Arzu Bunyad, Ziya Kazimzada, Elnur Mammadov l

Tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, one of the flashpoints in the post-Soviet space, date back when the days of the Soviet Union were numbered. It erupted as an armed conflict in the late 1980s over Nagorno-Karabakh in southwestern Azerbaijan. The first hot phase of the conflict lasted 6 years and resulted in the occupation of the region and 7 surrounding provinces of Azerbaijan by Armenian forces.

The occupation was accompanied by mass killing and ethnic cleansing: more than 700,000 Azerbaijanis were driven out of their homes. As a result of Armenian aggression, 20% of Azerbaijani lands were occupied. The United Nations Security Council`s four resolutions (822, 853, 874, 884) which demand unconditional and immediate withdrawal of Armenian forces from the occupied territories have been simply ignored. A Russian-initiated ceasefire was signed in May 1994 and peace talks, mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group, have been held ever since between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Some border clashes took place in the years following the 1994 ceasefire. The disputes culminated several times, especially during the Four-Day War in April 2016 and Tovuz clashes in July 2020. The current hostilities broke out again around Nagorno-Karabakh on September 27. Having repelled a series of Armenian provocations, the Azerbaijani army launched a counter-offensive. Armenia declared martial law and mobilization on September 27,  Azerbaijan partial mobilization on September 28. As a result of the successful campaign, the Azerbaijani forces liberated numerous settlements in the area.

In its turn, the Armenian side regularly violates international law and takes the civilian population as its targets. As a consequence of heavy and indiscriminate artillery shelling and missile strikes against densely populated Azerbaijani areas 25 persons have been killed, 127 hospitalized with various injuries since the outbreak of hostilities. Besides residential areas, civil infrastructure facilities, including hospitals, schools, kindergartens and administrative buildings are subject to intensive bombardment and artillery fire.  No surprise that 313 houses, as well as 56 civilian facilities have severely been damaged, numerous private vehicles become unserviceable.

On October 4, the Armenian armed forces launched missile attacks against Ganja, the second biggest city of Azerbaijan, which is far from the theater of war. Another missile was fired at Mingachevir, the country`s energy hub with a huge water dam and power plant. Some mid-range rockets from Armenia landed in the outskirts of Azerbaijan`s capital and easternmost city, Baku.

International reactions

The international community has declared a range of responses to the ongoing conflict. The governments of Albania, Argentina, Canada, Chile, China, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Iran, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uruguay called for peace and cessation of hostilities. The President of the European Council Charles Michel and the Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres condemned the conflict and expressed their concerns. The United Nations Security Council and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, too, urged the parties to cease fire.

A number of countries, Turkey, Northern Cyprus, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine and Bosnia and Herzegovina supported Azerbaijan, while condemning Armenia for breaching the ceasefire and starting the military confrontation. The Secretary General of the Turkic Council Baghdad Amreyev expressed deep concern on the dispute and demanded the removal of the Armenian forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan`s top leadership appreciated Pakistan`s cordial and unconditional support, as expressed by President Ilham Aliyev in his meeting with Pakistan’s newly appointed ambassador.

However, some countries such as Cyprus and France known for their Turkophobic position continue to stand in opposition to Azerbaijan and support Armenia. French president Emmanuel Macron accused Turkey of the outbreak of hostilities. Despite being one of the official mediators for the peace process between Armenia and Azerbaijan, thus, supposed to be neutral, France decided to side with Armenia. Such a move was motivated by the domestic factor (a huge Armenian community, approximately 600,000 citizens, of France constitutes a significant electorate and influences local politicians) and external dimension (French-Turkish rivalry is growing in many regions, including Near East, Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa).

Expectations

Despite the lack of support from the mediators, President Aliyev addressed the Azerbaijan nation several times and made a series of announcements on the liberation of territories. In one of his televised speeches on October 4, Aliyev set forth his preconditions for ceasefire with Armenia; the two most important of them is Armenia`s recognition of Azerbaijan`s territorial integrity, including Nagorno-Karabakh and the unconditional withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the Azerbaijani lands. Peace talks would be impossible without these conditions, says Aliyev.

At the same time, Azerbaijan is ready to embrace and treats as full citizens the remaining Armenian community of Nagorno-Karabakh if they accept Azerbaijani jurisdiction and display their loyalty.

The article is a piece jointly prepared by the Interns Team of Topchubashov Center, Baku-based think tank.

Arzu Bunyad is a senior International Relations student at Hacettepe University (Turkey). She was an exchange student at University of Sarajevo and has experience as a researcher. Her main research areas are the political and security issues in the Middle East, central and eastern Europe.

Ziya Kazimzada is a junior Political sciences student at Baku State University (Azerbaijan). His researches focus on political debates in Russian foreign and domestic policy, as well as European politics.

Elnur Mammadov is an International Relations student at ADA University (Azerbaijan). His research areas cover mainly the security and military affairs, as well as U.S.-China relations. 

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