BY: Sibel İleana Okumuş
PEJOURNAL – Conflicts started in Southern Caucasus in September 27, rapidly turned into a war between Azerbaijan and Armenia. The 26 years of ceasefire that could not solve the problem within the 32 years of enmity of these countries, is still insufficient to maintain the peace. As it was explained in previous article, Azerbaijan-Armenia Conflict and Politics In The Region, Nagorno-Karabakh region has been historically controversial. Since the beginning of the conflict between the two countries, it has been an international problem due to the interests of the neighboring countries. And today, the war in the region is actively followed by the international public.
The starting point of the conflict in Caucasus, that took place on September 27 is the military interventions made by Azerbaijan to take back the villages around Nagorno-Karabakh and occupied by Armenia. Besides being Armenian majority in Nagorno Karabakh, the villages around the region used to have majority of Azeris and Kurds in other words non-Armenian population. What turned this conflict into war and distinguished it from previous conflicts is that Azerbaijan uses tanks, missiles, heavy artillery and drones.
From the first day of the military intervention, both sides declared that there is no turning back and Azerbaijan saved the occupied villages in the direction of Fuzuli-Jabrayil. Both sides declared martial law and Armenia asked Russia to activate the Collective Security Agreement against attacks. Russia’s rejection of this demand on the grounds that the war was not in Armenia gave the impression that it stood at an equal distance from both sides in this incident. The same day, Azerbaijan rescued some villages and geopolitically important hills.
While Nagorno Karabakh president quothed that they will fight with whom declared a war; the Republic of Armenia has lodged a request with the ECHR to apply interim measure in respect of Azerbaijan to cease the military attacks towards the civilian settlements along the entire line of contact of the armed forces of Armenia and Artsakh to stop indiscriminate attacks. One of the important allegations of Armenia while applying to ECHR was that Turkey has send jihadists soldiers from Syria to Azerbaijan. Although both sides deny this claim, the existence of such a thing is still being questioned.
Meanwhile, the claim that there were shipping vehicles waiting to cross to Armenia on the Iranian border and that these were war materials sent from Russia came out. Although Iran initially said that these were not military deportations, there were great reactions from Azerbaijan. Later, it was announced that a highway connection was established between Iran and Armenia and that the shipment of weapons was made.
Although Iran calls for peace in the Caucasus conflict, the reason why it follows a biased policy with Armenia is quite understandable. Referring to the previous article, being both shia muslim majority countries, Azerbaijan and Iran have conflict of interest in the region. The nationalist ideals of the Azeri Turks in the Azerbaijan region of Iran cause Iran to support a Christian country against a Shia Muslim country. Also economic relations with Russia and its indirectly effect to Iran-Armenia relations is another fact.
While the war between the two countries was continuing, another international crisis was Armenia’s protest against Israel and subsequently withdrawal of the Israeli ambassador due to Azerbaijan’s use of Israeli-made suicide drones. Also relations between Turkey-Azerbaijan and Armenia is getting tense because Turkey’s full support to Azerbaijan and having bad memories with Armenia. According to Turkish officials; there is no point of a ceasefire until the occupied lands are returned.
The UN Security Council, meeting on Tuesday, September 29, condemned the use of force and called to immediately stop fighting, deescalate tensions and return to meaningful negotiations without delay. Kremlin spokesman called for hostilities to immediately end and quothed that the situation is a cause for concern for Moscow and other countries. Another great power involved to the crisis was USA; the United States called for the hostilities to end.
And US recommended both sides to work with the OSCE Minsk Group to return to substantive negotiations as soon as possible. As it is known; OSCE Minsk Group was established in 1992 in order to find a peaceful solution to Caucasus conflict. And today, Minsk Group is tasked to find a peaceful solution to current situation.
Leaving aside the humanitarian side of the war, the reason why the great powers took such an active role in the Azerbaijan-Armenia war is that the Caucasus were wanted to be influenced by most of the great powers. Turkey’s trade relations with Azerbaijan and enmity with Armenia, Iran’s desire to keep Azeri nationalism under control and Russia’s desire to continue its influence in the Caucasus affects the attitudes of the countries in the region. Among the countries outside the region, the USA’s efforts to strengthen its presence in the Caucasus, the imperial image of France’s recent policies, and the urgent discussion of the issue in the EU can be cited as examples.
Although it is still uncertain when and how the war will end, I think the most logical solution is to return the occupied territories to Azerbaijan and the acceptence of an autonomous status for the Nagorno-Karabakh region by the two countries. Likewise, it is obvious that both countries have major problems with governance and democracy beyond these regions. In concealing these problems, we see that the nationalism card, which is popular in today’s world, is played. It is impossible for the peoples not to feel nationalist feelings due to long years of enmity, in which case the governments should conduct good diplomacy and avoid a devastating situation such as war.
European Court of Human Rights. Last Update: 01.10.2020. https://www.echr.am/en/events/request-for-interim-measure-against-azerbaijan.html
OSCE Minsk Group. “Statement by the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group”. LAst Update: 30.09.2020. https://www.osce.org/minsk-group/465018
TRT World. “What’s Iran’s role in the Armenia-Azerbaijan clash?”. Last Update: 02.10.2020. https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/what-s-iran-s-role-in-the-armenia-azerbaijan-clash-40114
UN News. “Fresh Armenia-Azerbaijan clashes over Nagorno-Karabakh, as UN chief urges an end to fighting.”. Last Update: 02.10.2020. https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/09/1073992
VOA News. “UN Security Council to Discuss Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict”. Last Update: 30.09.2020. https://www.voanews.com/south-central-asia/un-security-council-discuss-nagorno-karabakh-conflict