The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: Clashes Between Armenia and Azerbaijan Explained

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Armenia and Azerbaijan, two of former Soviet constituent republics, became sovereign states as the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. Both neighbouring states have had several territorial disputes since they declared their independence, especially over a region called Nagorno-Karabakh.

The said disputed territory is an ethnically Armenian enclave geographically a part of Azerbaijan. It has been the subject of flare-ups between the two states repeatedly in the last three decades. However, past few weeks have witnessed one of the worst clashes since after 2020.

map of the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh

2020 Conflict Between Armenia and Azerbaijan:

The full-fledged armed conflict in 2020 between the two states lasted for six weeks, until a ceasefire was brokered by Russia. Both sides have always blamed each other for the fighting.

Armenia accused Azerbaijan, backed by Turkey, of attacking seven Armenian territories including Nargorno-Karabakh. Armenia, simultaneously, was alleged by Azerbaijan of carrying out intelligence activity along the border and moving weapons. Azerbaijan claimed that it made its military positions vulnerable to a potential Armenian attack.

However, since then, the November 9th ceasefire had been holding up. Additionally, thousands of Russian peacekeepers deployed in the disputed region have been preventing any further clashes.

military troops after ceasefire for Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Recent Conflicts:

Recently, the fighting between the two states has flared up again. It has gone beyond the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave and is now occurring along the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Paul Stronski of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace predicted that it would increase the risk of a “direct state-to-state conflict”.

The immediate reason behind the current clashes is still unclear, however Roubina Margossian, a writer and photographer from Nagorno-Karabakh, proposed an explanation.

“In the November 9th statement, there’s talk of opening communication links between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and between Azerbaijan and its enclave Nagorno-Karabakh that would be very well-connected to Armenia otherwise. So, what Azerbaijan has since tried to interpret from the November 9th agreement is that Armenia has promised a sovereign corridor to Azerbaijan.”

The photojournalist however claims that there is no mention of any such wordings in the said statement. She further goes on to say that:

“As statements go, they are open to further interpretation, the generally understood motive of Azerbaijan behind the repeated attacks is that it’s exercising military means to pressurise Armenia into granting Azerbaijan a corridor.”

The perceived situation is not favourable for Armenia because it would sever half the country and the whole scenic region would be cut in half, further jeopardising Armenia’s only border with Iran.

Azerbaijan, on the other hand, admits to the repeated attacks, but maintained it’s years old statement that the attacks were initiated by Armenian forces as they planted mines along the border to disrupt supply routes.

Both countries have been attempting to establish a durable cease-fire over Nagorno-Karabakh that would work in favour of both countries. As Margossian puts it:

“Armenia and Azerbaijan are discussing a peace deal, and because both countries had been a part of the Soviet Union, the borders between both countries have not yet been demarked, and it creates problems. Now, Armenia and Azerbaijan are discussing a five-point peace proposal by Azerbaijan with the addition of a few sub-points by Armenia.”

Normally, occasional conflicts between the two former Soviet republics are settled by Russian intervention who, despite being a military ally of Armenia, tries to play a peacekeeping role in this conflict. However, the Russian Federation is currently preoccupied by the situation in Ukraine. As per the popular belief, this preoccupation is what has led to the recent flare-up between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

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Hamna M.
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