Clashes Flare-Up Between Armenia And Azerbaijan Over Nagorno-Karabakh
The tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia are increasing over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. With the whole world watching this developing story, the conflict may only escalate.
Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous region in the South Caucasus, is a disputed region between the former Soviet republics, Armenia and Azerbaijan. According to international law, the area is a part of Azerbaijan with 150,000 Ethnic Armenian who still run their affairs under Armenia’s command.
The region has been a clashing zone between the two for more than three decades. However, in 2016 that tensions started escalating. Since then, people have reported frequent clashes in the region. Among these skirmishes, the largest number of casualties occurred during the border encounters in July in Baku, killing 16 people.
That skirmish incurred 23 deaths, and both countries accused each other of initiating the fire across the control line.
Baku claims that it has “liberated” Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia’s grip, whereas Armenian authorities denied these claims. They say they have caused a significant loss to Azerbaijan forces and that their neighbor has restricted internet access to hide facts from its citizens.
For the nexus of the gas and oil pipelines stretching through the area, the Nagorno-Karabakh region is of prime importance not only for these two countries but also for international players.
What are people saying about Armenia and Azerbaijan
“If you put Armenia and Azerbaijan on the map and look, it is strategically essential. You have Turkey to the west, Iran to the south, Russia to the north, and 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,” said Robin Forestier-Walker, an Al Jazeera’s correspondent for the region.
This area’s international significance has forced other countries, including Turkey, Russia, Italy, United States, France, and Germany, to jump in and play their part in resolving the issue. Russia, however, vowed support for Armenia and emphasized to settle the dispute on the negotiation table. Other countries, such as the United States, France, Germany, and Italy, have also stressed bilateral talks to diffuse the danger of further conflicts.
What the officials are saying
As Azerbaijan accommodates most Turkish people, Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, swore support for Azerbaijan because of the strong bond that the two nations share. He encouraged the world to stand with Azerbaijan in its “battle against invasion and cruelty.”
In August, Azerbaijan’s defense minister had already said that they would achieve “sacred duty” with the Turkish military’s assistance.
In this regard, Al Jazeera reported that,
In terms of involvement on the ground, the Armenians are very concerned about the noises coming from Turkey, from President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan himself, who has emphatically given his support for Azerbaijan
Armenia has also accused Turkey of sending thousands of mercenaries against Armenian forces; however, Azerbaijan rejected the claim.
What’s happening lately
The fierce battle between Azerbaijan and Armenia is looming as a major threat to the South Caucasus region’s stability. Lamentably, the hostility is escalating even after three ceasefire agreements between the two nations, killing almost 150 civilians and 1200 soldiers during the last six weeks.
The first ceasefire truce between Azerbaijan and Armenia was announced in Washington, D.C, on October 17, after the Moscow agreement’s violation. Unfortunately, just like previous treaties, it could not halt the war between the two countries.
Alleged violations of the ceasefire
Even within a day, both states accused each other of violating the agreement.
Azerbaijan government claimed that Armenian missiles have been targeting their 10-kilometer populated areas around the border. According to state officials, an Armenian missile hit Barda town in Azerbaijan on October 28, killing almost 21 civilians.
However, the same kind of allegations has been leveled from the Armenian side as well. According to Armenian authorities, Azerbaijan’s missiles and drones are striking hospitals, schools, and churches in Armenia daily. They said Azerbaijan is violating human rights by targeting the civilian population and recent attacks killed almost 40 Armenian civilians.
Amidst the Corona pandemic, exacerbating clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan abandoned thousands of Nagorno Karabakh residents in harsh winter, forcing thousands to displace.
The costs of the conflict so far
According to Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, more than 90,000 Nagorno-Karabakh (60 percent of the population) have been evacuated since the onset of clashes.
Moreover, the Azerbaijani government reported 40,000 people displaced during the war.
Pervana Mammadova, the YUVA NGO founder, told The New Humanitarian (TNH) that the Azerbaijan government provided temporary shelters to these displaced people. Citizens and businesses are also voluntarily donating food and winter clothes in war-affected areas, including Terter and Barda.
While the Armenian government has established community centers outside Yerevan to provide necessary facilities to evacuated people.
Naira Tadevosyan, an Armenian psychologist, working at the center, told TNH that apart from basic needs, they are working on evacuees’ mental health to recover from trauma.
We try to continue working with them even after they leave the center. Children have seen rockets explode, killing their neighbors and ruining their houses. Some are afraid even when they hear the sound of a car passing outside; they think it’s a drone coming to bomb them.Naira Tadevosyan
The finer details of the conflict
Before the Washington peace agreement, a ceasefire truce was sponsored by Russia on October 10, along with the United States and France, to ease the region’s tension. The talks were mediated by Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, who stressed both countries to resolve the dispute by bilateral negotiations.
