Rising tensions between Azerbaijan and West

The recent escalation of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed territory between Armenia and Azerbaijan, has exposed the growing rift between Azerbaijan and the West, especially the European Union and the United States. While Azerbaijan has long sought to balance its relations with Russia and the West, the latest crisis has forced it to lean more towards Moscow, which brokered a ceasefire deal that favored Baku’s interests. The West, on the other hand, has been largely sidelined and criticized by Azerbaijan for its perceived lack of support and engagement.

Azerbaijan’s foreign policy dilemma

Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic, has been pursuing a pragmatic and multi-vector foreign policy since its independence in 1991. It has tried to maintain good relations with both Russia and the West, while avoiding full-fledged integration with either side. It has also sought to diversify its energy exports and reduce its dependence on Russia, which still exerts significant influence in the region. Azerbaijan has cooperated with the West on energy, security and democratic reforms, but has also resisted pressure to improve its human rights record and political freedoms.

Azerbaijan also feared about inside possible uprising that has been engineered by West due to increasing human rights violations and massively attacks on press freedom.

The main driver of Azerbaijan’s foreign policy has been the unresolved conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous enclave populated by ethnic Armenians but internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. The conflict erupted in the late 1980s and resulted in a war that killed tens of thousands of people and displaced more than a million. A ceasefire was signed in 1994, but sporadic clashes have continued ever since. The conflict has been mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group, co-chaired by Russia, France and the US, but no lasting political solution has been reached.

Azerbaijan has accused the Minsk Group of being biased in favor of Armenia and failing to pressure Yerevan to withdraw its forces from the occupied territories. It has also blamed the West for not providing enough political and military support to Baku, especially after the 2020 war, when Turkey, a NATO ally, was the only country that openly backed Azerbaijan’s offensive. Azerbaijan has also resented the Western criticism of its human rights violations and crackdown on dissent, which it sees as interference in its internal affairs.

Russia’s role and interests

Russia, on the other hand, has played a more active and decisive role in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, despite being formally neutral and having close ties with both Armenia and Azerbaijan. Russia has a military base in Armenia and is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a regional security alliance that includes Armenia. However, Russia has also developed a strategic partnership with Azerbaijan, which is a major buyer of Russian arms and a key transit country for Russian gas exports to Turkey and Europe.

Russia has used its leverage over both sides to broker several ceasefire agreements, most notably the one signed in November 2020, which ended the 44-day war and resulted in Azerbaijan regaining control over most of the territories it had lost in the 1990s. The deal also stipulated the deployment of 2,000 Russian peacekeepers to Nagorno-Karabakh and the opening of transport corridors between Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Nakhchivan, an Azerbaijani exclave bordering Turkey and Iran. The deal was seen as a diplomatic victory for Russia, which enhanced its role as the main power broker and security provider in the region while marginalizing the role of the Minsk Group and the West.

Russia’s interests in the region are not only geopolitical but also economic and cultural. Russia seeks to maintain its influence and presence in the South Caucasus, which it considers as part of its “near abroad” and a buffer zone against NATO expansion. Russia also wants to protect its energy interests and transit routes, as well as its large diaspora and Orthodox Christian community in the region. Russia has also been accused of using the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as a tool to manipulate and pressure both Armenia and Azerbaijan and to prevent them from moving closer to the West.

The West’s response and challenges

The West, particularly the EU and the US, has been largely absent and ineffective in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, despite having significant interests and stakes in the region. The West has supported the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan but has also called for a peaceful and negotiated settlement of the conflict, based on the principles of the Minsk Group. The West has also provided humanitarian and development aid to both sides, as well as promoting democracy, human rights and civil society in the region.

However, the West has failed to match its rhetoric with action and engagement, especially in the aftermath of the 2020 war. The West has been criticized by Azerbaijan for not condemning Armenia’s aggression and occupation, and for not recognizing Azerbaijan’s right to self-defense and territorial restoration. The West has also been accused by Azerbaijan of being indifferent and passive in the face of the humanitarian crisis and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis from Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding areas. The West has also been challenged by Turkey, which has asserted its role as a regional power and a protector of Azerbaijan’s interests, while clashing with the West on various issues, such as Syria, Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean.

