Nagorno-Karabakh

Russian peacekeepers at the Dadivank, an Armenian Apostolic Church monastery, located in a territory that is soon to be turned over to Azerbaijan under a peace deal that followed the fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, in the Kalbajar district on Sunday. (Stringer/Reuters)

The guns are finally silent in Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed territory in the South Caucasus between Azerbaijan and Armenia. In late September, the longstanding conflict in the territory re-erupted into a six-week war that left thousands dead.

With local Armenian forces collapsing after a relentless Azerbaijani assault from the air and ground, the warring parties signed a nine-point ceasefire last week. Facilitated by Moscow, the agreement authorized the deployment of Russian peacekeeping forces to the region to establish new borders within the territory.

The implications of these new borders, however, extend well beyond Nagorno-Karabakh. As both sides bury their dead, here are five significant ways the 2020 Karabakh war will change the map of the South Caucasus — and the crucial questions that remain unanswered.…  Seguir leyendo »

As I write this column, the 2020 presidential elections are unfolding in the U.S. By the time you read it you may (or quite possibly may still not) know the results. Regardless of their outcome, they will have outsized implications. On the future of America’s economic and healthcare systems, its environment and immigration policies and its race relations among others. On public faith in its electoral process, the solidity of its institutions and the polarisation of its politics, as Crisis Group analysed in a recent report. But also on the rest of the world, whose denizens will be forgiven for lamenting that an event with such profound potential to affect their lives rests on a process over which they have no say, that is governed by a nearly inscrutable patchwork of rules, and that can deliver a Barack Obama one day, a Donald Trump the next.…  Seguir leyendo »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

Politics and Security Hold Each Other Hostage in Nagorno-Karabakh

Sniper fire can hit almost every open-air spot in Nerkin Karmiraghbyur, an Armenian village in the Tavush region on the border with Azerbaijan. Nargiza, who runs a well-stocked shop out of an abandoned railway coach in the village centre, laments the locals’ fate: “We never feel safe. We hear shooting at night, and fear it during the day. My neighbours have stopped cultivating their vineyards. They were being shot at while at work.”

Nargiza means “daffodil”. It’s a common name in Azerbaijan and other Muslim cultures, but not in her native Armenia, especially since the start of the three-decade-long conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.…  Seguir leyendo »

For almost three months now, there has been an astonishing lull along the Karabakh frontline. Instead of grenade launchers, guided missiles, drones, and guns, the sound of relatively less harmful small arms has been heard. For the first time since the clash of April 2016, both sides have put their weapons aside to take a breather before the long-awaited meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders.

There have been no negotiations at the presidential level for more than a year. All prior requests to resume meetings by international mediators yielded no results. Instead of conversing at the negotiation table, the leaders occasionally donned military uniforms, and set out with binoculars to examine each other’s military positions.…  Seguir leyendo »

El neodemócrata Evgenii Ambarzumov acuñó en 1992 la expresión «el círculo próximo» para designar a los nuevos Estados que acaban de independizarse con el desplome soviético: el reconocimiento de los mismos no debía oponerse a la defensa de los intereses de Rusia en el espacio de la antigua URSS. Surgió así una voluntad hegemónica en quienes habían lamentado su hundimiento, entre ellos un desconocido, Vladímir Putin. La primera ocasión llegó en 1992, con la guerra que separó de hecho al territorio rusófono, Transnistria, de Moldavia. Más grave aún fue en 1993 una nueva contienda de secesión, de Abjazia contra Georgia: Rusia intervino mediante una «guerra no declarada» (Shevernadze).…  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 »

10 Conflicts to Watch in 2017

As Yemen’s unremitting conflict continues to drive a nation-wide humanitarian crisis, there is an ever-increasing need to quell hostilities. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2017 annual early-warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to rebuild the credibility of the UN-sponsored talks in order to find a durable ceasefire and work toward a political settlement within Yemen: Yemen: A Humanitarian Catastrophe; A Failing State.

On top of major challenges, including the spillover from the war in Syria, Islamic State terrorism and increasingly heavy-handed governance, Turkey’s conflict with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) also reignited last year. …  Seguir leyendo »

Armenia's President Serzh Sargsyan at a CSTO meeting in October 2016. Photo via Getty Images.

Similar to other Eurasian regional groupings, the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is an alliance of inconvenience at best. But for Armenia, which seeks a security umbrella – and for the South Caucasus region in general – the failure of the CSTO has broader repercussions. The organization’s failure to act as a coherent military bloc might become the failure to prevent the next war in the Caucasus.

The contradictions inherent in the CSTO were brought to light in December, when the member states – Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan – failed to agree on a secretary general to replace the Russia incumbent, Nikolay Bordyuzha.…  Seguir leyendo »