Crisis in Caucasus: On Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh
Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.
Azerbaijan, Armenia and the Karabakh rebels should go back to the ceasefire
Decades old conflict
- Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan in a conflict in 1991.
- The region, largely populated by ethnic Armenians, is located within the international boundaries of Azerbaijan. It is an ethnic and territorial conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts, which are de facto controlled by the self-declared Republic of Artsakh, but are internationally recognized as de jure part of Azerbaijan.
- Under the Soviet Union, it was an autonomous province that was part of the Azerbaijan republic.
- In 1988, when the Soviet power was receding, the regional assembly in Nagorno-Karabakh voted to join Armenia, triggering ethnic clashes.
- After the Soviet disintegration in 1991, Armenia and Azerbaijan went to war over this largely mountainous, forested enclave.
- By the time a ceasefire was reached in 1994, the rebels, with support from Armenia and Russia, had established their de facto rule and extended their influence to the Armenian border.
- Ever since, the border has remained tense.
- The present conflict began in 1988, when the Karabakh Armenians demanded that Karabakh be transferred from Soviet Azerbaijan to Soviet Armenia.
- The conflict escalated into a full-scale war in the early 1990s.
- A four-day escalation in April 2016 became the deadliest ceasefire violation to date.
What makes the clashes now far more dangerous?
- Wider Regional Conflict:
The ongoing fighting between Armenian rebels and the Azerbaijani Army in Nagorno-Karabakh, a self-declared republic within Azerbaijan, risks becoming a wider regional conflict.
- External Intervention:
- For Turkey, which, under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is trying to expand its geopolitical reach to the former Ottoman regions, the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh is an opportunity to enter the South Caucasus.
- NATO VS CSTO
Armenia is a member of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
- Russia enjoys good economic and defence ties with both Armenia and Azerbaijan.
- But Armenia, as a CSTO member and host to a Russian military base, has more weight.
- In a wider conflict, Armenia could trigger Article 4 of the CSTO treaty and ask for Russian help.
- if Moscow responds favourably, that would pit Russia against Turkey, a NATO member.
- Russia vs Turkey:
- Russia already involved in military conflicts in Syria, Ukraine and Libya, may not like opening another front.
- That is why it has re-emphasised its neutrality and hosted talks in Moscow for a truce.
- But it will be forced to take sides if the conflict spills into Armenia.
- Turkey also has a particularly bad relationship with Armenia.
Both sides should understand the volatile situation and call off the hostilities. Nagorno-Karabakh has in the past witnessed large-scale ethnic violence. Instead of risking a regional war, Azerbaijan, Armenia and the Karabakh rebels should go back to the ceasefire and open up diplomatic channels.