The West faces several challenges and dilemmas in dealing with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and its implications. On the one hand, the West wants to maintain its strategic partnership with Azerbaijan, which is a key energy supplier and a potential partner in countering Iran’s influence and extremism in the region. On the other hand, the West is concerned about Azerbaijan’s authoritarian tendencies and human rights abuses, which undermine the prospects of democratic reforms and civil society development in the country. The West also wants to preserve its cooperation with Armenia, which is undergoing a political transition and a democratic awakening, while facing economic and security challenges. The West also wants to avoid a confrontation with Russia, which has a dominant role and a vested interest in the region, while seeking to uphold the principles of international law and human rights.

Conclusion

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has exposed the growing tensions and divergences between Azerbaijan and the West, as well as the limitations and weaknesses of Western engagement and influence in the region. Azerbaijan has become more dependent and aligned with Russia, which has emerged as the main arbiter and guarantor of the status quo, while the West has been marginalized and criticized by Baku for its perceived lack of support and involvement. The West faces the difficult task of balancing its interests and values, as well as its relations with both Armenia and Azerbaijan while avoiding a clash with Russia and Turkey. The West needs to adopt a more proactive and coherent strategy towards the region, based on dialogue, diplomacy and development, as well as support the efforts of the Minsk Group and the OSCE to find a lasting and comprehensive solution to the conflict.

 

Lachin Corridor crisis: How a strategic road could spark a new war in the Caucasus

 The Caucasus Center Special Report: 

The Lachin Corridor is a mountain road that links Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed territory that is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but is de facto controlled by ethnic Armenians. The corridor is in the Lachin District of Azerbaijan but is ostensibly under the control of a Russian peacekeeping force as provided for in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh armistice agreement.

The corridor has been described as a “lifeline” for the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh, as it is the only road that connects them to Armenia and allows the delivery of humanitarian aid, food, medicine and other essential goods. However, the corridor has also been a source of tension and conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, especially after the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War in 2020, which resulted in significant territorial losses for the Armenian side and the displacement of thousands of civilians.

The 2020 Ceasefire Agreement and Its Implementation

 The Second Nagorno-Karabakh War erupted on September 27, 2020, when Azerbaijan launched a large-scale offensive to reclaim control over Nagorno-Karabakh and its surrounding regions, which had been under Armenian control since the end of the First Nagorno-Karabakh War in 1994. The war lasted 44 days and claimed more than 6,000 lives on both sides.

On November 9, 2020, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia signed a trilateral ceasefire agreement that ended the hostilities and stipulated.

Armenia agreed to withdraw its forces from several districts adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh that were captured by Azerbaijan during the war, including Kalbajar, Aghdam and Lachin.

Azerbaijan agreed to halt its military operations and keep control over the territories it had regained during the war, including parts of Nagorno-Karabakh itself.

A Russian peacekeeping contingent of 1,960 troops was deployed along the line of contact in Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Lachin corridor for a period of five years, renewable by mutual consent of the parties.

The Lachin corridor was to remain under Armenian control, with a width of 5 km, to ensure the connection between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. The city of Lachin and its surrounding villages were to be transferred to Azerbaijani control by December 1, 2020.

A new transport corridor was to be opened under Russian control to connect Azerbaijan’s mainland with its exclave of Nakhchivan through Armenia’s southern Syunik province.

The ceasefire agreement was met with mixed reactions from both sides. While Azerbaijan celebrated its military victory and territorial gains, Armenia denounced its humiliating defeat and political crisis. Many Armenians protested against the agreement and demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who signed it under pressure from Russia.

The implementation of the agreement has also faced several challenges and delays.

The transfer of Lachin city and its surrounding villages to Azerbaijani control was postponed until August 26, 2022, due to logistical difficulties and security concerns.

