Thousands have reportedly been killed and more wounded since fighting erupted between Azerbaijan and Armenia on September 27, 2020. Both countries are fighting over the territory called Nagorno Karabakh that is an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan. Major world powers backing opposing sides in the standoff and the Trump Administration is notably absent leaving the conflict all but itself to get worse.
Unlike previous clashes between these two South Caucasus nations, it may be hard to negotiate peace this time, not least because NATO member Turkey has backed Azerbaijan and the United States appears uninterested in playing the vital role of arbiter but because both countries accuse the other of refusing to agree to a ceasefire, and neither has shown any willingness yet to reengage in stalled peace talks.
Officials on both sides claim to have inflicted serious losses on the other. Both sides claim the other has killed civilians, including new reports Monday by officials in Azerbaijan that the city of Ganja, the second largest city of Azerbaijan and home to more than 330,000 people, was being shelled by Armenian forces, killed several citizens and wounded many. At the same time Azerbaijani artillery nonstop shelling capital of Nagorno Karabakh. Videos posted online from the battleground show an unprecedented use of heavy artillery, tanks, missiles, and even kamikaze drones as the fighting has escalated.
Azerbaijan declared several villages and towns cleared from Armenian troops. President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev stated in his interview: “They (Armenians) must give us a timetable, or withdraw from the occupied territories,” Mr. Aliyev said. “Their prime minister who said ‘Karabakh is Armenia’ should now say that ‘Karabakh is not Armenia’ and after that, of course, we will be ready to put an end to hostility.”
What is behind the dispute?
Armenia and Azerbaijan both used to be part of the Soviet Union and two nations lived in peace together for almost 70 years.
On 13 February 1988, Karabakh Armenians began demonstrating in the capital, Stepanakert, in favor of unification with Armenia. At the time the population of Nagorno Karabakh AR was 190 thousand and consisted of 76% Armenians 24% Azerbaijanis. Azerbaijanis within Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan vehemently went against the referendum.
Six days later Karabakh Armenians were joined by mass marches in Yerevan. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis in Baku protested against such a move.
On 20 February, the Soviets of People’s Deputies in Karabakh voted 110 to 17 to request the transfer of the region to Armenia. This unprecedented action by Karabakh Armenians brought out tens of thousands of demonstrations both in Stepanakert, Yerevan, and counter-demonstrations in Baku, but Moscow rejected the Armenians’ demands due to its sensitivity to Azerbaijan.
On 22 February 1988, the first direct confrontation of the conflict occurred as a large group of Azeris marched from Agdam against the Armenian populated town of Askeran to protest the Armenian attempts to break away. The confrontation between the Azeris and the police along with counter-protesters near Askeran degenerated into the “Askeran clash”, which left two Azeris dead. This unprecedented clash and death of 2 Azeris, brought hundreds of thousands to Baku streets.
After an unsuccessful attempt by Karabakh Armenians to join Armenian SSR, the Armenians within Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Republic held a referendum to join Armenia. This referendum was not recognized by any country including Azerbaijan firmly denied it as it was violating its territorial integrity. The war broke out right after and ended up with a ceasefire and the map below where Russia backed Armenia troops occupied not just Karabakh but also 7 rayons (districts) surrounding Karabakh which is larger than Karabakh (Highlighted below orange).
As a result of Armenian occupation 30k (mostly Azerbaijanis) killed, 250 thousand Azerbaijanis fled Soviet Armenia, and almost 700 thousand Azerbaijanis forced out from 7 rayons surrounding the Karabakh along with 46 thousand Azerbaijanis from Karabakh. In total, nearly 1 million Azerbaijanis had to flee their homeland. Both countries signed Russia mediated ceasefire in 1994.
Internationally still recognized as part of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh is predominantly populated by ethnic Armenians due to Azerbaijanis were forced out of the region.
The long-simmering conflict has been mediated by the “Minsk group,” set up by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 1994 and co-chaired by Russia, France, and the United States.
Despite that ceasefire, skirmishes have continued along the so-called “line of contact” over the past three decades. The last serious flare-up was in 2016, when dozens of troops on both sides were killed.
