The Rendon Group
Each week, The Rendon Group’s media analysts will focus on a different continent and a different issue affecting that continent. As always, we remain available to answer any questions you may have and to provide additional information upon request. For more information regarding The Rendon Group’s products and services, please contact us at Alert@Rendon.com or +1-202-745-4900.
Nagorno-Karabakh: Escalation of Hostilities Between Armenia and Azerbaijan
This week’s snapshot focuses on the recent confrontation between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed border region between the two countries that is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but has been occupied by Armenian forces for years.
In 1991, war erupted between the two countries after Nagorno-Karabakh first tried to formally join Armenia and then declared independence. After a cease-fire was brokered by Russia in 1994, the territory was largely left to govern itself autonomously. Over the past several years, both sides have accused each other of repeatedly violating the ceasefire, and minor skirmishes between Azerbaijani and Armenian troops have resulted in dozens of casualties. 2015 has seen failure of mediation efforts, escalating militarization, and frequent cease-fire violations, all of which have contributed to increasing tension.
This past week, violence quickly escalated to the deadliest level on record since the 1994 ceasefire was enacted. On 04APR, Azerbaijan unilaterally called for a ceasefire, but several attempts to discontinue fighting have been unsuccessful, and the Minsk Group’s attempts to mediate between the two nations have failed.
Russia has taken an active role in the crisis, and some analysts have suggested that it is attempting to re-assert its influence over the region at the expense of the United States. Despite its calls for peace, Russia has vowed to continue to sell weapons to both Armenia and Azerbaijan.
News summary of events during the week of 04APR16 – 11APR16
- 04APR: Clashes between Armenian and Azeri forces continued despite reports stating that Azerbaijan unilaterally called for ceasefire. (AFP)
- 04APR: Vagif Dyargyakhly, Defense Minister of Azerbaijan, said he thinks it is “illogical” to discuss a truce on conditions of retreating to the initial position at the line of contact in Nagorno-Karabakh and is not going to leave positions taken in combat operations on 02APR. (TASS)
- 04APR: Iran urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to show restraint and offered its help to halt the worst fighting in decades between its neighbors over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. (AFP)
- 04APR: A UN official said that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon plans to pay official visits to Azerbaijan and Armenia in late April, despite the escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. (TASS)
- 05APR: Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces agreed on an immediate ceasefire after nearly four days of fighting in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. (BBC)
- 05APR: The Minsk Group held talks in Russia to end the Nagorno-Karabakh clashes after 46 people were killed in three days of fighting. (AFP)
- 05APR: Russian President Vladimir Putin urged the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan to ensure a halt to deadly clashes over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region after a truce was agreed. (AFP)
- 06APR: Both countries said they were largely observing a truce that halted four days of clashes. (AFP)
- 06APR: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Russia of siding with Armenia, saying Moscow was meddling as it had in Ukraine and Syria. (AFP)
- 07APR: The defense ministry of Azerbaijan confirmed that the agreement of a ceasefire was reached through Russia’s mediation. (TASS)
- 08APR: Russia’s ambassador to the OSCE, Alexander Lukashevich, said that a peacekeeping mission in the area of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict may be possible only after a political settlement is achieved. (TASS)
- 08APR: Azerbaijan and Armenian-backed separatists said they had struck a temporary deal to allow each side to safely search for the bodies of their soldiers killed in clashes. (REUT)
- 09APR: Russian PM Medvedev said that Russia would continue its arms sales to both Azerbaijan and Armenia despite the latest flare-up of the conflict. (REUT)
- 10APR: A rally to protest recent violence in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh drew several thousand people to the Armenian capital Yerevan. (AFP)
- 10APR: Both sides exchanged bodies of servicemen killed in action. (TASS)
Sample of Twitter handles tweeting about the escalation of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh
- @Richard_RSC – Richard Giragosian, Director of the Regional Studies Center in Yerevan
- @armen_reporter – Emil Sanamyan, Writer and Reporter of the Caucasus
- @mehmet_fatih – Mehmet Fatih Öztarsu, Analyst and Reporter of the Caucasus
- @ZaurShiriyev – Zaur Shiriyev, Academy Fellow at the Chatham House, Senior Fellow at the ADA University
- @onewmphoto – Onnik J. Krikorian, Journalist and Photographer based in Tbilisi
- @saradzhyan – Simon Saradzhyan, Journalist and Researcher from Harvard
Sample of Third Party Validators regarding the escalation of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh
Laurence Broers, Associate Fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House
“The danger is that the international community is going to get sucked in, so I really think that there needs to be a reframing of the monitoring mandate of the OSCE…It is time for Moscow and Washington in particular to put their heads together and come up with some carrots and some sticks to make it happen.”