A new route to bypass Lachin city was opened on August 30, 2022, passing by two villages that were renamed by Azerbaijan from Kirov (Hin Shen) and Kirovskiy (Mets Shen) to Kichik Galadarasi and Boyuk Galadarasi respectively.

The opening of the Nakhchivan corridor has been stalled by disagreements over its route, security and legal status. Armenia has insisted that it should be under international supervision and that it should not affect its sovereignty or territorial integrity. Azerbaijan has demanded that it should be under its full control and that it should have access to other regional transport projects.

The return of displaced persons and refugees has been slow and problematic. According to the UNHCR, more than 100,000 people were displaced by the war, mostly ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent districts. While some have returned to their homes with the help of Russian peacekeepers and humanitarian organizations, many others remain in Armenia or in makeshift shelters in Nagorno-Karabakh. They face insecurity, lack of basic services, and uncertainty about their future.

The 2023 Lachin Corridor Crisis

 On April 23, 2023, Azerbaijani officials set up a checkpoint in the Lachin corridor, near the Hakari Bridge, claiming that it was meant to prevent the “illegal” transport of military supplies and natural resources from Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh However, the republics of Armenia and Artsakh have denied these allegations and argued that the ceasefire agreement does not explicitly limit the use of the Lachin corridor to humanitarian needs.

The checkpoint has effectively blocked the movement of vehicles and people along the corridor, creating a humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh. According to the Armenian authorities, more than 200 trucks carrying food, medicine, fuel and other goods have been stranded at the checkpoint for days, unable to reach their destination. Moreover, thousands of civilians who commute daily between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh for work, education, health or family reasons have been unable to cross the checkpoint, causing hardship and distress.

The Armenian side has condemned the checkpoint as a violation of the ceasefire agreement and a provocation aimed at destabilizing the situation and undermining the peace process. It has called on the international community, especially Russia, to intervene and pressure Azerbaijan to remove the checkpoint and restore the free movement along the corridor.

The Azerbaijani side has defended its right to control its own territory and to ensure its security and sovereignty. It has accused Armenia of violating the ceasefire agreement by smuggling weapons and exploiting natural resources in Nagorno-Karabakh without its consent. It has also demanded that Armenia fulfill its obligations under the agreement, such as providing maps of minefields and withdrawing its remaining forces from Azerbaijani territory.

The Russian side has expressed its concern over the situation and urged both parties to respect the ceasefire agreement and to resolve their differences through dialogue and negotiation. It has also reaffirmed its commitment to maintaining peace and stability in the region and to facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid to Nagorno-Karabakh.

The international community has also reacted to the crisis with varying degrees of involvement and influence.

The OSCE Minsk Group, co-chaired by France, Russia and the U.S., which has been mediating the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict since 1992, has called on both sides to refrain from unilateral actions that could escalate tensions and to cooperate with the Russian peacekeepers in ensuring the security of movement along the corridor. It has also reiterated its support for a comprehensive settlement of the conflict based on the principles of non-use of force, territorial integrity, equal rights and self-determination.

The European Union, which has been providing humanitarian and development assistance to Nagorno-Karabakh and its surrounding regions since 2016, has expressed its solidarity with the people affected by the blockade and urged Azerbaijan to lift it without delay. It has also stressed its readiness to contribute to confidence-building measures and dialogue between Armenia and Azerbaijan within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group.

The United Nations, which has been monitoring the humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh through its agencies and partners, has appealed for unhindered access to deliver aid to those in need and for respect for international humanitarian law by all parties. It has also called for a lasting political solution to the conflict that respects human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Council of Europe, which has been promoting human rights, democracy and rule of law in Armenia and Azerbaijan since 2001, has condemned the blockade as a violation of human dignity and a threat to regional stability. It has also urged both sides to comply with their obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and other relevant instruments.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which has been supporting Azerbaijan’s position on Nagorno-Karabakh since 1993, has welcomed Azerbaijan’s efforts to restore its territorial integrity and sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh and its adjacent districts. It has also called on Armenia to respect the ceasefire agreement and cooperate with Azerbaijan to address the humanitarian issues arising from the conflict.

