Nagorno Karabakh Returns to Azerbaijan Featured

By Gamal Khattab October 01, 2023 3062

The long-standing dispute over Nagorno Karabakh has finally come to an end, as the region returns to Azerbaijani control. This historic event marks a significant turning point in the conflict that has spanned over several decades. In this article, we will delve into the background of the conflict, including the First, Second, and Third Karabakh Wars, and explore the implications of Nagorno Karabakh's return to Azerbaijan.

The First Karabakh War: A Prelude to Conflict

The roots of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute can be traced back to the early 20th century, when the region became a part of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic, despite its predominantly Armenian population. As the Soviet Union began to collapse, tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia escalated, leading to the outbreak of the First Karabakh War in 1988.

During this conflict, both sides engaged in violent clashes, resulting in a significant loss of life and displacement of populations. The war ended in 1994 with a ceasefire agreement, leaving Nagorno Karabakh and surrounding territories under the control of Armenian forces.

However, the dispute remained unresolved, and sporadic clashes along the frontline persisted over the following decades.

The Second Karabakh War: Renewed Hostilities

After years of unsuccessful negotiations, the Second Karabakh War erupted in September 2020, shaking the region once again. This time, Azerbaijan launched a major offensive to regain control over the territories lost during the First Karabakh War.

The Azerbaijani military, equipped with modern weaponry and supported by Turkey, made significant advances, swiftly retaking several strategic locations. The conflict witnessed intense fighting on the ground, as well as the use of unmanned aerial vehicles and missile strikes.

Despite international calls for a ceasefire, the fighting continued for six weeks, with both sides suffering heavy casualties. Finally, a trilateral agreement brokered by Russia was reached, bringing an end to the conflict in November 2020.

The 3rd Karabakh War: Nagorno Karabakh's Return

The signing of the trilateral agreement marked the beginning of a new era for Nagorno Karabakh. As part of the peace deal, Armenia agreed to withdraw its forces from the region, and Azerbaijan assumed control over the territories it had lost for nearly three decades.

This development has significant implications for the region and its inhabitants. Although the return of Nagorno Karabakh to Azerbaijan's control has been hailed as a victory by Azerbaijan and its supporters, it has led to a wave of displacement among the Armenian population.

The agreement also addresses important issues, including the return of displaced persons and refugees, the establishment of transport links, and the deployment of peacekeeping forces in the region.

The return of Nagorno Karabakh to Azerbaijan represents a significant milestone in the long-standing dispute. However, it is crucial for all parties involved to ensure that the peace agreement is implemented effectively and that the rights and security of the population are protected.

Why did Azerbaijan initiate a new offensive against Karabakh Armenians?

Azerbaijan's decision to launch a new offensive against the Karabakh Armenians stems from various factors. Firstly, the unresolved territorial dispute has fueled deep-rooted tensions between the two nations. Azerbaijan considers Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding territories as an integral part of its sovereign land, whereas Armenia supports is called the self-determination rights of the ethnic Armenian population residing there.

Secondly, Azerbaijan's push for military action can be attributed to its desire to reclaim lost territories. Following the 1988-1994 war, Armenia gained control over Nagorno-Karabakh and several surrounding districts. This loss of territory, coupled with domestic pressure, has fueled Azerbaijan's aspirations to restore its sovereignty over the region.

Furthermore, Azerbaijan's strengthening military capabilities, fueled by oil revenues, have likely emboldened its pursuit of a military solution. The country's increased defence spending and advanced weaponry have undoubtedly influenced its decision to escalate the conflict.

What is Russia's role in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?

As a regional power with historical ties to both Azerbaijan and Armenia, Russia has tried to play a significant role in mediating the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. With its military presence in Armenia through a bilateral collective security agreement, Russia has the capacity to influence the conflict dynamics.

Russia has sought to maintain a delicate balance between Azerbaijan and Armenia, working towards a peaceful resolution through negotiation platforms such as the OSCE Minsk Group. It has deployed its peacekeeping forces to the region and facilitated ceasefire agreements, aiming to prevent further escalation and protect civilian lives.

However, critics argue that Russia's involvement serves its own interests. The conflict allows Russia to exert influence in the South Caucasus and maintain its role as a mediator, enhancing regional stability.

What other external actors are involved in the conflict?

Apart from Russia, other external actors have also been involved in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, albeit to varying degrees.

Turkey, Azerbaijan's strategic ally, has played a significant role in supporting Azerbaijan militarily, politically, and diplomatically. Turkey's involvement has bolstered Azerbaijan's resolve and further complicated the conflict.

On the other hand, Iran, which shares borders with both Azerbaijan and Armenia, hasn't pursued a neutral stance. It sided with Orthodox Christian Armenia against Shiite Muslim Azerbaijan for opportunistic reasons, including malicious intent against Turkey. 

 

Is there a European-led effort to bring longer-term peace to the region?

There is indeed a European-led effort aimed at achieving long-term and sustainable peace in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The European Union (EU) has been involved in diplomatic efforts, working alongside the OSCE Minsk Group. The EU emphasizes the importance of dialogue, negotiation, and respect for international law as the foundation for resolving the conflict.

The EU's engagement focuses on promoting economic development, fostering people-to-people contacts, and encouraging confidence-building measures between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Additionally, the EU supports initiatives to address the humanitarian needs of the affected population and facilitate the return of internally displaced persons.

The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh continues to pose challenges to regional stability and human security. Understanding the motivations behind Azerbaijan's offensive, Russia's role as a mediator, the involvement of external actors, and the European-led initiatives is crucial in envisioning a path towards lasting peace. While the road ahead may be long and arduous, sustained efforts by all stakeholders are essential for bringing tranquillity and hope to the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.

While the scars of the conflict may take time to heal, it is hoped that the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute will set the stage for a peaceful and prosperous future.