Then over this past summer tensions flared again, but this time, with a global pandemic distracting Europe and racial unrest and election-year politics engulfing the U.S., there was no serious diplomatic effort made to deescalate the standoff. And now both countries an inch away from the full-scale war which may force global powers to join in.
Editor in chief/AzeriTimes.com
Customs arrests, increased food prices, and ECHR admissions
The week of 17-21 May saw detained officers, an increase in food prices, and ECHR’s admission of legal complaints related to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Azerbaijan’s failure in fighting corruption.
At the beginning of this week, the Prosecutor General`s office conducted an operation at the state customs committee in Baku. A number of officials were reportedly detained.
The spokesman of the Prosecutor General’s Office told Meydan TV that officials were caught accepting bribes. While this cannot be further verified, many corruption-related arrests have been taking place in lower-level state agencies. While corruption is rampant in the country, whether or not these arrests are indeed due to bribery or are political in nature is unclear.
Food prices in Azerbaijan have increased.
Increase in food prices
In the first quarter of 2021, the Producer Price Index (PPI) in Azerbaijan increased the most among the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries. According to the State Statistics Committee of Azerbaijan (SSC), inflation between January and April 2021 was 4% higher than between January and April 2020, and food prices rose by 4.7% percent.
Economist Gubad Ibadoglu links the increase to the price rise for gasoline and water at the beginning of the year. He also believes that a hike in prices of imported goods, transportation costs and custom duties also played a big role in the situation. According to Ibadoglu, this means that prices will continue to rise.
ECHR admits legal complaints on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
ECHR’s admits legal complaints on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
The confrontation between Azerbaijan and Armenia is now moving to the legal level. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that complaints submitted by Azerbaijan and Armenia against each other are admissible.
Azerbaijan appealed to the ECHR in January, charging Armenia for its human rights violations during the Nagorno-Karabakh war. Azerbaijan submitted its complaints in three different sections. On the other hand, the Armenian government also filed a complaint against Azerbaijan in February, claiming that Azerbaijan violated the right to life, the right to freedom, as well as a number of other conventional rights. After mutual complaints, the ECHR reviewed them and decided to pursue further proceedings.
The ECHR believes that the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh has led to serious violations of the The European Convention on Human Rights. The court called on Azerbaijan and Armenia to refrain from taking any action, including military operations that violate the rights of civilians. The court also called on the countries involved in the conflict, including Turkey, to fulfill their obligations under the Convention.
It is expected that the ECHR will not make any decisions on territorial issues in order to prevent the court from becoming an arena for ideological struggles between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In general, the ECHR’s actions should be seen as a reminder to both parties to honor their international human rights obligations, even in times of conflict.
According to the report published by Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body GRECO this week on Wednesday, Azerbaijan failed to fulfill recommendations to fight corruption.
The report stated that, “only a modest progress can be noted in the implementation of the recommendations addressed to Azerbaijan within the Fourth Evaluation Round. Fourteen out of twenty-one recommendations have been implemented satisfactorily, four recommendations have been partly implemented and three recommendations remain not implemented”.
Permanent solution in Karabakh could make Russian military presence unnecessary – Expert
US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of European and Eurasia Affairs George Kent made a speech at an online seminar hosted by Turkish Heritage Organization in Washington.
In his speech, he talked about the current situation around the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
He said Russia was trying to keep the conflict around Nagorno-Karabakh, and not to settle it.
He expects the Azerbaijani government to increase dissatisfaction with the presence of Russian peacekeepers in Karabakh.
George Kent also quoted the Deputy Foreign Minister of Georgia: “This is the situation that happened in Georgia in 1998. Azerbaijan will be in the situation that Georgia faced in 2008. Then it will come to the current situation emerging in our country.”
It means that Georgian scenario could happen in Nagorno-Karabakh in the near future.
It should be noted that when Georgia, in the year of 2008, was involved in the military confrontation with Russian forces in its sovereign territories – South Ossetia and Abkhazia, it brought about severe and sturdy consequences. As a result, Russia occupied South Ossetia and Abhhazia.
Kent added that Russia is trying to take advantage of the Karabakh conflict by manipulating it and preventing Azerbaijan and Armenia from moving forward.
