir leyendo »

Demonstrators in Istanbul this month showed support for Azerbaijan, which the Turkish government backs in the country’s conflict with Armenia. Credit Emrah Gurel/Associated Press

A procession of cars filled with men waving the flag of Azerbaijan, honking and whistling drove through the Kumkapi area in Istanbul, which is home to the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul and many Armenian families. The car rally, on Sept. 28, was a provocation, a threat that filled my community, the tiny Armenian community — 60,000 out of 83 million — in Turkey with fear.

After a decades-long fitful truce, the conflict over the status of Nagorno-Karabakh — a breakaway Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan — between Azerbaijan and Armenia resumed last month, leading to a large military deployment, destruction of civilian centers and thousands of casualties.…  Seguir leyendo »

Qué se juega Europa entre Armenia y Azerbaiyán

Los combates entre Armenia y Azerbaiyán por la disputa sobre Nagorno Karabaj han despertado las alarmas sobre sus implicaciones para la seguridad energética europea.

La dimensión energética del conflicto de Nagorno Karabaj, un territorio controlado por Armenia, pero perteneciente a Azerbaiyán, se hizo evidente el pasado 6 de octubre, cuando el Gobierno azerí acusó al Ejército armenio de atacar el corredor energético que conforman el oleoducto Bakú-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) y el gasoducto SCP (acrónimo inglés del Southern Caucasus Pipeline). Según Azerbaiyán, sus sistemas de defensa aérea interceptaron y destruyeron un misil en las cercanías de ambas infraestructuras, que transportan el grueso del petróleo y el gas extraídos en aguas azeríes del mar Caspio.…  Seguir leyendo »

Employees of the Ministry of Emergency Situations work near destroyed houses in Ganja, Azerbaijan on 11 October 2020. They were hit by shelling after fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces began in and around Nagorno-Karabakh on 27 September. Mikhail Voskresenskiy / Sputnik via AFP.

Two weeks into a renewed war between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces over the breakaway territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and its environs, fighting appears poised to escalate. On 10 October, a Russian-brokered humanitarian ceasefire intended to enable combatants to retrieve the bodies of the dead and exchange prisoners appeared to fall apart as its ink was drying. Both sides have since struck towns and villages, with enormous damage to lives and livelihoods. While it may take time for the parties to return to peace talks, they and international actors must act to stem the mounting human toll. Whatever an eventual settlement entails, it will be closer to hand and more sustainable if the parties stop killing civilians and adding fresh grievances to an already intractable conflict.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘Hundreds of people have died since 27 September.’ A shelled street market in Tartar, Azerbaijan. Photograph: Valery Sharifulin/TASS

A tragedy is unfolding on the edge of Europe in and around the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the South Caucasus. A mostly forgotten war has restarted between Armenians and Azerbaijanis. Outsiders are struggling to respond. As someone who has reported on and studied this conflict for more than 25 years on both sides, let me try to lead you through the labyrinth.

It is worth emphasising first of all the human cost. Hundreds of people have died since 27 September, when the fighting broke out, almost certainly because Azerbaijan decided to launch a surprise offensive. Each side is now using fearsome long-range weapons that it has acquired over the last decade.…  Seguir leyendo »

Trying to find refuge from bombs in a basement this week in Stepanakert, a city at the center of a territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Credit Reuters

Taking shelter in a hospital basement, 19-year-old George Alexanian can hear the suicide drones buzzing overhead in the city of Stepanakert.

A few days ago, he said, one of them headed toward the hospital but was struck down before it could explode. Yet being there, he told me, is better than staying home, where every strike felt like an earthquake. His sister is a doctor, working upstairs and sleeping in the hallway because the beds are all full.

“We get used to it,” he said. “But it’s hard to live not knowing if you’re safe.”

Workers hurry out of other basements for a few hours, then rush back down to shelter.…  Seguir leyendo »

After a bitter three-decades-long standoff marked by sporadic violence and deadlocked negotiations, Azerbaijan and Armenia have returned to war over the breakaway territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Clashes on the front lines followed by an Azerbaijani dawn offensive on September 27 have spilled into days of fighting that have left dozens of soldiers and civilians dead on both sides. Despite international calls for restraint, the mood among both Armenians and Azerbaijanis is bellicose. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has made his own hawkish statements in support of Baku. Absent urgent international action, fighting looks set to escalate further, at terrible cost.

Russia, potentially with European support, probably stands the best chance of brokering a ceasefire.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman and children take refuge against shelling in Stepanakert, in the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan, on Oct. 1. (Karen Mirzoyan/AP)

South of the Caucasus Mountains, between the countries of Armenia and Azerbaijan, are the contested territories of Nagorno-Karabakh. On Sept. 27, Azerbaijan launched a sustained military offense to retake territories it considers occupied by Armenians since a cease-fire agreement between the parties in 1994.

While there have been occasional military clashes, most notably in April 2016 and July of this year, the current fighting is the worst the region has seen since a devastating war killed around 30,000 and displaced more than 1 million people a quarter-century ago.

