A painful peace in Nagorno-Karabakh


A war that has garnered little to no attention in the rest of the world has been raging in Nagorno-Karabakh since 27 September 2020. With its multiple casualties, tens of thousands of refugees, and confirmed war crimes, this war not only adds a whole new dimension to the decades-long conflict but, above all, also signifies a humanitarian catastrophe.

Situated on Azerbaijani territory, the majority of the region’s inhabitants are Armenian. A holy ground for both sides, the two countries have each laid claim to the territory for centuries. Depending on the interpretation, the population’s right of self-determination largely falls to the Armenians, whilst Azerbaijan maintains it has a right of territorial integrity.

With Armenia having succumbed to Azerbaijan’s military superiority, a ceasefire was negotiated on 9 November between Armenia and Azerbaijan – the fourth of its kind. The agreement that was reached is tantamount to Armenian capitulation, whereas Azerbaijan largely reached the aims of its military offensive: The reconquest of all the neighboring regions of Nagorno-Karabakh, which have been controlled by Armenia since 1994, and the city of Shusha/i, which is particularly important for both sides.

Aside from the two warring parties, Turkey and Russia have also injected themselves as key actors into the conflict, though it is Russia, that has succeeded in decisively shaping the agreement. For the first time ever, Russia is deploying “peacekeepers” to Nagorno Karabakh, thus securing military control in Armenia as well as influence over the entire region.

Turkey, as Azerbaijan’s politically and militarily supportive “brotherly nation”, will only play a subordinate role in peacekeeping. However, a corridor will be estabwlished between the Azerbaijani enclave of Nakhchivan and Azerbaijan through Armenia, thus creating a direct link between Turkey and Azerbaijan. Even though Moscow has strengthened its dominance in the region, Turkey has now also finally established itself as an important player in the South Caucasus

The situation in Armenia is unstable, and the weeks ahead will be overshadowed by a political crisis. There is growing concern that the Armenian population will be driven out of the entire   Nagorno-Karabakh region. The coming days will determine whether the opposition can come to terms with the agreement or if nationalist forces will continue to gain traction in Armenian politics. Civil society will come under increasing pressure.