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which is a military alliance of six former Soviet states including Armenia but not Azerbaijan, has expressed its solidarity with Armenia as a member state and its concern over the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. It has also stated that it is ready to provide assistance to Armenia in case of external aggression against its territory or sovereignty.

The Caucasus Center: International Conference on Peace in South Caucasus

The International Conference on Peace in South Caucasus: How to Achieve Peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan on Nagorno-Karabakh

The Caucasus Center for Strategic and International Studies (CCSIS) is pleased to announce the International Conference on Peace in South Caucasus, which will take place this year in 2023.

The South Caucasus region has been plagued by conflicts for decades, especially the unresolved dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory claimed by both Armenia and Azerbaijan. The recent war in 2020 has resulted in thousands of casualties, massive displacement, and humanitarian crises. Despite the ceasefire agreement brokered by Russia, the prospects for a lasting peace remain uncertain and fragile.

The International Conference on Peace in South Caucasus aims to bring together scholars, practitioners, policymakers, civil society actors, and media representatives from South Caucasus and other countries to discuss the challenges and opportunities for achieving peace in the region. The conference will provide a platform for dialogue, exchange of ideas, and constructive engagement on various aspects of the conflict resolution process, such as:

  • The role of regional and international actors in facilitating peace and security
  • The legal and political implications of the ceasefire agreement and its implementation
  • The humanitarian and socio-economic impact of the war and the post-war recovery
  • The promotion of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law
  • The fostering of dialogue, trust, and reconciliation among the conflicting parties and communities
  • The prevention of future violence and escalation

The conference invites submissions of abstracts for paper presentations on any of the above topics or other relevant issues. The abstracts should be no more than 300 words and should include the title, author(s) name(s), affiliation(s), and contact information. The deadline for submission is October 31, 2023. The accepted papers will be published in the conference proceedings.

The conference will be held this year 2023 and the venue of the conference will be announced later.

The conference will feature:

  • Keynote speeches by prominent experts and policymakers
  • Panel discussions on various topics related to the conflict and its implications
  • Workshops on conflict resolution, dialogue, and cooperation
  • A roundtable with representatives of the parties involved in the conflict
  • A final declaration and a policy brief with recommendations for the international community and the parties involved

The conference will be held in English, with simultaneous interpretation in Armenian, Azerbaijani, Russian, and Turkish. The conference will be live-streamed on our website and social media platforms.

We are looking for partner organizations that can join hands with us in this initiative to promote peace and the recommendations of experts in this area.

If you are interested, you can send you letter of interest at this email: info AT thecaucasuscenter.org

We look forward to your participation and contribution to this important dialogue for peace in South Caucasus.

Lachin Corridor Blocked: Azerbaijan Blames Russian Peacekeepers

The latest incident in the ever-tense relations between neighbors Armenia and Azerbaijan occurred on Monday, December12, when groups of Azerbaijanis blocked the Lachin Road that links the recently liberated Nagorno-Karabakh region with Armenia to protest against what they term environmental degradation in the region. A day earlier, Azerbaijan had issued a diplomatic note to Russia, whose peacekeeping forces have been patrolling the corridor since late 2020, expressing concern over the rampant exploitation of its natural resources right under the nose of Russian forces.

Even though Nagorno-Karabakh has been effectively under Azerbaijani control since 2020, the region still hosts a sizable Armenian population with connections in the neighboring country. The delicate balance has been maintained by Russian peacekeeping forces that have been stationed across this 5-km wide road since a peace deal was hammered out after months of conflict 2020.

Angered at the blockade, Armenia has blamed Azerbaijani military forces of staging the blockade, disrupting civilian traffic between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia for hours, especially during the winter season. The Azerbaijani government has rejected the accusation and has clarified that the blockade is being carried out by civilians, many of whom are Azerbaijani environmentalists, over concerns that illegal gold and copper mining is being carried out in Nagorno-Karabakh and the resources are being smuggled to Armenia through the Lachin Corridor. Additionally, Azerbaijan has accused Armenia of supplying arms to Armenian groups in Nagorno-Karabakh through this corridor.

