A military conflict is escalating in the Nagorno-Karabakh, a key border region claimed by both Azerbaijan and Armenia. In September 2020, heavy military clashes broke out along the disputed border.
What are the root causes behind the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
In the 1920s, the Soviet government established the so called Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region within Azerbaijan territory —where about 95 per-cent of the population was ethnically Armenian.
At the end of a war fought between 1991 and 1994, the Armenians took control of the area. Nagorno-Karabakh, with Armenian support, proclaimed itself independent under the name of the Republic of Artsakh. Since then, Azerbaijan has been trying to regain lost territories
Nagorno-Karabakh has been a frozen conflict for more than a decade, with only sporadic artillery shelling and minor skirmishes between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces.
To date, any form of negotiation and mediation efforts, primarily led by the Minsk Group, have proved ineffective to produce a permanent solution to the long lasting conflict.
Although UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the UN Security Council, and countries like Russia and the United States of America have called for an end to hostilities, Armenia and Azerbaijan have rejected pressure to hold talks.
Who are the main stakeholders involved in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
Azerbaijan, which aims to restore the territorial integrity lost in the 1991-94 conflict, by recapturing the disputed region as well as additional seven neighboring districts.
Armenia, which claims to be defending the interests of the majority of the population within the region – the Armenian ethnic group – and which fears that an Azerbaijani acquisition of the region will cause massive externalities to Armenian nationals.
The Republic of Artsakh, a self-proclaimed independent entity (after the war of 1991-94) and not recognized by the international community, not even by Armenia. Formally a state with a government, administration and army distinct from those of Armenia.
Turkey, a key ally of Azerbaijan. Ankara has offered “all the necessary help” to the Azeri government. Armenia has accused Ankara of sending weapons and troops from Syria to Azerbaijan. The international community, Russia and France in particular, have asked Turkey to interrupt its alleged involvement in the conflict, but Ankara to date has strongly denied any kind of intervention in the region.
Russia is in a difficult position, indeed it has strategically important military bases in Armenia: Gyumri and Erebuni, but it also considers Azerbaijan an important trade partner within the region. Moscow is interested in re-establishing a ceasefire as soon as possible and has pushed nomours times for hosting peace conferences so settle the dispute.
The Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), co-chaired by France, Russia and the United States, has been trying – with little success – to find a peaceful solution to the conflict since 1994.
What are the main long-term concerns about Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
Failure to reach a successful mediation efforts, and the continuous cease-fire violations and renewed tensions threaten to further escalate the military conflict between the countries and destabilize the whole South Caucasus region.
This could lead to a significant disruption to the region’s oil and gas exports, since Azerbaijan, which produces about eight hundred thousand barrels of oil per day, is a key oil and gas exporter to Europe and Central Asia.
In addition, Moscow has promised to protect Armenia, Turkey has pledged to support Azerbaijan, and Iran has a large Azeri minority, which could escalate a crisis and further complicate efforts to secure peace in the region.