Speaking to Eurasia Diary, Patrick Walsh, Irish historian and political expert, commented on general thoughts about the role of Russia in the future settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. As well, in his comments he touched upon the US and Turkey cooperation in ensuring peace and stability in the South Caucasus.
According to him, the domination of the South Caucasus region is a one of the priorities in the geopolitical interests of Russia.
“Moscow is mainly concerned over the stability of this region and is no longer able to dominate it, like it did in Soviet and Tsarist times. Like all Great Powers it has geopolitical interests and will exert them in any way it can,” he said.
Walsh pointed out that Azerbaijan now has the task of managing the Russian presence in order to utilise it as a positive force in holding Yerevan to the settlement.
“President Aliyev has demonstrated great understanding and skill in doing this so far. He has not underestimated Russia in the same way as the Armenians did. Handling Russia is a big challenge but there is nobody better qualified to do it,” he stressed.
According to some experts and politicians, the possibility of Georgian scenario could occur in Nagorno-Karabakh in the near future.
However, Walsh rejected all these claims and said it is impossible for Georgian scenario to happen in Nagorno-Karabakh.
“Georgia is a different case. The Rose Revolution ruptured Russia-Georgian relations. The focus of Saakashvili was Georgia’s admission to NATO and it received US military assistance. Moscow saw this as a US foothold in the South Caucasus and used the conflict in South Ossetia to warn the Georgians off. Azerbaijan’s relationship with Russia is entirely different. It is based upon being a strong independent nation having good relations with a neighbour. Two qualities that Moscow respects,” he stressed.
In addition, touching upon the cases of Russian threat in Nagorno-Karabakh, Irish expert noted that the only positive development in the region could persuade Russia to leave.
“Russia cannot be defeated militarily so the task is to ensure that it is persuaded to leave Karabakh when its positive work is done. This can only be achieved politically by the development of a permanent solution in the region that makes a future Russian military presence unnecessary,” expert said.
When it comes to the role of the US and Turkey in the South Caucasus, Irish expert stressed that the US-Turkey cooperation could contribute to peace and stability in the region.
It should be noted that a number of US generals appreciated Turkey’s role in the Second Karabakh War and the ceasefire process. In their opinion, the United States and Turkey could cooperate in the process of stabilization in the region of the South Caucasus.
“ The US and Turkey could play a positive role and could contribute to peace in the region. However, US/Turkish relations are not good at present and the Armenian Diaspora is a poisonous element that disables the US in exerting influence in the Turkic world. The US has much to gain in re-establishing good relations with Turkey and a more positive US economic contribution to peace and prosperity in the region is long overdue,” he added.
by Yunis Abdullayev
Turkey may suspend ties with UAE over Israel deal, Erdogan says
Turkey is considering suspending diplomatic ties with the United Arab Emirates and withdrawing its ambassador over the Gulf state’s accord to normalize ties with Israel, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday.The Turkish foreign ministry said history would never forgive the UAE’s “hypocritical behavior” in agreeing such a deal, which recasts the order of Middle East politics.Under the U.S.-brokered deal – the first between Israel and a Gulf Arab state – the Jewish state agreed to suspend its planned annexation of areas of the occupied West Bank which Palestinian leaders have denounced as a “stab in the back” to their cause.”The move against Palestine is not a step that can be stomached,” Erdogan told reporters after Friday prayers.”Now, Palestine is either closing or withdrawing its embassy. The same thing is valid for us now,” he said, stating that he’d given orders to his foreign minister.”I told him we may also take a step in the direction of suspending diplomatic ties with the Abu Dhabi leadership or pulling back our ambassador,” he added. Download the NBC News app for breaking news and politics The Turkish Foreign Ministry had earlier said Palestinians were right to reject the deal in which the UAE betrayed their cause.”History and the conscience of the region’s peoples will not forget and never forgive this hypocritical behavior,” it said. “It is extremely worrying that the UAE should, with a unilateral action, try and do away with the (2002) Arab Peace Plan developed by the Arab League.”Turkey has diplomatic and trade ties with Israel, but relations have been strained for years.In 2010 Israeli commandos killed 10 Turkish activists trying to breach a blockade on the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas.The deal makes the UAE the third Arab country to establish full relations with Israel, after Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.
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