But unfortunately, just after a few hours, the Armenian Defense Ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanian counter charged the Azerbaijani forces for “intensively shelling the southern front” of the disputed region and confirmed the death of one civilian.
According to Nagorno-Karabakh officials, Azerbaijan led a “large number of forces” to the area of Hadrut, a region south of Nagorno -Karabakh, and reported “large-scale hostilities” there. While Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry already denied the allegations and proclaimed them “disinformation.”
Not only Armenia but Azerbaijan also accused Armenia of shelling in Goranboy, Terter, and Agdam regions. According to Azerbaijan, Armenia forces attacked the civilian population and killed nine Azerbaijan’s people by firing a missile on an apartment in Ganja.
Turkey backs Azerbaijan
Turkey, who is backing Azerbaijan in the fight, also endorsed Azerbaijan’s claim of Armenian volitation.
“They have no respect for international law or humanitarian values. They have ruthlessly attacked Ganja and other civilian settlements and continue to do so. This amounts to the breach of the ceasefire”, said Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.
Moreover, the disputed zone residents say that their lives are at risk as the danger of war persists between the two countries despite the so-called peace agreement.
We do not feel the ceasefire at all. We do not get out from here to our flats. We all stay here, we eat here, sleep here. The whole day is spent here in the basementLarisa Azeryan, a resident of Nagorno -Karabakh
Though it is still not clear, which country violated the ceasefire agreement, the violation of the truce has raised concerns about regional peace and human rights. The peace agreement needs to be strictly obeyed by both Azerbaijan and Armenia; otherwise, it will drag the major regional players like Turkey and Russia into the fight that would deliberate the situation.
The war has already taken many innocent people’s lives, forcing thousands to spend the night in the open. If the tensions between the two countries are not mitigated, both countries would be impossible to overcome the post-war crises.
Another chance at peace
Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a Russian mediated peace deal over Nagorno-Karabakh
Armenian and Azerbaijan signed a Moscow brokered peace truce to terminate the war over Nagorno -Karabakh on Monday 9, November. The ceasefire agreement was made just a few hours after Azerbaijan claimed to capture Shusha’s strategic city on Sunday. The city is regarded as “the Jerusalem of Nagorno -Karabakh” for its religious significance.
Armenian Prime minister Nikol Pashinyan also announced Tuesday morning that he had signed an “unspeakably painful agreement” with Russia and Azerbaijan. Nikol said he signed the peace truce considering the current military condition and “on the conviction that this is the best possible outcome in the existing state.“
“I made a difficult, tough decision for personally me and all of us. I have signed a declaration with the Presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan on stopping the war starting from 01:00”, Pashinyan said in a statement posted on his Facebook page.
In contrast, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev said that the agreement would “return our territories without further bloodshed.” “Today, I am signing this agreement with pride! Congratulations to the people of Azerbaijan! he added.
The full ceasefire deal, agreed by Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed on Monday night, arose an array of hope to put an end to the bloody skirmish that engulfed hundreds of innocent lives.
The latest cease-fire pact
Under the pact, Ethnic Armenian forces must entrust territories and cities to the Azerbaijan government, internationally recognized as Azerbaijan. Armenia will be obliged to hand over these regions, including the city of Shushi, until December 1, 2020.
According to the Russian news agency, TASS, the agreement also involves exchanging war prisoners between both countries, and evacuees would return to Nagorno-Karabakh.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said that almost 20000 Russian peacekeepers would be deployed along the Nagorno-Karabakh front line for the next five years. According to the Russian defense ministry, they had started deploying 1960 service members with their equipment and vehicles between the disputed region and Armenia.
After signing the peace agreement, a wave of elation and pride spread throughout Azerbaijan for regaining their captured regions. Moreover, Nikol Pashinyan tried to conceal his surrender behind the façade of bravery. He said on social media:
“This is not a victory, but there is no defeat until you consider yourself defeated. We will never consider ourselves defeated, and this shall become a new start of an era of our national unity and rebirth.”
But the announcement broke out riot and protests in Armenia to defy the agreement. Thousands of people massed in Yerevan’s central square chanting, “We won’t give up our land!” and “Nikol has betrayed us .”The incensed mob smashed the glass lobby of Pashinyan’s office and tore his nameplate.
However, the decision is welcomed by different countries as the termination of war between Azerbaijan and Armenia would revive the regional peace and stability. The pact would alleviate the suffering of thousands of displaced people. People living in miserable conditions in harsh weather and pandemic situations would be returned to their homes.