Nagorno-Karabakh: New fighting in the South Caucasus - Politics

Fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan escalates. After the first skirmishes and artillery fire between the troops of neighboring South Caucasus states at the beginning of the week, hostilities continued on Wednesday. Admonitions of the protecting powers Russia and Turkey and appeals from the UN and France went unheeded. Now the conflict threatens to escalate. The two former Soviet republics have already fought two wars over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. The latest armed conflict in autumn 2020 lasted six weeks and ended with Azerbaijan being partially successful, which was able to recapture parts of Nagorno-Karabakh.

After the 2020 ceasefire, Russia assumed the role of a guarantor power. Some of the Russian peacekeeping troops have apparently been withdrawn in recent months because of the Ukraine war. The seemingly slacking control of the peace agreements between the conflicting parties, which include the control of the connecting roads between Karabakh and the Armenian heartland and thus the supply and security of the Armenians still living in Nagorno-Karabakh, could be a reason for the outbreak of the be fights.

Another reason might be that Ankara-backed Baku sees a chance to conquer the rest of Nagorno-Karabakh as long as the hands of the Armenian protecting power Russia seem tied because of the Ukraine war. This could find the indirect approval of Ankara: Turkey wants to expand its influence in the South Caucasus and regards Turkic-speaking Azerbaijan as a "Muslim brother nation". Turkey's main goal is to open up a trade route by means of a land corridor from eastern Anatolia via the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan to the Azerbaijani heartland and its Caspian Sea coast. From there Turkey would have a trade route to Central Asia and China.

Territorial issues are unresolved

"The enemy used combat drones in the direction of Jermuk," said the spokesman for the Armenian Defense Ministry, Aram Torosian, according to the dpa on the latest fighting. The village of Werin Schorscha to the north was also attacked. Baku denied the allegations from Yerevan and in turn accused the neighbor of attacks. According to the Azerbaijani account, the Armenian military is shelling positions in the Kalbajar region in western Azerbaijan. The Armenian troops also used howitzers. The statements could not initially be verified independently.

The continuation of the fighting despite international efforts shows how quickly the situation could escalate and a new third South Caucasus war could break out. In an interview with Reuters, Armenia's Deputy Foreign Minister Paruyr Hovhannisyan warned against another armed conflict. He called on the major powers active in the region to pay more attention to the Caucasus.

The first South Caucasus war between the ex-Soviet republics took place from 1992 to 1994. It ended with the Armenian conquest of the mountainous region of Karabakh, which according to international law belongs to Azerbaijan. Armenia lays claim to the area dating back to its medieval empire and also cites the large Armenian population in Karabakh.

After the first South Caucasus war, the Karabakh-Armenians proclaimed the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic there. This was not recognized under international law. In the second war, Azerbaijan was able to reconquer the plains around Karabakh and parts of the mountainous region itself. However, the territorial issues have not been finally clarified.

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