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Why new fighting in troubled Azerbaijan region may herald a new war with Armenia

by Michael Nguyen
2 comments
Conflict Escalation

The recent escalation of artillery fire in the Nagorno-Karabakh region by Azerbaijan has raised concerns of a potential new conflict with Armenia, less than three years after a devastating war claimed the lives of over 6,000 people. Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian region within Azerbaijan, has been a long-standing flashpoint since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In 1994, it came under the control of ethnic Armenian forces, backed by the Armenian military, following a separatist war. However, Azerbaijan managed to regain control of some of the surrounding territories and parts of Nagorno-Karabakh itself during the 2020 conflict.

Tensions have been escalating since December, when Azerbaijan began blocking the vital road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, known as the Lachin Corridor. This move has led to severe food shortages in Nagorno-Karabakh, with Armenian authorities accusing Azerbaijan of attempting a genocide by starvation. The recent artillery operation initiated by Azerbaijan, which they label as an “anti-terrorist operation,” commenced after claiming the deaths of four soldiers and two civilians due to landmines allegedly planted by Armenian saboteurs.

This situation is causing concern among experts like Thomas de Waal, a regional specialist at the Carnegie Europe foundation, who fear the possibility of a third devastating war in the region.

Nagorno-Karabakh, though smaller in size than the U.S. state of Delaware, holds significant cultural importance for both Armenians and Azeris. It enjoyed a degree of autonomy within Azerbaijan during the Soviet era, but as the USSR disintegrated, ethnic Armenian separatist movements escalated into a full-scale war.

The 1994 conflict resulted in the displacement of most of the Azeri population from Nagorno-Karabakh. Conversely, during the 2020 fighting, around 90,000 ethnic Armenians were displaced, with some even resorting to burning their homes to prevent Azeri resettlement.

The presence of Russian peacekeepers was intended to keep the Lachin Corridor open, but it has been largely blocked since December. Azerbaijan claims that Armenians were using it for smuggling weapons and illicit resource extraction, exacerbating tensions and causing humanitarian crises.

Recent efforts by the International Committee of the Red Cross to deliver aid to Nagorno-Karabakh via alternate routes offer a glimmer of hope for easing the crisis. However, Azerbaijan’s announcement of military and civilian casualties due to landmines further heightened tensions and led to the artillery operation.

Armenia has voiced its dissatisfaction with Russian peacekeepers for failing to maintain access to the Lachin Corridor and for not addressing border clashes adequately. While Armenia has traditionally been a Moscow ally, relations have soured in recent times due to various issues, including Armenia’s refusal to permit exercises by the Moscow-led Collective Treaty Security Organization bloc on its territory and its joint exercises with U.S. troops. Additionally, Armenia’s humanitarian aid to Ukraine strained its relationship with Russia.

Russia’s involvement in ending the 2020 war initially enhanced its influence in the region, but it has since diminished. While some expect Russia to intervene in the current conflict, there are reservations within Moscow regarding Armenia’s stance on recognizing Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan.

The repercussions of this renewed hostilities may include widespread public discontent in Armenia, similar to what occurred when Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan agreed to the Russia-brokered agreement ending the 2020 war. Pashinyan, who came to power amid large protests in 2018, is aware of the potential impact of such demonstrations on his leadership.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Conflict Escalation

What is the recent artillery firing in Nagorno-Karabakh by Azerbaijan about?

Azerbaijan’s recent artillery firing in Nagorno-Karabakh has raised concerns of a potential new conflict with Armenia, less than three years after a devastating war in the region.

What is the background of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?

Nagorno-Karabakh is an ethnic Armenian region within Azerbaijan. It has been a contentious issue since the collapse of the Soviet Union and was the site of a separatist war that ended in 1994 with it coming under Armenian control.

What triggered the recent tensions in the region?

Tensions escalated when Azerbaijan began blocking the Lachin Corridor, a vital road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, since December. This led to severe food shortages and allegations of a genocide by starvation.

What role do Russian peacekeepers play in this conflict?

Russian peacekeepers were deployed to ensure the Lachin Corridor remained open. However, their effectiveness has been questioned, and there are concerns about Russia’s role in the region.

What efforts have been made to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh?

The International Committee of the Red Cross arranged aid shipments, including flour and medical supplies, through alternative routes to ease the humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh.

How have Armenia-Russia relations been affected by recent events?

Armenia’s relationship with Russia has deteriorated due to various factors, including Armenia’s refusal to allow exercises by the Moscow-led Collective Treaty Security Organization bloc on its territory and providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

What are the potential consequences of the renewed hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh?

The current conflict may lead to public discontent in Armenia, similar to what happened when Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan agreed to the Russia-brokered agreement ending the 2020 war. Pashinyan’s leadership could be at stake.

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2 comments

Analytica11 September 20, 2023 - 10:55 am

Lachin Corridor blockin’, humanitarian crisis, ICRC helpin’, but more needed!

Reply
ExpertWatcher123 September 21, 2023 - 12:47 am

Nagorno-Karabakh, tiny but vital, history of probs, need peace now!

Reply

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