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Thursday, 23 July 2020

The Conflict over Nagorno - Karabakh

The Conflict over Nagorno - Karabakh

The Armenian and Azerbaijani conflict has been an issue for decades, going back to the Soviet Union – it began over a piece of land at their border. The issue has been in limbo, with temporary ceasefire agreements under international pressure, but has never been truly resolved. Unfortunately, tensions benefit the two participating nations, as well as Russia and Turkey, thereby possibly preventing any permanent solution.


• Armenia and Azerbaijan have long been in conflict, over various reasons since 1918, but none have gone on longer than the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict which started under Soviet Rule. 

• The conflict is over an 1800 square mile enclave of land, called the Nagorno-Karabakh - the resultant warfare has caused numerous casualties, and has seen a re-escalation in July 2020. 

• The land is claimed by both Armenia and Azerbaijan, and has been the subject of many failed peace treaties and ceasefire agreements over the decades.


• The issue has its roots in the actions of Joseph Stalin as Commissar of Nationalities for the USSR during the 1920s, when both Independent Armenia and Azerbaijan were taken over. 

• In a bid to garner support, the Soviets promised the Nagorno-Karabakh area - with a population of over 90% Armenians - to Armenia; but in order to placate Turkey, the region was put under the control of Azerbaijan. 

• This move was met with much uproar in the early 20th century, but the iron fist of Soviet governance meant that public resistance was limited.


• In 1988, the legislation of the enclave voted in favour of uniting with Armenia, which led to a referendum where the people too voted in favour of the move; the shift was largely peaceful until 1991, when the USSR broke down. 

• After both Armenia and Azerbaijan declared independence, so did the Armenian majority province of Nagorno-Karabakh - to set up the unrecognized Republic of Artsakh. 

• In 1993, the Karabakh Armenian forces, supported by Armenia, took control of the enclave as well as some Azerbaijani territory outside the enclave.


• In 1994, the Minsk Group failed to reach a lasting peace resolution, but instead brokered a ceasefire between the two nations - it is still in force, despite violations from both sides. 

• The Republic of Artsakh has held several independent elections, as well as a 2006 referendum that approved a new constitution, which have been declared illegal by Azerbaijan. 

• In 2008, after heavy fighting, the UN adopted a resolution demanding the immediate withdrawal of Armenian forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan; despite mediation from Turkey and Russia, no solution was reached.


• Fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh region largely consisted of small border skirmishes without excessive damage to either nation; however, this changed in 2016. 

• After over 100 ceasefire violations in 2015, and the death of nearly a dozen soldiers, Azerbaijan attacked the region, recapturing territory from Armenia. 

• The war went on from 2nd April to 6th April, ending only after Russian interference and a ceasefire agreement- the incident marked the largest loss of life in the area since 1994. 


• Azerbaijan's domestic politics benefits from such attacks, but Armenia engages in fighting to possibly get recognition for the Nagorno-Karabakh government, apart from its own political considerations. 

• However, the region is home to a major oil- producing hub in Azerbaijan, with fighting disrupting the flow of nearly 800,000 barrels per day to Europe and Central Asia. 

• Despite this, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey's backing to Azerbaijan and Russia's support to Armenia may embolden the possibility of a war; yet, neither Turkey nor Russia want the conflict to end as it gives them political significance in the region.


• Tensions in the region have been rising since 2018, with more frequent ceasefire violations fighting flared up earlier this month, July 2020, with both nations blaming each other for causing excessive damage to the other. 

• Azerbaijan warned it could strike Armenia's nuclear power plant, with the latter eyeing a strategic Azeri water reserve. 

• It has now evolved into a blame game, leading to an escalation with tanks and artillery; Azerbaijan benefits from the clashes as they distract civilians from poor economic conditions and a sub-par COVID-19 response - Azeri civilians are now demanding war.

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