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Why Armenia and Azerbaijan continue to fight over Nagorno-Karabakh — Analysis

Although a ceasefire was signed in the disputed territory 21 month ago, is there any hope of genuine peace?

Conflicts, ethnic cleansings, war accusations, historical injustice, and mutual accusations of war crimes have all been associated with the Karabakh conflict that has simmered in the Caucasus for more 100 years. The Nagorno Karabakh territory, de jure, belongs to Azerbaijan whose territorial integrity has been recognized by all UN member states. Baku was able to take most of the territory after the Second Karabakh War of 2020.

There is still no sign of peace in South Caucasus. This alarming development comes amid global instability. The 12th of September Baku and Yerevan confirmed reports of “clashes,” shattering the fragile Nagorno Karabakh truce. Explosions attributed to artillery and drones were reported by residents of Vardenis, Jermuk, Goris, and Tatev – cities within Armenia proper – shortly after midnight on Tuesday.




Hayk Khalatyan is the Analytical center for strategic studies and initiatives in Yerevan. Nijat Hajiyev from Azerbaijan shared his thoughts with RT. They discussed why Armenians continue to return to armies and if they know a solution. This article combines their monologues.

What’s Karabakh?

Hayk KhalatyanThis land is called Artsakh by Armenians. It’s one of the 15 provinces of historical Armenia, an integral part where Armenians have lived and worked for thousands of years. Artsakh is a region of Armenia that Plutarch, Ptolemy and other ancient writers have written about.

The area’s ethnicity did not change much until the Middle Ages. This was when Turkic tribes started to move in large numbers. The Kura was once the Armenian border. However, various conquerors continued to push back, forcing the Armenians to leave the plains of Artsakh. These flat areas were home to the Khamsayi (or five Melikdoms) of Karabakh, who until 19th century became part of Russia Empire.


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Nijat HajiyevKarabakh is one the most ancient parts of Azerbaijan. The word “Karabakh” itself comes from Azerbaijani and means “black garden”. It was much later that the Armenian name for the region was created. All you need to realize is that the contest for this territory has always been known as the “Karabakh conflict”.

While you can search the deepest depths of time for stone-age evidence to support your claims, how does this relate to real life? Karabakh, which was located on modern Azerbaijani territory in the Middle Ages was part of an empire that was led by Muslim Turkic monarchies and populated by Turkic-speaking ethnicities.

The birth of the Karabakh Khatta was witnessed in the 18th century by the Turkic Javanshirdynasty. This was an Azerbaijani nation with Azerbaijani ruling aristocracy. The majority of its population were Azerbaijanis. In 1805, after the Treaty of Kurekchay had been signed, Karabakh Khanate was made to surrender to Russian imperial power. The document does not mention Armenians, nor the claimed Armenian origins of this area. In reality, this was a matter that neither Armenians nor Russians viewed back then.

The fall of Russia and the emergence of the Soviets

Nijat HajiyevThe beginning of the World War I saw things change. The Ottoman Empire provided financial support for Armenian nationalism, arming Armenians and supporting separatist sentiments. That is how what actually happened. We still enjoy the results of these events and our decisions.

Azerbaijan had taken full control over Karabakh by the time that the Bolsheviks arrived at power and was fighting for Zangezur. The Soviet Union decided to leave Zangezur in Armenian control, even though it was inhabited mainly by Azerbaijanis. Karabakh then became independent within Azerbaijan. Treaty of Kars, a treaty between Turkey and Soviet Union, regulated the Nakhchivan issue, to which Armenians claimed as well.


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Hayk Khalatyan: After the fall of the Russian Empire, Armenia, Azerbaijani, and Georgia became independent, the Karabakh conflict, or, better, the struggle to protect Armenianhood within its historic motherland, reached new heights in 20th-century Russia. The fight for Karabakh was accompanied by the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey’s active involvement in the conflict. The Turkish army was helping Azerbaijan, which it had close ethnic ties to, in its war against the Armenians, using massacres, pogroms, and ethnic cleansing carried out in Eastern Armenia to resolve the “Armenian issue” once and for all. The Shushi massacre of 1920, in which tens to thousands of Armenians died and were deported is one example.

Although the Soviet Union’s rule over the South Caucasus was able to end the conflict for many decades, it did not resolve the issue and created even more reasons for it to resurface. Through an arbitrary legal decision, the political leadership of a third country – the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) – gave Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenian-inhabited Nakhchivan to Azerbaijan. Armenians claim it is the result of an agreement between Vladimir Lenin, and [Turkish leader]Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

War and Independence

Hayk KhalatyanThe conflict flared again after Soviet control began to loosen towards the end 1980s. Armenian residents in Nagorno-Karabakh who suffered from discrimination by Azerbaijani authorities over the Soviet period decided to join Armenians to prevent the fate of Nakhchivan Armenians. They had been expelled completely by the Azerbaijani government. These developments occurred amid the persecution of Armenians living in Sumgait and Baku by Azerbaijani authorities. The issue of Karabakh’s reunification with the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic was on the agenda even before the USSR collapsed. When Soviet republics gained independence, Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians decided they wanted it too, in accordance with peoples’ fundamental right to self-determination as stipulated in the UN Charter.


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What’s important to note is that the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region seceded from the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic in full compliance with Soviet legislation. Moreover, the present-day Republic of Azerbaijan considers itself to be the legal successor not to the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic, but only to the Azerbaijan Republic of 1918–1920, which never included Nagorno-Karabakh. One might recall that Azerbaijan, at the time, was not allowed to join the League of Nations because of the dispute over Karabakh.

