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Understanding the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: History, Peace Efforts, and Ongoing Struggles (Armenia and Azerbaijan)

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Understanding the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: History, Peace Efforts, and Ongoing Struggles (Armenia and Azerbaijan)

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Understanding the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: History, Peace Efforts, and Ongoing Struggles (Armenia and Azerbaijan)

Overview: Current Developments in the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict – As of September 11, 2023, tensions have flared once again between Azerbaijan and Armenia, revolving around the contentious territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. This region has been at the center of two devastating conflicts over the past three decades. Here, we delve into the historical backdrop of the conflict and provide insights into recent developments.

Nagorno-Karabakh: A Contested Territory

Nagorno-Karabakh, known as Artsakh among Armenians, is a landlocked, mountainous area situated in the Caucasus region. While it is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, its population consists primarily of ethnic Armenians, numbering approximately 120,000. The region maintains its own self-governance, closely aligned with Armenia, though it lacks official recognition from Armenia or any other nation.

Armenians, predominantly Christians, lay claim to a long historical presence in Nagorno-Karabakh, dating back centuries before the Common Era. Azerbaijan, whose population is predominantly Muslim, also asserts deep historical ties to the region, which has witnessed the influence of Persians, Turks, and Russians over the centuries. During the Soviet era, Nagorno-Karabakh operated as an autonomous region within the Azerbaijani Soviet Republic.

The First Karabakh War (1988-1994)

The collapse of the Soviet Union triggered the First Karabakh War between Armenians and Azerbaijanis. This conflict, lasting from 1988 to 1994, resulted in approximately 30,000 casualties and the displacement of over one million people, primarily Azeris who were forced to flee their homes as Armenians gained control over Nagorno-Karabakh and significant portions of seven adjacent Azerbaijani districts.

The 44-Day War in 2020

In 2020, after decades of intermittent clashes, Azerbaijan initiated a military campaign that evolved into the Second Karabakh War. Azerbaijani forces made swift advances, breaking Armenian defenses and ultimately securing a resounding victory in the 44-day conflict. They regained control of the seven districts and roughly one-third of Nagorno-Karabakh itself. Analysts credited Azerbaijan’s success in part to the use of drones acquired from Turkey and Israel. The conflict resulted in at least 6,500 casualties.

Russia, as a treaty ally of Armenia but with cordial relations with Azerbaijan, intervened to broker a ceasefire. The agreement included the deployment of 1,960 Russian peacekeepers to oversee the sole remaining road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia, known as the Lachin corridor.

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Peace Talks and Ongoing Tensions

Subsequent rounds of negotiations, mediated by the European Union, the United States, and Russia, have brought Armenia and Azerbaijan closer to a permanent peace treaty than they have been in years. Nevertheless, a final resolution remains elusive. The most contentious issue pertains to the status of the 120,000 ethnic Armenians residing in Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia insists on safeguards for their rights and security, while Azerbaijan remains skeptical of Armenia’s commitment to non-interference, accusing it of fostering separatism.

Humanitarian Concerns in Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

In December 2022, Azeri civilians identifying as environmental activists began blocking the Lachin corridor, followed by Azerbaijan establishing a new security checkpoint in April 2023. These actions disrupted the flow of people and goods between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, resulting in a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation, according to the United States and other observers. Azerbaijan contended that these measures aimed to prevent weapons smuggling.

In a potentially positive development, ethnic Armenian authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh recently announced their agreement to permit aid shipments from Azerbaijani-controlled territories, marking the first such access in decades. However, the actual implementation of this agreement remains uncertain.

Meanwhile, Armenia and Azerbaijan have accused each other of amassing troops near their shared border and around Nagorno-Karabakh in recent weeks, raising concerns of a renewed outbreak of hostilities. Russia’s involvement has been challenged by its ongoing conflict in Ukraine, casting doubt on its ability to maintain peace in the region, despite its claims as a security guarantor.

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