Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh: What are the reasons?

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Numerous experts are trying to find out the reasons for the recent skirmishes between Azerbaijan and Armenia – but without recognizing Erivan’s provocative and destructive actions within the last two years.

The escalation since Sunday morning of September 27 could be mainly due to provocations by Armenian high-ranking political and military authorities in recent years. It is true that after the change of government in Armenia in 2018, the new government in Yerevan, which claimed to be democratic and peace-loving, had raised hopes for positive changes in the frozen negotiation process. But this new generation of politicians turned out to be even more nationalistic than their predecessors.

Irredentist ambitions and failed negotiations

Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s provocative statements and actions have disappointed the Azerbaijani side and led the diplomatic settlement of the conflict into an impasse. After coming to power, Pashinyan tried to set back achievements of earlier negotiations and change their format. Pashinyan’s proposal to include the separatist regime deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh as a third party in the negotiation process was rejected not only by Baku, but also by the Troika of the Minsk Group, which mediates the peace negotiations.

Pashinyan’s speech in August 2019 contradicted his earlier view that Nagorno-Karabakh was capable of joining the peace process as an independent party. In the infamous statement, Pashinyan revealed pan-Armenian irredentist ambitions and jeopardized the peace process by declaring “Karabakh is Armenia”.

Pashinyan’s family members also contributed to widening the gulf between the sides: in 2018 his son was drafted into military service in Nagorno-Karabakh. The question why a soldier of one country does his military service on the territory of another country remained open.

Most recently, in the summer of 2020, Pashinyan’s wife Anna Hakobyan again organized military exercises for dozens of Armenian women in Karabakh. In doing so, she also revealed the level of militarization of Armenian society.

Provocations in Nagorno-Karabakh

As the world struggles against the Covid 19 pandemic and tries to limit the rate of infection, the illegal regime in Nagorno-Karabakh hastily sought to demonstrate its “independence” through “presidential elections” in April. Despite the pandemic, the elections were held in two rounds.

The separatists then organized a “presidential inauguration ceremony”, which led to even greater dissatisfaction in Azerbaijan. In order to attract Azerbaijan even more, Shusha, a medieval city of high importance for Azerbaijanis, was chosen as the venue for the ceremony. The photos of high-ranking Armenian officials and priests at the celebration (incidentally, even without precautions despite rising Covid-19 infection rates) in Shusha and the proposal of the Armenian side to move the “NKR” parliament to Shusha caused outrage in Azerbaijan.

Military dimension

During his meeting with the Armenian diaspora in March 2019 in New York, the Armenian Minister of Defense David Tonojan promised a “new war for new territories”. In offensive statements Tonojan threatened Azerbaijan with new military attacks and made further territorial claims against Azerbaijan.

In July 2020, the Armenian side provoked a military incident along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border for several reasons, which led to violent clashes and cost several lives, including one Azerbaijani civilian.

The skirmishes in July triggered a more intensive military cooperation between Armenia and Russia: The two countries conducted joint military exercises – first in Armenia at the end of July and later as part of the international maneuver “Caucasus 2020”.

News of cargo flights from Russia to Armenia also caused an uproar. As it later turned out, Russia had indirectly shipped at least 400 tons of weapons to Armenia.

Negligence of the international community

The lack of responsibility and activity on the part of the international community has also led to the deterioration of the situation. They also played a significant role in the resulting escalation of the situation. Over the last three decades, the international community has remained silent. Instead of exerting pressure and imposing sanctions on Yerevan, the major powers and international institutions have called the conflict “frozen” and ignored its thawing. Because of the equality of the aggressor (Armenia) and the victim (Azerbaijan) and the ignoring of the miserable living conditions of almost one million Azerbaijani refugees and internally displaced persons, the international community bears a share of the responsibility for the ongoing fighting.

Opinion contributions reflect the views of the respective author and not those of the editorial staff. For inquiries please contact: [email protected]

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