Miray Aslan
Media, Politics


The frozen conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia on Nagorno-Karabakh has started again: war, ceasefire; however, no option for peace.
15 April 2016

On 2 April, ceasefire violations took place along the Line of Contact in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone, leading to many fatalities from both the Armenian and Azerbaijani sides. The two Governments blamed each other for the escalated tension.  Official sources from Armenia and Azerbaijan said fighting has been the largest since the ceasefire agreement of 1994. 

The Defense Ministry of Azerbaijan said it took control of some strategic heights and confirmed the loss of a helicopter, a tank and the death of a dozen of combatants. Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said Azeri troops had archived "a great victory" in a reference to territorial gains. On the other hand, the Armenian Defense Minister David Tonoyan officially confirmed numerous losses on the Armenian side. He said that"news about mobilization were untrue” but Armenia is ready to "direct military assistance to Nagorno-Karabakh forces if necessary.”

NATO and Russia called Armenia and Azerbaijan to a ceasefire.  According to the official statement Azerbaijan declared a ceasefire on Sunday but a moment later Armenpress reported Azerbaijan was still attacking Nagorno-Karabakh with artillery missile systems.  Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan said Armenia will recognize the region as independent from Azerbaijan if military activities escalate in the area. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan set conditions for a ceasefire  saying that Armenia must withdraw from the "occupied territories."


Armenia and Azerbaijan began fighting over the mountainous region Nagorno-Karabakh in the final years of USSR. Earlier, the region was established by Stalin as an autonomous oblast within the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic in 1921. The majority of the inhabitants,who were Armenian, requested to be unified with the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic. Their request was denied.

After the Soviet Union had fallen apart, Azerbaijan and Armenia declared independence in 1991. A year later, Nagorno-Karabakh declared itself independent but this was not recognized by a single state, including Armenia. Armenian forces gained de facto control of the territory in the conflict which shortly followed that claimed up to 30,000 lives. During the fighting the ethnic Azeri population fled from Karabakh while ethnic Armenians fled the rest of Azerbaijan. Nowadays, around 150,000 people live in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.  The population is ethnically Armenian, but it remains part of Azerbaijan under the national law.

In 1994, a ceasefire agreement was signed.  There was to be "no war, no peace" between the two countries.  Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding enclaves have been under Armenian control since 1994. However, Azerbaijan repeatedly threatened to take back the lost lands. In August 2015, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev tweeted that the flag of Azerbaijan will fly over all the occupied territories.

Over the years, the OSCE Minsk Group, co-chaired by Russia, France and the United States was formed to enable negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia for a solution to the conflict. Finally, in July 2009,  the three leaders of the OSCE Minsk Group, Presidents Medvedev, Obama and Sarkozy released a statement urging the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Sargsyan and Aliyev, to finalize their arrangement on several principles, known as the Basic Madrid Principles.  These include, among others, the return of territories around Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan’s control, an interim status for the region with security and self-governance guaranteed an a corridor (Lachin) linking Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh.

Peace negotiations mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group have seen little progress. Azerbaijan has been accusing the Minsk Group of having a pro-Armenian bias. Azerbaijan continues to strengthen its economy through its oil assets and to upgrade its military arsenal by buying new weapons. According to the Global Military Index of 2014, published by Bonn International Center for Conversation, Armenia and Azerbaijan are among the top 10 most militarized nations. Both countries buy their weapons from Russia, which is also a mediator.


 What about Turkey?

Turkey established a close economic and security partnership with Azerbaijan while it closed its borders with Armenia in 1993, following the latter’s support for Nagorno-Karabakh. The closure of borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan has caused Armenia severe economic problems.Turkey's abnormal relations with Armenia are not only based on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue but also on the Genocide recognition issue.  On the eve of World War I, around 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Ottoman Empire in what is considered by historians a genocide and is known as the Armenian Genocide or the Armenian Holocaust. Despite international pressure, Turkey does not recognize the genocide.

Turkey’s pro-Azeri policies are no secret. "Turkey has stood by Azerbaijan from the very beginning of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. At some point, Karabakh will inevitably return to its rightful owner and become a part of Azerbaijan again,Erdogan said on Monday.

But Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, who held a meeting with the OSCE ambassador, accused Turkey of supporting Azerbaijan.  He said:

One of OSCE member states, Turkey, which often reminds about its membership to the Minsk Group, speaks from the position of inciting a major regional war and explicitly encourages the adventurist policy of Azerbaijani authorities. Azerbaijan boasts over its alleged victory and Turkey congratulates it on that occasion. While the international community condemns the use of force in Nagorno-Karabakh, though merely by word, Turkey is the only state that shows indubitable support to Azerbaijani adventures. The announcements of Ankara before and after those developments, by which that country seems to enter into competition with Azerbaijan in terms of anti-Armenian approaches, can create a new regional hot spot, the experience of which Turkey has accumulated in the Middle East. All those who once wished to see Turkey as a mediator of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, today realize that the country having adopted "blood-related security" approach must be kept away from Karabakh settlement process.”

While the international community condemns the use of violence, Azerbaijan called the final round of fighting a victory and Turkey congratulated Azeris, showing support for Azerbaijan. Aliyev's ally Erdogan is an expert in creating wars and conflicts as we have seen in Syria. He is now inside a new Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict which tensions will escalate further; however,  let’s hope Azerbaijan and Turkey will not underestimate Armenia and that they will try to reach an end with a peaceful process; otherwise, the bloody process will start again: war and short-term ceasefire, war and again a ceasefire, then a bigger war… It is not more than an aleatory contract, is it?