What is the future of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?

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For a week now, fighting has been raging again in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. The conflict, which seemed to be settled for many, broke out again and with enormous force.

The circumstances that led to a renewed outbreak of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict are manifold. Azerbaijan was forced by the Armenian violence along the front line to launch a counteroffensive aimed at liberating the occupied Azerbaijani territories in and around Nagorno-Karabakh. In order to be able to give an objective opinion on the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, it is necessary to consider the events surrounding the conflict since the beginning of 2019.

During a visit to the USA in March 2019, Armenian Defense Minister David Tonoyan told the Armenian diaspora that Armenia is moving from a “defense strategy” to an “active deterrence strategy”. This would be accompanied by an expansion of offensive capabilities – for “a new war for new territories”. This was accompanied by populist statements such as “Karabakh is Armenia, period! The later attempt by Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to change the format of the peace talks; his intention to bring the separatist regime to the negotiating table and his visit to the occupied territories of Nagorno-Karabakh in August 2019 were criticized by Azerbaijan and the international community as well as by the OSCE Minsk Group

On July 12, the Armed Forces of Armenia attacked the positions of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan in the direction of the village of Aghdam in the Tovuz region on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border with artillery and large-caliber weapons. As a result, eleven Azerbaijani soldiers were killed and several wounded. Civilian settlements were also damaged and several civilians were killed.

The choice of the direction of attack is due to the fact that the main units of the Azerbaijani armed forces are not concentrated in this area, since the state border with Armenia is not perceived by Baku as an active military conflict zone. It should be noted that in accordance with the strategy for demilitarization of the Azerbaijani border, part of the Azerbaijani-Armenian border is controlled by the State Border Service of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Another factor that determined the direction of the offensive is the strategic location and importance of Azerbaijan’s energy and transport infrastructure on the European scale. Armenia makes no secret of the fact that Azerbaijan’s important oil infrastructure is among its military targets. Thus, the exercise of the Armenian Armed Forces, which took place from October 1 to 13, 2012, was built according to the scenario of an attack on a “hostile oil infrastructure”.

Moreover, the military and political leadership of Armenia aimed to create a new source of tension in the region and to aim and justify the intervention of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) of which it is a member by expanding the conflict geographically.

The above-mentioned military and political objectives may be determined by the following factors, which determined the date of the offensive against Azerbaijan:

1) To divert the attention of the population from the socio-economic, financial and political crisis, which was aggravated by the effects of the Covid 19 pandemic.

2) To aggravate the situation in the region on the eve of the commissioning of the Southern Gas Corridor initiated by the Republic of Azerbaijan, to raise doubts on the international level about the project and to prevent its implementation.

3) To give the impression that Azerbaijan’s economic opportunities are weakening against the background of changing oil prices on world markets.

It should be noted that the state border with Armenia was not intended to create a conflict on the Azerbaijani side. The worsening of the situation in this area contradicts Azerbaijan’s strategy mentioned above.

Although the situation was expected to normalize after the events of July, the head of the separatist regime, Araik Harutiunian, addressed the Armenian people in early September in front of media representatives: “Let us prepare for war, let us not discuss peace negotiations. There will be no agreement.” If he has his way, the Madrid principles should also be taken off the table.

After that, the continuing policy of the Armenian side worsened the situation. The areas were settled illegally, also by Lebanese Armenians. The expansion of road infrastructure between mountainous Karabakh and Armenia also hindered the negotiation process.

As is well known, the Federal Republic of Germany is a member of the Minsk Group of the OSCE, which is mediating in the peaceful settlement of the conflict. The German state has repeatedly declared that it officially recognizes the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. “The biggest problem is that Armenia has never agreed to act in accordance with international law. I cannot analyze and say who is responsible for the current escalation, but it is clear that international law is on the side of Azerbaijan,” the Chair of the German-South Caucasian Parliamentary Group, Dr. Barbara Hendricks, told DW. There are four UN Security Council resolutions (822, 853, 874 and 884) on the unconditional withdrawal of Armenian troops from Nagorno-Karabakh.

We would like to see Germany take a more active position at the negotiating table within the Minsk Group and thus make a real contribution to the restoration of justice.

The crisis of the so-called Minsk Group of the OSCE, caused by the partisan attitude of France during the current conflict, could be resolved, among other things, by involving Germany in the close negotiations, with the German side as an honest mediator replacing France as the European representative in the co-chairmanship of this group. In this way Germany would make an enormous contribution to the solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, as it enjoys a serious reputation among all regional actors in the South Caucasus.

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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