A particular target of Azerbaijani accusations is Ruben Vardanyan, a former Russian oligarch of Armenian ethnicity who adopted Armenian citizenship in 2021, gave up Russian citizenship the following year, and was appointed state minister of Artsakh—a self-proclaimed sovereign state in the Nagorno-Karabakh region that is recognized by neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani authorities blame Vardanyan of enabling the illegal smuggling of valuable mineral resources between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.  Azerbaijani officials have stated their resolve not to allow Vardanyan to succeed in his schemes to promote smuggling and environmental damage in the region.

While both sides have a history of trading accusations and holding each other responsible for disrupting peace in the region, Azerbaijan has raised the stakes by dragging Russia into the picture. Under the peacekeeping deal signed with Russian mediation in 2020, Russian forces are responsible for maintaining peace along the corridor. However, Azerbaijan has accused Russian forces of being complicit with the Armenians and turning a blind eye to their activities in the region.

Russia’s foreign ministry has rejected the Azerbaijani accusations terming them unfortunate and counterproductive, while clearly asking for the blockade to be removed at the earliest. Russia is the chief guarantor of peace between the two nations, but it seems that this recent accusation by Azerbaijan will test Russian resolve to maintain neutrality between the two nations. While Armenia and Russia are strong allies in several regional alliances, Azerbaijan has enjoyed close relations with Russia’s Black Sea rival Turkey. Hence, this move would further strain relations between Azerbaijan and Russia at a time when Azerbaijan needs as much diplomatic support as it can get.

On the part of Russia, the challenge is nothing that it has not seen before. Owing to Soviet legacy, the country has peacekeeping forces stationed in several neighboring countries, including Moldova, Georgia, and more recently Armenia and Azerbaijan. It is confident about its ability to navigate easily through the current crisis and is likely to be unsympathetic to Azerbaijan’s concerns. In fact, the recent accusations appear to be a sign of frustration over Azerbaijan’s inability to exercise absolute sovereignty over the region that it had liberated after more than two decades of Armenian opposition. Anxiety is also rising about the intentions of the Russian forces given the close relation between Russia and Armenia.

Armenia and Iran Amplify Diplomatic and Military Relations Against Common Threats

On October 21, the Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan welcomed his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian at the Foreign Ministry and was apparently pleased with the Iranian Foreign Minister’s acknowledgment of Armenia’s security interests at the same level as Iran’s own and his clear assertion that Iran would not tolerate any tampering with the current Armenia-Iran border.

Not only that, on the same day he inaugurated a new Iranian consulate in Kapan, which lies in the Syunik province lying along the Armenia-Iran border and which links Azerbaijan with the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic.

Both Azerbaijan and Turkey have been pressing Armenia to allow them land transit access along Syunik, which Armenia has not accepted. Within this context, the Iranian Foreign Minister’s statement was heard clearly across Armenia’s borders in Baku, Ankara, and Moscow, as was intended.

Decoding the Armenia-Iran-Azerbaijan Triangle

Despite being an Islamic republic, having strong ethnic Armenian and Azeri communities within Iran, and having borders with both Armenia and Azerbaijan, Iran has traditionally enjoyed warmer relations with Armenia, for a variety of reasons. It alleges that Azerbaijan has irredentist aspirations towards Iran’s Azeri provinces, supports secessionist forces, and refers to the provinces as Southern Azerbaijan in the local media. Azerbaijan’s close relations with Israel and Turkey also make Iran anxious about its intentions in the region.

Azerbaijan harbors similar suspicions and complaints against Iran for running anti-Azerbaijani propaganda, sponsoring Hezbollah activities in Azerbaijan, and conducting covert operations to weaken the Azerbaijani state.

