In the night between Monday and Tuesday, new armed clashes took place in Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory in the southern Caucasus disputed since 1991 by Armenia and Azerbaijan. It is the first resumption of hostilities since November 2020, when the two countries signed a truce with the mediation of Russia, after a six-week war won by Azerbaijan and at the end of which Armenia had to recognize territorial concessions. Here’s how and why the conflict started.
The independence knot
The Nagorno-Karabakh enclave is a separatist territory of Azerbaijan which is supported by Armenia as it is largely inhabited by Armenian citizens and Christians (Christianity is the prevailing religion in Armenia, while the Azerbaijani population is predominantly Muslim ). In September 1991, after the dissolution of the USSR, it declared its independence: until then it was in the orbit of the Azerbaijani Socialist Republic, which, like Armenia, was part of the Soviet Union. Its independence drive was recognized by Yerevan but not by Baku, a circumstance that triggered tensions between the two capitals which culminated in a first armed conflict between 1992 and 1994. In the following decades the situation remained precarious and there were continuous clashes , until the resumption of the war two years ago.
Over the years, there have been many attempts to prevent the conflict from continuing, some also led by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The two warring countries, however, continued to attack and launch provocations, the most striking of which was the unilateral proclamation of the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh in the Republic of Artsakh in 2017. Since then, tensions have culminated in a six-week war. occurred in 2020, which led to the deaths of about 6,500 people and only ended following a Russian-brokered ceasefire.
The obstacles to peace
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan has re-established full control over Nagorno-Karabakh but the hostilities have not stopped. At present, there are still many reasons that hinder peace negotiations. The nationalist claims of the countries involved are joined by the aspirations of Moscow itself, which supports Armenia, but also of Turkey, an ally instead of Azerbaijan.
The role of Russia
Moscow is a historic ally of Armenia, which is part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a six-state military alliance led by Russia. However, it also maintains good relations with Azerbaijan, which supplies it with raw materials. Precisely for this reason, the Kremlin has always been a fundamental mediator between the two sides and even after the 2020 truce it sent thousands of soldiers to Nagorno-Karabakh to maintain order. After the recent events and yet another exchange of mutual accusations between the Azerbaijani and Armenian defense ministers, the latter announced that he had spoken with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, and that he had agreed with him to “take measures necessary to stabilize the situation “.