PEJOURNAL – The fire of the Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia flared up again in the autumn of 2020. This time, Turkey has more openly supported Azerbaijan than ever before, and this has led to a more serious stance by Russia and Iran.
Due to its geopolitical importance in the Caucasus region, Karabakh Conflict-Strategic Thought Institute has facilitated the presence and influence of regional and trans-regional actors. Under the pretext of the opposition of some Armenians to the Karabakh region to belong to Azerbaijan (Karabakh), the region was occupied by Armenia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The fires of a wide-ranging and erosive war lasted from 1988 to 1994. A war in which Armenia, with the military support of some European countries, especially France and Azerbaijan, also had the political support of Turkey. Russia also failed to play its regional role in ending the conflict for some time in difficult post-collapse conditions.
Iran: Iran, while defending the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and even human and logistical support, has called for an end to the war and a solution to the problem through diplomacy. The UN Security Council adopted four resolutions in 1993, namely Resolution 822 on April 30; 853 on July 29; On October 14, 1874, and on November 12, 884, he called for the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied territories of Karabakh.
But the occupation of Karabakh continued until now, and the fire only led to the gradual occupation of some more limited areas. The last conflict on October 27, 2016, although led to the liberation of a small number of villages occupied by the Azerbaijani army, did not untie the Karabakh issue. The memo assesses the desirability of the three regional governments involved in the crisis: Russia, Turkey and Iran.
Russia: Because it considers itself the heir to the Soviet Union, it does not want to undermine its regional hegemony in the Caucasus by siding with one of the two republics that survived the previous administration. For this reason, during the issuance of Security Council resolutions, it was stated that the governments of Azerbaijan and Armenia should resolve these disputes within the framework of the Minsk Group, which was established in 1992 with the cooperation of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, focusing on the United States, Russia and France.
However, at the time, Russia, which had just risen from the ashes of the Soviet Union, needed more than ever to show cooperation with the West in resolving regional geopolitical crises. But now not only is it reluctant to focus on the Minsk Group, it is also trying to intervene unilaterally and pursue it in the national interest. Moscow has always called for a ceasefire until a diplomatic solution is found.
Russia, which had just emerged from the ashes of the Soviet Union, needed more than ever to show cooperation with the West in resolving regional geopolitical crises. But now not only is it reluctant to focus on the Minsk Group, it is also trying to intervene unilaterally.
But it is undeniable that the continuation of the crisis has brought benefits to Russia. First, it provides the opportunity for political intervention from the position of “older brother” and a demonstration of the international position the West. Second, it is a market for arms sales to the parties to the conflict.
Thirdly, it creates the necessary space for deepening political, economic and security influence in Armenia, which is closer to Russia than Azerbaijan for religious and civilizational reasons. In addition, Karabakh was granted autonomy by Soviet leaders, and Kremlin residents are reluctant to violate this commitment.
At the same time, Russia has another serious economic and security consideration in the continuation of the crisis, and that is the threat of the Southern Gas Corridor called the Caspian-Caucasus-Anatolian Corridor, which transports Caspian Sea gas resources from the coasts of Azerbaijan to Georgia and then Turkey and from there to Greece, Italy and the European Union in general. The reduction in Europe’s dependence on Russian gas, though small, is not in line with Moscow’s wishes.
Turkey: Although the Karabakh crisis, like many conflicts in the Caucasus, including Abkhazia and South Ossetia or Chechnya and Dagestan, should be considered ethnic-territorial issues, the religious differences between the people of Karabakh and the Muslim majority in Azerbaijan have given it a religious dimension. Turkey, which has historical tensions with Armenia over the so-called Ottoman-era Armenian genocide, naturally sits next to Azerbaijan. The emphasis on religion by Turkey and Armenia paved the way for the strengthening of claims such as the transfer of Takfiri forces from Syria by Turkey.
At the same time, the Republic of Azerbaijan claimed that elements of Kurdish militant groups opposed to Turkey, especially PKK, were on the Armenian front against the Azerbaijani army. Although these claims were not confirmed by independent sources, they indicate that ethnic and religious approaches to the Karabakh crisis have provided the basis for more regional intervention by Turkey.
With this emphasis, the Erdogan government is also seeking the support of its domestic public opinion for its interventionist foreign policy. Policies that extend Turkey’s influence from Syria to Libya and now the Caucasus. At the same time, a special economic interest in maintaining the security of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline is also considered in Turkey’s mapping. During the recent conflict, the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan claimed that Armenia fired missiles at these oil pipelines. Although Armenia has denied the allegations, the threat posed by Yerevan to Turkey is serious.
Iran: The common border with both sides and the simultaneous presence of Azeri-Armenians and Armenians are two components that give Iran an effective role in the Karabakh crisis. Iran has always refrained from using force to maintain good neighborliness and has emphasized diplomatic solutions. At the same time, preventing ethnic and sectarian tensions among Azeri or Armenian Iranians doubled the need for a neutral stance.
At the same time, Iran has several other side considerations. The close relations of the Republic of Azerbaijan with the Zionist regime are another factor that overshadows the considerations of the foreign policy apparatus of the Islamic Republic of Iran towards this conflict. The positions of high-ranking Iranian officials in opposing the proliferation of terrorism in the Caucasus by Turkey also show that another important factor is to avoid deepening the influence of Turkish proxy forces and inciting war in neighboring Iran, which has already been experienced in northern Syria.
The need to maintain favorable relations with Russia in the critical regional and global context, and in particular cooperation in Syria against terrorism, also makes Iran, while supporting the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, refuse to be closer to this country in this conflict.
Ethnic and religious approaches to the Karabakh crisis have provided the basis for more regional intervention by Turkey. With this emphasis, the Erdogan government is also seeking the support of its domestic public opinion for its interventionist foreign policy.
Russia wants to maintain a mediating role in the Karabakh crisis and does not want to jeopardize its relations with Azerbaijan, especially from a trade perspective, by accusing it of supporting Armenia. At the same time, it is committed to the security of Armenia due to its membership in the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Moscow, in particular, will try to prevent further Turkish intervention in favor of Azerbaijan by maintaining its neutrality, and will warn Baku to move closer to Ankara. On the other hand, the current Turkish government is reluctant to escalate tensions with Russia in the long run.
For this reason, in the midst of a media war and even an arms embargo on Azerbaijan, it ultimately relies relatively heavily on solutions mediated by Russia and not necessarily Europe. Indeed, in addition to Erdogan’s media coverage of Azerbaijan, trans-regional considerations, especially tensions with Europe over Greece, as well as the civil war in Libya, affect Turkey’s position on Karabakh. Unlike these two actors, who have a desire to increase interventionist role-playing in the continuation of the crisis, Iran insists on ending the crisis through diplomacy.
Because the possibility of more favorable relations with both actors and the provision of national interests in the conditions of peace and resolution of the Karabakh conflict will be more than possible. Also, from a trans-regional perspective, the end of this crisis will lead to the elimination of one of the West’s pretexts for intervening in West Asian issues near Iran, which is important for Iran from the strategic policy of “solving regional problems by regional actors.”
Iran has always refrained from using force to maintain good neighborliness and has emphasized diplomatic solutions. At the same time, preventing ethnic and sectarian tensions among Azeri or Armenian Iranians doubled the need for a neutral stance.