Nagorno-Karabakh

A Russian peacekeeper guards the Lachin Corridor, which has been blocked by Azerbaijani protesters since December 12, 2022 -- cutting off ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh from the outside world. Tofik Babayev/AFP/Getty Images

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its devastating humanitarian fallout, it would be a leap to cast Moscow in the role of a peacemaker. But in one corner of the world that’s exactly what has happened.

In the wake of a war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2020, Russia was left to broker a ceasefire and keep the two sides in check. The United States and the European Union, which had once played a balancing role in the South Caucasus, effectively pulled back from active diplomacy and let Russia act as the sole mediator. Moscow deployed peacekeepers on the ground to calm and monitor the situation.…  Seguir leyendo »

Azerbaijani protesters gather on the Lachin corridor in Nagorno-Karabakh on Dec. 13. Resul Rehimov/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A woman in a crowd of protesters clutched a lifeless dove in her hand, its head flopping back and forth as she waved her arm in the air. The bird had apparently been squeezed to death while she spoke into a megaphone, delivering an impassioned speech honoring Azerbaijan’s victory over Armenia in the 2020 war for Nagorno-Karabakh.

With dark humor, the strangled dove came to embody the broken peace process in the South Caucasus. The bird and its human handler were part of a show of political force by Azerbaijan in the Lachin corridor, the sole road connecting Armenians in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh to the outside world.…  Seguir leyendo »

A view of the settlement of Sotk, which is said was hit by Azeri shelling during recent border clashes with Azerbaijan, on September 14, 2022. (Photo by Karen MINASYAN / AFP)

On the night of September 12-13, violent clashes erupted along the eastern and southeastern border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The hostilities, which had been brewing since a ceasefire agreement signed under Russian the auspices two years before, continued until September 15. Over these 48 hours, Azerbaijani forces reportedly used heavy artillery and drones along a 200 km stretch of the border. According to the Armenian prime minister, the shelling deliberately targeted the civilian population and vital civilian infrastructures in 36 residential areas and communities.

The direct cause that re-sparked hostilities remains unclear, with Armenia and Azerbaijan blaming each other. The Armenian prime minister referred to the Azerbaijani shelling as an unprovoked and unjustified military aggression.…  Seguir leyendo »

In the shadow of Russia’s war in Ukraine, a series of clashes and a subsequent period of quiet have raised both fears about renewed fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh and hopes that diplomacy might still bring the parties closer to peace. In March, Azerbaijani forces seized territory around Farukh, an ethnic Armenian-populated village that has been patrolled by Russian peacekeepers since a ceasefire ended the 2020 war that upended an almost three-decade status quo in the region. The Armenian government, along with Nagorno-Karabakh’s de facto authorities, worried that the move might herald a broader Azerbaijani offensive, taking advantage of Moscow’s focus on Ukraine.…  Seguir leyendo »

Mourning the war dead in Yerevan, Armenia, December 2020. Artem Mikryukov / Reuters

As the ripples of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pulse outward, they have left one region especially volatile: the South Caucasus. The Ukrainian conflict has paradoxically raised the likelihood of both further fighting and a negotiated peace in this area between the Caspian and Black Seas. The region was the site of a brutal war in 2020 between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh—an Armenian-populated enclave within Azerbaijan—and adjacent regions. The 44-day war left around 7,000 people dead and saw Azerbaijan inflict a crushing defeat on Armenia, reversing territorial losses it had suffered in fighting during the 1990s. The war also left unresolved questions, lingering disputes, and simmering tensions.…  Seguir leyendo »

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 »

Helping Stabilise the New Status Quo in Nagorno-Karabakh

While the armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh has subsided, Armenia and Azerbaijan are still far from a political settlement. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2021 – Autumn Update, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to press for negotiations between Baku and Yerevan, aid to the affected regions and cooperate with Moscow, which has peacekeepers on the ground and the most leverage over the conflict parties.

Almost a year after a Russian-brokered ceasefire ended the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan and Armenia remain at loggerheads. With Armenian forces withdrawn, Russian peacekeepers now patrol the part of Nagorno-Karabakh that remains outside Azerbaijani control, but they are operating without a detailed mandate and risk being stretched too thin.…  Seguir leyendo »

Armenians, flanked by police officers, take part in a protest to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Yerevan, Armenia, on March 6. (Karen Minasyan/AFP/Getty Images)

Despite a nudge from a senior State Department official, Azerbaijan has so far refused to return more than four dozen Armenian prisoners who were captured after a bloody war for control of the disputed enclave known as Nagorno-Karabakh.

The prisoner issue is a bitter legacy of the battle last fall in which Azerbaijan’s forces, backed by Turkish-made drones, regained control of much of the mountainous region that is officially part of Azerbaijan but had been governed by its majority-Armenian population since a 1994 war for independence. Armenia says it lost more than 4,000 soldiers — a huge number for the small, embattled nation.…  Seguir leyendo »

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 »