Armenia is a landlocked country surrounded by the mountains. It has gone through several wars and divisions as a land with the majority of its population of the Orthodox faith and its location between the borders of the Ottoman empire, Russia and the post Persian republics. Because of this, Armenia would become among the lands that suffered the most under the governance of the ottoman empire. Since the principles of the Ottoman empire were originated from Islam, Armenians found themselves being discriminated and during the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid, the Armenians requested for equality in justice and more rights. This didn’t happen and instead of that more than 280.0000 Armenians were killed. In 1922 Armenia was incorporated into the Soviet Union (IvyPanda, 2020).
Throughout its history Azerbaijan, unlike Armenia, went through several leadership regimes in the form of dynasties. Many dynasties during this period ruled including among others the Sajids, the Sassanids, the Shaddadids, the Sallarids, and the Byzantines. Turkic tribes from Central Asia like the Ghaznavids dynasty later took on the role of leadership. In subsequent years, the Azerbaijan area was again briefly ruled by Zand. The area was comprised of populations having Muslim and Christian faith since the middle ages (IvyPanda, 2020).
Nagorno Karabakh is a landlocked enclave that is located geographically in Azerbaijan but inhabited by an Armenian majority. Since 1917, r and the fall of the Ottoman empire, it serves as a source for dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Russian tsar state created the Armenian enclave and the with the Bolshevik revolution the region was provoked into ethnic violence (IvyPanda, 2020).
The Nagorno Karabakh war
On the last Russian Persian war in year (1826-1828), which ended with the victory of the Russian empire, the second treaty of the so called Turkmenchay between Iran and Russia was made. As a result of that, the Armenian province was created as a part of the Russian empire (Manaev,2020). Because of this treaty Armenia became part of a larger Russia but at that time tsar Alexander the first (A. Pávlovich) justify the region of Nagorno Karabakh out of the Armenian province (IvyPanda. 2020). This is considered to be the beginning of the dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia which then would escalate to the present conflict.
Then in 1920s, the Soviet government established the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region—where 95 percent of the population is ethnically Armenian—within Azerbaijan. Under Bolshevik rule, fighting between the two countries was kept in check, but, as the Soviet Union began to collapse, so did its grip on Armenia and Azerbaijan (Manaev Georgy 10.01.2020).
In 1988, the Nagorno-Karabakh legislature passed a resolution to join Armenia despite the region’s legal location within Azerbaijan’s borders. As the Soviet Union was dissolving in 1991, the autonomous region officially declared independence. War erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the region, leaving roughly thirty thousand casualties and hundreds of thousands of refugees. By 1993, Armenia controlled Nagorno-Karabakh and occupied 20 percent of the surrounding Azerbaijani territory. In 1994, Russia brokered a cease-fire which has remained in place since (CFR October 9, 2020).
In 1994 the Minsk group was established. This was a mediation group effort led by the OSCE Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Its primary aim was to address the dispute. The countries involved in the mediation process were Russia, France and USA. The success of the group was the cease fire which made it possible for establishing a peace, even though fragile, since the main issue of the dispute over the territory was not resolved and as a result, the conflict was ended but only temporary (IvyPanda. 2020).
The President of the Republic of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan and the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev held a summit addressing the issue over the disputed territory and conflict. Main goal of the meeting was establishing a long-term peaceful agreement between the two countries which would end the conflict and give path to a resolution for the dispute over Nogorno Karabach. Based on the article of the OSC, the meeting was held on a constructive environment and both presidents agreed to take measures to intensify the negotiation process and to take additional steps to reduce tensions on the line of contact (OSCE Geneva, 2017).
With the new revolution in Armenia (2018) a new generation came into surface in Armenia. This was seen as an opportunity for the conflict over the region of Nogorno Krabkh to move towards a resolution (The Guardian,2018). The acts of the prime minister Nikol Pashinyan according to the Guardian were seen on the eyes of Azerbaijani leaders as provocative. (The Guardian, 2018). According to Broers, the COVID19 pandemic affecting the price of the oil and gas in Azerbaijan causing this whole action and reaction. On one side Azerbaijani seeking to expand for more territory and Armenian leaders acting as they do, which is seen as a big provocation on the side of Azerbaijan (The Guardian, 2018).
