Summary of the video chat meeting on the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh held on 5 October 2020 with analysis based on the renewed hostilities which started in late September.
The latest eruption of fighting all across the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but mostly populated by ethnic Armenians, risks challenging a long-held status quo in the Southern Caucasus.
Currently one of the longest-lasting disputes in Europe, the renewed border clashes and the high death toll will put a fragile ceasefire (in place since 1994) in question.
With major regional interests at stake (Russia, Turkey, Iran) and after years of unsuccessful attempts at reconciliation, how can belligerents Azerbaijan and Armenia return from the bring of an all-out war?
In March 2020, Visegrad Insight published a report discussing future scenarios for the Eastern Partnership countries. The report emphasised the role of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in causing setbacks for the democratisation of the wider region.
Russia’s strengthening position in the global arena and the increasing indifference of Europe towards the South Caucasus area blow to the stability of Armenia, Azerbaijan and other post-Soviet states.
During a recent Visegrad Insight Transatlantic Breakfast meeting, on 5 October 2020, we discussed the latest escalation in a long-simmering conflict and looked at wider regional entanglements.
Speakers at the meeting were:
- Richard Giragosian, Director of the Regional Studies Center (RSC), Yerevan, Armenia
- Anna Zamejc, freelance journalist, a former correspondent with the Azerbaijani Service of Radio Free Europe and South Caucasus, Prague, Czechia
At first, Richard Giragosian emphasised that “it was necessary, if not imperative, to condemn the level of fighting in terms of the loss of civilian life at all sides of the borders” and brought attention to civilian deaths as well as immense damage to civilian infrastructure as a result of the conflict.
According to Giragosian, what makes the current round of fighting different from any other previous escalations is the unique intensity in scale and the scope of the fighting with much more offensive weapon systems being employed, as well as an increased number of indiscriminate attacks on the civilian population. Richard Giragosian attributed such a situation to the combination of a direct Turkish role supporting the Azerbaijani offensive and to passivity and a lack of adequate response from Russia.
In Giragosian’s eyes, given that the conflict has been quickly escalating not only on the ground but also in the regional context, it might become extremely difficult to de-escalate, disengage and return to diplomatic negotiations.
Anna Zamejc underscored that the conflict is often misinterpreted and that next to the military war, there is a war in the information sphere that we should be aware of. She stressed that the source of the conflict was not hatred between Armenia and Azerbaijan or ethnic tensions, as it is often presented, but that this was a conflict about the territory, as a result of which ethnic tensions may arise.
Zamejc pointed to the frustration of Azerbaijan with the lack of progress regarding the peace process and the status quo established in 1994.
In the off-the-record part of the event, the participants continued to analyse relevant recent domestic developments in both Armenia and Azerbaijan. They also considered whether the unfolding conflict could affect the wider region and the relationship between Russia, Iran, Turkey, the EU, and the United States.
Recent Visegrad Insight publications on the topic:
- Richard Giragosian on scenarios for Nagorno-Karabakh
- Rusif Huseynov on Azerbaijan’s realignment in favour of a Turkic alliance
- Podcast “Nagorno-Karabakh on the brink of war” available here
- Visegrad Insight “Eastern European Futures: Scenarios for the Eastern Partnership 2030” available via this link
- More articles published under the #EaP2030 tag
This event was organised as part of a project that led to our report discussing potential scenarios for the future of Eastern Partnership states, supported by the German Marshall Fund of the United States.