Iran has always viewed Armenia as a more reliable partner in the Caucuses and it is its only gateway into the region. Due to this, Iran is against any moves by Azerbaijan and Turkey to acquire a land corridor through Armenia that would disconnect the two allies. While it accepted Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020, it is wary of Azerbaijan’s expansionist plans.

Armenia Seeks Iranian Drones to Maintain Military Parity with Azerbaijan

According to some media reports, a senior Iranian military official, Major General Yahia Rahim Safavi, has revealed that Armenia is interested in purchasing Iran’s military drones to bridge the military imbalance with Azerbaijan. Naturally, Iran would be glad to help its ally boost up its defense capabilities against an unfriendly neighbor.

Iran has supplied Russia with at least three types of drones—the Mohajer-6 which has a 200-km range, the Shahed-129 which travels up to 450 km, and the Shahed-191, which goes up to 2000 km. Despite no official word from the two countries, Ukraine claims to have shot down and captured several Mohajer-6 drones coming in from Russia to drop payloads over Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities.

Can Iranian Drones Match Up to Azerbaijan’s Turkish Drones?

Both Ukraine and Azerbaijan are among the biggest buyers of Turkey’s Bayraktar TB2 military drones. These drones have been credited for playing an instrumental role in Azerbaijan’s decisive victory over Armenia in the 2020 conflict and helping Ukraine resist the Russian invasion in 2022. In the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Azerbaijan’s fleet of TB2 drones was responsible for destroying nearly 40 percent of Armenia’s inventory of military equipment. The Ukrainian Air Force has officially confirmed only two successful attacks on Russian targets using the TB2 drones.

Given these facts, it is unlikely that the addition of Iranian drones to Armenia’s arsenal will put Azerbaijan on the back foot.

Russia will also be watching the developments closely as they affect key allies Iran and Armenia and involve Turkey—its key rival in the Black Sea—as well. Moscow is the primary guarantor of peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan and has become alerted to European efforts to increase diplomatic influence in the Caucuses and tap into its vast gas reserves.

Can Timely Diplomacy Avert a Second Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict?

Azerbaijan and Armenia entered into a fresh round of violence soon after midnight on Tuesday, 13 September, each accusing the other of undue provocation and claiming to have responded ‘proportionately’.

Based on the information currently available, Azerbaijan is said to have fired mortar shells at Armenian troops stationed along the border. Azerbaijan defends this move by claiming that Armenian forces were amassing ammunition and setting up landmines along the border, and had even fired at Azerbaijani posts, bringing the Azerbaijani border districts under threat. These districts include Lachin which had until recently been under the control of Russian peacekeeping troops under the terms of the 2020 ceasefire agreement, and had been handed over to the Azerbaijani forces last month.

Losses on Both Sides

The attacks took place near three important cities on the Armenian side, Jermuk, Goris and Sotk, according to a statement issued by the Armenian Defense Ministry, resulting in a loss of 49 Armenian soldiers. Armenia’s defense ministry claims that attacks were also made against civilian infrastructure and struck near several villages and towns near the border with Azerbaijan. The losses on the Azerbaijani side have not been reported or confirmed although the Defense Ministry has acknowledged damage to its military installations.

Western Interests and Positions on the Clashes

This latest flare-up between two important countries of the South Caucuses has regional as well as international implications. At a time when the neighborhood is suffering from the fallout of the Russia-Ukraine war and tense negotiations between the US and Iran, another conflict in the region could spell disaster for peace. It is not surprising then that major world powers have been spurred to action to quell the rising tension between the two nations.

Responding to the Armenian outreach, US Secretary of State has called for both sides to end hostilities immediately, while sending a warning out to Russia to avoid any misadventures that could exacerbate the situation.

French President Macron has also requested both sides to abide by the 2020 ceasefire agreement and has stated that it will submit the matter to the UN Security Council.