With Turkey siding on the Azerbaijan’s side coming as a result of the historic and religiose connections these two countries share and Iran getting involved by supporting Armenia and EU urging for a cease fire, this issue was immediately escalated with the US department and United Nations. This increase of actors involved in the conflict indicates that the conflict will last least until the end of this year, considering that there is a vacuum on international relations caused by the absence of the United States, due to the virus and the elections. Russia has taken a more cautious approach; In a phone call with Armenia’s Pashinyan, President Vladimir Putin said it was important to „halt military actions,“ according to the Kremlin’s account of the conversation. (Kremlin Russia 27, 2020).
Despite the fact that Iran is considered a strong ally of Armenia, until now there were no strong statements made against Azerbaijan, compared with what we see from turkey in almost daily basis. but considering the situation on the frozen conflict that Iran has with USA and the sanctions imposed it contribution could be seen with skepticism (AL-Jazeera, 28 Sep 2020).
What are the implications of this conflict for the region?
Based on the international opinion, this conflict must not be seen as “just a conflict between two states, but a conflict that can cause a large-scale disaster” according to Olesya Vartanyan of the International Crisis Group. She has warned that the current clashes could evolve into a bigger escalation than that of April 2016, when dozens of people from both sides were killed in the most serious fighting in the region has seen in years. (Al-Jazeera 28 Sep 2020). The international community is concerned about the prospect of war, because Nagorno-Karabakh serves as a corridor for pipelines taking oil and gas to world markets. Fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia threatens to embroil regional players such as Russia, which is in a military alliance with Yerevan, Turkey, and backs Baku” (Al-Jazeera 28 Sep 2020).
Thomas de Waal, senior fellow with Carnegie Europe specializing in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus region, told Al Jazeera: It’s a region that borders Iran and it’s in the European and Russian neighborhood, and the US also got involved in the 1990s.” (Al-Jazeera 28 Sep 2020). Al Jazeera’s Robin Forestier-Walker who has extensively covered developments in the region, also emphasized the importance of the geographical position of both Armenia and Azerbaijan: “They lie on the borders with Turkey in the west, Iran in the south, and Russia in the north. There are huge quantities of Caspian hydrocarbon reserves to the east, which transits through the Caucuses, very close to where the fighting is taking place right now.” (Al-Jazeera 28 Sep 2020).
Considering the sanctions imposed against Turkey Russia and Iran the resolution of providing a cease fire looks like it will be followed with a lot of contradictions and unilateral interventions.
Authors opinion about the conflict.
Considering its ongoing history and relevance for the region that both two countries have, I would say that the importance of this conflict rises upon religious and regional territorial disputes. As a result of the shifting of powers on this region both countries are located on a triangle between three serious and powerful states, with contradiction on their internal regulation and international approach against vital issues.
Azerbaijan may have the support of Turkey due to their religious ottoman heritage that they have in common, but it also has strong ties with Russia that dates back to the Soviet Union. Even after the fall of this federation Azerbaijan, just like Armenia, continued their relationship with Russia. This situation for them creates a crossroad, since Turkey is on a position of an unstable relationship with Russia and on the other side we have Armenia which has a good relationship and support from Iran and with the other neighbor Russia religiously but also historically connection. All these factors are contradicting each other and creating an impact of that in my own personal opinion makes the region more conflictual and a battle ground that has the tendency to go more east than west.
Author: Fitim Tmava
Photo source: Dubey, R. (2020). Armenia- Azerbaijan War: Know why these two countries are fighting. DNAIndia.com. https://www.dnaindia.com/world/report-know-the-reasons-and-history-of-the-armenia-azerbaijan-war-2846547
IvyPanda. (2020). „The Conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.“ January 9, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-conflict-between-armenia-and-azerbaijan/.
OSCE Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe “Joint Statement by the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan and the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group” Geneva, Switzerland 16 October 2017 https://www.osce.org/minsk-group/350091
Pashinyan, M. (2020). “Telephone conversation with Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan”. Kremlin.ru http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/64096
Global Conflict Tracer “Nagorn-Karabakh Conflict” October 9, 2020 https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/nagorno-karabakh-conflict
AL-Jazeera, (2020) “Why you should care about conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan”. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/9/28/why-you-should-care-about-conflict-between-armenia-and-azerbaijan
Manaev, G. (2020). How did Armenia become a part of the Russian Empire? https://www.rbth.com/history/332789-how-did-armenia-join-russian-empire
Safi M. (2020). Why are Armenia and Azerbaijan fighting and what are the implications? The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/28/why-are-armenia-and-azerbaijan-fighting-what-are-implications