More recently, the residents of Artsakh were first able, with Armenia’s help, to repel Baku’s aggression in the war of 1992–1994 to defend their right to independence and then spent many years trying to resolve the problem through negotiations. In an effort not to jeopardize the negotiation process Armenia refrained from acknowledging the independence of Artsakhall during those years, hoping that the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group – Russia, the US and France, who were overseeing and facilitating the negotiations – would find a mutually acceptable resolution. On two occasions, the parties were very close to signing a peace deal – in Key West in 2001 and in Kazan in 2011 – however, Baku refused to sign both times.

Azerbaijan prepared for war throughout recent years. Azerbaijan seized three-quarters (or more) of Nagorno Karabah Republic territory. This included areas that used to belong in the Nagorno Kararabakh Autonomous Region. The Russian peacekeepers were able to save Artsakh Armenians against a large-scale ethnic cleansing.

Nijat HajiyevAzerbaijanis were driven from their homes in the ex-Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region and seven other districts by the fall of the Soviet Central Government. A total of 700,000. Armenian occupation.

Azerbaijan was able to liberate its territory after a 44-day conflict in 2020. Azerbaijan was able to end the conflict with a trilateral agreement by Russia, Armenia and Russia. Russia received the authorization to send a peacekeeping force into Karabakh.

Despite the end of the conflict, there are still issues to resolve regarding the implementation of certain parts of the trilateral declaration. The latest Operation Revenge carried out by Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry was triggered by the killing of an Azerbaijani soldier by Armenian armed elements, which occurred on the territory temporarily controlled by the Russian peacekeeping mission in Karabakh and, in fact, behind Russian peacekeepers’ backs.


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What’s next?

Nijat HajiyevOperation Revenge – In general, Operation Revenge has contributed to the implementation of all provisions of the Trilateral Agreement, which Russia and the other parties have declared their full support for.

In particular, Paragraph 4 of the statement unequivocally calls for the “withdrawal of the Armenian troops” “concurrently with the deployment of the peacemaking forces of the Russian Federation”. The Russian peacemaking troops were sent to the frontlines within just 48 hours of the Nov 2020 signing. It’s the summer of 2022 now, and what are the Armenians saying?

Armen Grigoryan, secretary of the Security Council of Armenia, said in July that the withdrawal of “regular” Armenian troops would not take place until September. He also seemed to give an indication that the so-called “contract soldiers” could illegally stay behind in Karabakh, which, let’s not forget, is a sovereign part of Azerbaijan according to international law, and Vladimir Putin confirmed that, by the way. Who is responsible for failing to fulfill the essential requirements of the trilateral agreement demilitarizing Karabakh even though it has been two years?

This is just the beginning. Paragraph 6 of this agreement states that both parties will be responsible for building a new route via Lachin Corridor. It bypasses the town of Lachin. The agreement also stipulates that Armenian troops must have left Lachin by December 1, 2020. Azerbaijan completed the construction of most roads on its territory over the past two-and-a-half years to fulfill this provision. What have Armenian officials done? Armenian officials stated that the Armenian section of the road was only being outlined by them a month ago. Baku views this as an act de sabotage, and lack of desire to withdraw from Lachin District. It is also outside the administrative limits of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region.

We are witnessing a subversion of the trilateral agreement. A failure to fulfil one’s responsibilities is exacerbating the atmosphere of constant tension and brinkmanship. This situation of great uncertainty goes against Azerbaijan’s vital interests.

However, Baku’s decisive action shows that Azerbaijan has the will and the tools to pressurize Armenia into implementing the agenda for peace through real steps, not just words. Incidentally, the statement by Armenia’s minister of territorial administration and infrastructure Gnel Sanosyan about the immediate start of the construction of the Armenian part of the Lachin Corridor proves the effectiveness of the steps Baku was forced to take.


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Hayk KhalatyanBaku, once more leveraging a favorable international environment (with Russia and other international communities focusing on the Ukrainian conflict and West trying to replace Russian petroleum with Azerbaijani oil), is trying to resolve the Karabakh question and exile Armenians from Armenia. Armenian cultural and historical monuments are being destroyed with ancient Armenian churches and temples undergoing “Albanization” just like in 1998–2005 when the Azerbaijani authorities were destroying medieval Armenian khachkars in Jugha(Nakhchivan) with impunity. The international community wasn’t interested in the matter and elected representatives of Azerbaijan to UNESCO’s top posts. UNESCO was supposed to preserve historical monuments.

Given the level of Armenophobia in Azerbaijan, which for decades has been incited by the country’s leadership and has resulted in the glorification of such people as Ramil Safarov(who chopped off the head of a sleeping Armenian officer during a NATO training seminar in Budapest), it is unlikely that Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians will want to remain in this country.

There is a chance that the world community, civilized countries, and major powers can prevent another Armenian genocide. It would be possible for them to put aside geopolitical, energy and other interests and remember their stated values, historical justice and human rights. It’s hard to imagine that, even in the 21st century, the world prizes Azerbaijani oil over Armenian blood.

Baku, Ankara and other regional actors are trying to reach quick peace. They have also demanded unilateral action. While the Armenians may make concessions to them, they are violating their rights and at the cost of their motherland and blood. It is important that we remember that peace such as this cannot last. The Armenians will see new leaders soon. These will want justice, their homeland back, and restitution for the Armenian victims of the genocide against them. It will be a new war and another conflict. Peace that is built on compromise can be sustained. Azerbaijan should understand how the international environment and the global players’ interests may sometimes shift overnight.

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