Despite a humanitarian ceasefire brokered by Moscow, the military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has escalated. The parties of Azerbaijan and Armenia accuse each other of escalated conflict; continue military actions and militant rhetoric, while the positions of Baku and Yerevan are tightening.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev insisted on the restoration of the country's territorial integrity, the return of control over Nagorno-Karabakh and the return of Azerbaijanis to the region. According to him, in order to achieve its goal, Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan "will go to the end” and the Azerbaijani authorities will never agree with the recognition of the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, however, stated that his country does not agree with the refusal of Nagorno-Karabakh to self-determination and continues to call on the international community to recognize the statehood of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan also insisted and accomplished on the transfer of territories around Nagorno-Karabakh (7 regions under the control of Armenia) not in exchange for the status of this enclave, but in exchange for maintaining peace.
The toughening of the positions of the parties runs counter to the previously agreed principles of the peaceful settlement of the conflict, according to which Armenia pledged to return the territories around Nagorno-Karabakh under the control of Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijan agreed to determine the legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh on the basis of a referendum.
Amid the escalated military conflict, the international community continued to call on countries for a ceasefire. “The resolution of that conflict ought to be done through negotiation and peaceful discussions, not through armed conflict, and certainly not with third party countries coming in to lend their firepower to what is already a powder keg of a situation,” - said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Turkey openly supports Azerbaijan in its desire to regain control over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. According to media reports, Ankara is providing military support to Baku, including, according to the Armenian side, sending Syrian mercenaries to Azerbaijan to participate in hostilities, but Ankara and Baku reject these accusations. The United States, along with Russia and France, are co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group on Nagorno-Karabakh. Moscow and Paris also call on the sides to de-escalate and observe the humanitarian truce.
Former American Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh, who served as co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group on Nagorno-Karabakh in 1999-2001, and is now professor of diplomacy at the University of Kentucky and chairman of the London peacekeeping organization International Alert, notes that today the escalation of the conflict is different from all the previous ones by the intensity and clear desire of Azerbaijan to change the status quo. While both sides have recognized in the past that the conflict must be resolved through negotiation, today Baku believes it can be achieved with military success. However, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict does not have a military solution and can only be resolved through negotiations, and further escalation will only exacerbate the situation, including the possibility of escalating into a wider conflict with the involvement of other regional players.
Countries do recognize a peaceful resolution of the conflict cannot be achieved without mutual concessions, but today both sides take the toughest positions. Although Armenia is more ready for peace negotiations, Yerevan does not signal its readiness to transfer the territory around Nagorno-Karabakh under the control of Azerbaijan - one of the previously agreed concessions, and Baku wants full control over both these territories and Nagorno-Karabakh.
Although it is extremely difficult to compromise and prepare the public opinion of their countries for this, especially today, in the conditions of ongoing clashes, it cannot be said that this is completely impossible. In the past, the parties were several times close to reaching a compromise, so the OSCE Minsk Group today must not only help the parties to stop hostilities, but also find a political solution to the conflict with mutual concessions.
A peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is extremely important also because today its further expansion and escalation is possible. Turkey actively supports Baku and the parties have a military alliance, Moscow - although not interested in flaring up the conflict - made it clear that in case of expansion of hostilities into the territory of Armenia, it will fulfill its obligations to protect Armenia within the framework of the CSTO agreement. Turkey and Russia were critically important in meditating this issue; therefore, the Peace Deal has brought victories to Azerbaijan, Turkey and Russia.
Malika Mukhitdinova is currently a senior student at the Geroge Mason University, Virginia, USA, majoring in Global Affairs, with a concentration in Global Governance. My research interests lie in developments in Central Asia and the Caucasus.
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