Armenia

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

By almost any measure, 2018 has been a disastrous year for democracy. Authoritarian leaders have made decisive moves to tighten their grip on power by eroding practices indispensable to a functioning democracy, such as the rule of law and a free press, and blithely ignoring or violently suppressing mass protests in places such as Hungary, Nicaragua, the Philippines and elsewhere.

And yet, there are parts of the world where, quite unexpectedly, the struggle for democratic reform made giant strides — a reminder that the right mix of activism, leadership and circumstances can suddenly change the course of history. The good news came from starkly different countries, where undemocratic practices had been playing out in unique ways.…  Seguir leyendo »

Armenian leader Nikol Pashinyan campaigning for his political alliance “My Step” in his hometown Ijevan, about 20 kilometres from frontline trenches along the border with Azerbaijan. CRISISGROUP/Olesya Vartanyan

One of the windows in Sonya Matinyan’s home is filled in with bricks. The glass of the other is splintered by a rifle bullet. The roof has taken a few missile hits and leaking water has stained the ceilings in the interior. But, unusually, the 57-year-old Armenian is staying home this winter.

That’s because things are changing for the better in Berkaber, on Armenia’s north-eastern border with Azerbaijan. No gunfire has sounded here in the region of Tavush for almost two months, a welcome change from clashes that in the past two winters drove inhabitants into fortified cellars or to distant relatives’ homes.…  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 »

The springtime political upheaval in Armenia stunned neighbouring governments – not least that of Azerbaijan. Since 23 April, when mass demonstrations impelled Armenia’s long-time leader Serzh Sargsyan to resign, the Azerbaijani authorities have struggled to understand the implications for the three-decade-long conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Prior to Armenia’s “velvet revolution”, observers in the Azerbaijani capital Baku believed Sargsyan would continue indefinitely as prime minister. At the outset of the anti-Sargsyan unrest, the demonstrations were small, and Azerbaijanis remained doubtful that the unrest would force a change in Armenian politics. They drew comparisons to “electric Yerevan” – the 2015 protests in the Armenian capital against electricity rate hikes.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters of the Armenian opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan at a rally on Tuesday after his bid to become prime minister was blocked by Parliament.CreditGleb Garanich/Reuters

On Tuesday, electoral arithmetic defeated democratic sentiment in Armenia after the Republican Party of Armenia, the majority party, used its numerical strength to back a discredited government and block the election of the opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan as the new prime minister.

A chorus of defiant honks expressing the collective angst filled the streets of Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, as the disappointing result became public. Tens of thousands of people had been singing and chanting at the Republic Square near Parliament throughout the day in support of Mr. Pashinyan’s election.

Mr. Pashinyan, a former crusading journalist and opposition leader, had led the massive protests against the government in April, which culminated in the resignation of the former president and prime minister, Serzh Sargsyan.…  Seguir leyendo »