If one thinks of some of the world’s oldest continuing wars between two nations and culture groups, India-Pakistan or Arab-Israel conflict is what comes to mind. But, there’s another conflict with a similar background that is the “Nagorno-Karabakh” conflict. On 27th September of this year, the Azerbaijani parliament has declared a state of war against Armenia over this disputed region.

The region itself has seen many conflicts since medieval ages between the Christian Armenians and Muslim Turkic population. However, the current conflict’s history can be traced all the way back to the Soviet era. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan were part of the Soviet Union. Because of the “divide and rule” method of the Soviet Union, this region was part of Azerbaijan even though the majority population here was Armenian. As Soviet influence dwindled in the region, conflict emerged.  With the break-up of the Soviet Union, in late 1991, Karabakh declared itself an independent republic, further escalating the conflict into a full-scale war. After an Armenian victory, the region itself got separated from Azerbaijan. The autonomous region isn’t recognized by any other country, not even by Armenia. However, Armenia offers its military support, especially against Azerbaijan.

Despite losing this territory, Azerbaijan still claims it as a part of itself, while Armenia considers any such claims as an insult and attack on its sovereignty. The region itself has seen a continuous wave of conflict ever since, even in 2016 which left 200 people dead.

There had been several border clashes but the recent on-going clash is far more than that. Azerbaijan has mobilized its military in an attempt to capture the region once and for all. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said on Sunday he was confident of regaining control over the region. Meanwhile, the Armenian president Nikol Pashinyan made a statement on Facebook, “The enemy has started an attack”, he wrote on his post. “This aggression was preplanned.” He also declared a state of emergency and mobilized the country’s male population. The conflict is ongoing as of now. It’s hard to say what will come out of it.

Both sides are blaming each other for the recent clashes. Azerbaijan blames Armenia for supporting the militias in “Nagorno-Karabakh” with armament to attack Azerbaijani villages and military encampments. Armenia considers Azerbaijan’s military operation as an invasion against itself.

International implications:

The war over “Nagorno-Karabakh” isn’t only a battle between two nations but also a conflict that may destabilize an entire region.  There are also other international actors who have a part to play in this.

  • Azerbaijan is supported by Turkey. Both share the same religion and culture. Armenia also holds Turkey responsible for the “Armenian genocide” during the Ottoman era which Turkey completely denies. Also, Armenia has been claiming that Turkey is providing Azerbaijan with military support which both Turkey and Azerbaijan deny. But, in this recent conflict, Turkey is quite outspoken about its support for Azerbaijan. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged support for Azerbaijan, urging the world to stand with the country in its “battle against invasion and cruelty” from Armenia. As a powerful state in the Caucasus region, Turkey’s support towards Azerbaijan can prolong this conflict even further which can be a massive political move for President Erdogan.
  • Russia is another major country in the Caucasus region. It has been an ally of Armenia. It has conducted several military exercises with Armenia even this year. Unlike Turkey, Russia is asking for mediation and an end to the conflict. However, if the situation changes both Russia and Turkey may find each other on the opposite side.
  • There is also news about the foreign fighter’s involvement in this conflict. Armenia is quite sure about its claim of Syrian fighters fighting for the Azerbaijani military. They claim it was Turkey who brought them across the border. Armenia also has been providing arms to the Armenian militias of that region who are blamed for several unprovoked attacks. If this conflict results in massive armaments of militia groups, then it can have certain unforeseen consequences. 

Both the UN and the EU are urging both nations to cease hostilities and come to the negotiation table. Russia and even Iran who also borders both nations, are offering themselves as mediators. However, because of Turkey’s full political support and popular support from the Azerbaijani population, the nation of Azerbaijan may not back off so easily. They aim to “liberate” the region from thirty years of occupation by Armenian forces. Armenia on the other side is determined to fight to the end to keep this region under its control. Now maybe only death and suffering can end this war. The rest of the world is helplessly looking on as another bad chapter is being written for the year 2020.