- “Nagorno-Karabakh conflict: What is the significance of ceasefire by Armenia and Azerbaijan?” International Business Times, 05APR2016
Magdalena Grono, Europe and Central Asia Program Director at the International Crisis Group
“Moscow is more closely involved than the other outside actors, and seems to pursue its own strategic interests. Key among them is a closer link with Azerbaijan and proving its own indispensability on the regional stage as a mediator and security guarantor. Moscow will likely use its leverage to enhance its own standing in the region.”
- “The crisis over Nagorno-Karabakh, explained,” Washington Post, 05APR16
Cengiz Aktar, Political Scientist at Istanbul’s Süleyman Şah University
“The entire international community is calling on all sides to stop the fighting, whereas Turkey is [the] only country which openly call[s] … [on] Armenia to stop fighting and declares to the entire world that it is behind Azerbaijan, and this is very unusual and very worrisome.”
– “Turkey-Russia Antagonism Playing Out in Karabakh,” Eurasianet, 07APR16
Sabine Freizer, Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council
“For all intents and purposes, there is no monitoring. With such little monitoring, it’s surprising there haven’t been more violations.”
– “Nagorno-Karabakh: Trying to Separate Fact from Fiction,” Eurasianet, 08APR16
Thomas De Waal, Senior Associate with Carnegie Europe and the author of Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War
“What is missing in the South Caucasus is the political will to engage with a plan that involves doing a deal with the enemy. What is missing internationally is the admission that there is no low-cost option to resolve the conflict.”
– “Solve the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict Before It Explodes,” New York Times, 07APR16
Sample of open source research conducted by TRG analysts related to the escalation of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh
- WSJ – Fighting Dies Down Between Azerbaijan and Armenian Rebels
Media: Wall Street Journal
Byline: Nathan Hodge
Date: 05 April 2016
A tentative cease-fire appeared to take hold Tuesday in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, as ethnic Armenian separatists largely stopped exchanging fire with Azeri government forces following the area’s worst violence in decades.
“There is zero fire from both sides” said Artak Beglaryan, the spokesman for the separatist republic’s prime minister, despite the absence of a formal truce. “At this moment, there is no written agreement.”
- Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reports 31 fatalities in action in Karabakh
Media: Interfax (Russia)
Date: 06 April 2016
BAKU. April 6 (Interfax) – The Azerbaijani Armed Forces have lost 31 servicemen in the hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh.
“We have lost 31 servicemen, one helicopter and one tank in the hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh,” Azerbaijani Defense Ministry press secretary Vagif Dargahli told Interfax.
- Turkey’s Erdogan says Russia ‘taking sides’ in Nagorny Karabakh
Media: Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Date: 06 April 2016
Ankara, April 6, 2016 (AFP) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday accused Russia of siding with Armenia in the resurgent conflict with Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorny Karabakh, saying Moscow was meddling as it had in Ukraine and Syria.
Erdogan’s comments are likely to further fuel tensions between Turkey and Russia, whose relations drastically deteriorated after Ankara downed a Russian warplane near the Syrian border in November.
- Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict: patriotism prevails on both sides
Media: The Guardian (UK)
Byline: Marianna Grigoryan and Durna Safarova
Date: 07 April 2016
In both the Armenian and Azerbaijani capitals, crowds have been gathering to voice support for their respective militaries after four days of intense fighting in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Amid an upsurge of patriotic feeling in Yerevan and Baku, Azerbaijan claimed that the terms of the ceasefire agreed to on Tuesday had already been broken 115 times just 24 hours later.
- Skirmishes continue in Nagorno-Karabakh despite cease-fire
Media: Associated Press
Date: 08 April 2016
BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Skirmishes have continued around Nagorno-Karabakh with Azerbaijan and Armenia blaming each other for cease-fire violations.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said Friday its troops returned fire after Armenian forces shelled Azerbaijani military positions and populated areas. The Armenian side accused Azerbaijan of shelling its positions, killing two Armenian soldiers overnight.