In February 2020, we conducted face-to-face public opinion surveys in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh on geopolitics in the region.…  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 »

Azerbaijan professional cyclists resume training after being left without access to their usual training facilities due to the coronavirus outbreak. Photo by Aziz Karimov/Getty Images.

Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia already operate within a fractured region, with large migrant populations abroad, and assume varying degrees of responsibility for the region’s separatist entities – Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorny Karabakh – whose long-term isolation makes them highly vulnerable to the pandemic.

All three South Caucasus states reported their first cases early – between February 26 and March 1 – and started responding shortly after. And the form and success of their response has been defined by the work each had put into developing their political, healthcare and economic institutions over the long term, and has put their ability to protect their citizens into stark relief.…  Seguir leyendo »

Azerbaijanis vote Sunday in a snap election that resulted from a sudden political housecleaning last fall. In October, President Ilham Aliyev dismissed his chief of staff, Ramiz Mehdiyev, and replaced a set of top officials linked to Mehdiyev’s “old guard” with younger technocrats. Azerbaijan’s National Assembly then agreed to dissolve the legislature and hold new elections on Feb. 9.

This was big news in an authoritarian regime where a single leader and his circle of close associates have structured the country’s politics for the past 16 years. Here’s what you need to know.

1. This could be a power play

Some analysts see the political shake-up as the sign of the demise of Azerbaijan’s old guard — and a consolidation of power within the family of first lady and First Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva (nee Pashayeva).…  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 »

Protesters demanding the government's resignation and early parliamentary polls rally in front of Parliament in Tbilisi, Georgia, on Tuesday. (Vano Shlamov/AFP via Getty Images)

The main thoroughfare of Tbilisi, known as Rustaveli Avenue, has borne witness to many a political reversal, from civil war to revolution. Since this summer, the tree-lined boulevard has once again seen throngs of protesters rise up against eccentric billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, who has ruled the country, both formally as prime minister and informally as the ultimate decision-maker behind his Georgian Dream party, since 2012. The protests are entering a critical phrase this week, and their success or failure could determine the democratic trajectory and geopolitical future of Georgia.

Since his ascent to power, Ivanishvili — an oligarch-turned-politician — has attempted to warm relations with Russia, which occupies 20 percent of Georgia’s territory.…  Seguir leyendo »

Nearly 11 years ago, on 14 August 2008, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced the preliminary examination of the situation in Georgia. The matter referred to the international armed conflict in Georgia’s breakaway region, South Ossetia, in what some commentators have named the first European war of the 21st century.

The region had been under the control of pro-Russian separatists since the early 1990s. Ongoing tensions and periodic armed clashes between the Georgian army and separatist forces escalated during July to early August 2008 with a series of explosions targeting, among others, both Georgian and separatist military and political leaders in South Ossetia.…  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 »

Thirty years ago today, the dying Soviet empire lashed out at the people of Georgia. April 9, 1989, launched our country on its path to independence, freedom and democracy.

I was a teenager attending Public School No. 1, on the central avenue in my hometown of Tbilisi. The school stood just a short distance from the spot from where, on that fateful spring day, Soviet troops assaulted my countrymen in an attempt to crush our thirst for freedom. Thousands of people — some of them on hunger strikes — gathered spontaneously to demand independence from Russian rule. Moscow dispatched Soviet troops under the command of Russian general Igor Rodionov to stop it.…  Seguir leyendo »

Days before the hotly contested Ukrainian presidential election on March 31, incumbent Petro Poroshenko’s party faces credible allegations of voter bribery. It’s not hard to guess what will happen next. The oligarchic clique will steal the election, and in response, international observers will accuse local authorities of vote-rigging. But instead of addressing the symptoms of democratic backsliding, it’s time to treat the root cause: informal power.

Moldova offers a textbook example. Oil and banking tycoon Vladimir Plahotniuc bankrolls the country’s second-largest political force and has forged alliances with other parties to consolidate power. Although Plahotniuc exerts total control over parliament, law enforcement and the courts, he has no interest in running for office.…  Seguir leyendo »

Azerbaijani people stage a protest against Armenia's occupation of Azerbaijan's territory Nagorno-Karabakh at the Mehsul stadium in Baku, Azerbaijan on 29 September 2018. Resul Rehimov/Anadolu Agency

A series of direct contacts between Azerbaijan and Armenia have brought hope to the two countries’ decades-long impasse over Nagorno-Karabakh, a conflict that began as the Soviet Union collapsed. But while these meetings, on the heels of a change in power in the Armenian capital, bring new dynamism, much has to be done before true progress is possible.

The Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders, Ilham Aliyev and Nikol Pashinyan, last met in person on 22 January 2019 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, their third meeting since the latter came to power in Yerevan last April. Their January discussion, held without mediators, came just six days after the two countries’ foreign ministers met in Paris, where they agreed to take concrete measures to prepare their populations for peace.…  Seguir leyendo »