The EU has recently been making diplomatic overtures towards both countries in order to replace Russia as the primary mediator in Armenia-Azerbaijan conflicts, and even offered a new peace treaty to both countries. Josep Borrell Fontelles, the EU’s foreign policy chief has called upon both countries to cease hostilities immediately and go back to negotiations. Additionally, the President of the European Council Charles Michel has stated the EU’s readiness to take steps for preventing further escalation and restore peace in the region. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has come out in full support of ally Azerbaijan by demanding that Armenia desist all provocative actions against it.

Russia Scrambles to Mediate

As expected, Moscow has taken serious note of these developments as it cannot afford another conflict in its backyard that would distract it from the ongoing Ukraine operation, where it has suffered some setbacks recently, especially territorial losses in the Kharkiv region, when key towns in the area were retaken by Ukrainian forces.

Nonetheless, responding to Armenia’s request to intervene under the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) of which Russia and Armenia are members, but Azerbaijan is not, Moscow has stepped in to bring both the parties to the negotiation table and restore the ceasefire. According to Dmitry Peskov, spokesperson of the Kremlin, President Putin is actively engaging leaders on both sides to resolve the tension at the earliest.

Implications for Russia’s Regional Involvement

If the two sides continue to escalate the violence despite regional and international efforts, the implications for Russia’s role in the region could be significant. Long regarded as the mediator of first instance in all disputes in the Caucuses, Russian supremacy both in Central Asia and the Caucuses may be challenged by Turkey, which allies itself strongly with Azerbaijan, as well as China. Not to mention the role of the EU, which has launched an aggressive charm offensive to wean away the two countries from Russian influence.

More important is the question of how long Russian can invest its energies in the Ukraine conflict at the cost of peace along the rest of its 20,241-kilometre border. For western powers desiring to divert Russia’s focus from its actions in Ukraine and ultimately bring the country down to its knees, such regional tensions could be very beneficial.

Will Armenia and Azerbaijan head towards another War?

The fresh skirmishes between Armenia and Azerbaijan border resulted in the casualties of soldiers according to the officials and media reports. Once again, the thick clouds of war are hovering on the South-Caucasus region.

It seems that both countries are engaged in an unending conflict. The border violence leads to the massive wars between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Both the countries had fought two full-fledged wars. Last year’s war resulted in the loss of 6000 live.

After the second Nagorno-Karabakh war in which Azerbaijan retaken its lands terming its liberated territories, both the countries signed a ceasefire arrangement brokered by Russia. After the ceasefire agreement, the current border violence is the biggest one in recent months. However both sides still apparently stuck with the Russian brokered ceasefire deal.

Armenia In A State Of Doldrums: Making An End To Its International Isolation Become Uphill Task

In a bid to demonstrate a sequel of economic betterment, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian successfully show off the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council meeting in the capital city of Yerevan amidst the mounting pressure of the public to curb the country’s worst economic crisis.

Besides Eurasia Economic member states the leaders of non- Eurasian Economic Union states’ heads, Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong and Iranian President Hassan Rohani also attended this event.

Amidst the presence of keynote member states and state heads of economic like Singapore, the million-dollar question is raised, how this gathering of the heads of states will reduce the Armenian isolation in the international arena?

Mega corruption and poverty-stricken economy witnessed mass-opposition protests in Armenia, eventually forced Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan to resign on April 23, 2018. The political turmoil resulted in forming a new government. The Armenians people had given a mandate to Nikol Pashinian waiting for a miracle for the redress of all their miseries.

To streamlines, the country’s ramshackle economy is not an easy task for the new incumbent Prime Minister. Pashinian’s have mammoth challenges in the limited time under the growing pressure of the people demanding him to deliver what he promised during his election campaign.

Armenia has a long history of facing numerous challenges from a political turmoil to a newly elected government of Nikol Pashinian the path is topsy-turvy.

The country has massive economic challenges. Rather than finding economic solutions, Nikol Pashinian is trying to divert the public attention towards national security issues. It’s much easy to engage the public into hostile rhetoric against its neighboring Azerbaijan rather than delivering for what he was voted by his countrymen.

Around 11 percent of the Armenian population lives under the poverty line by earning less than $3.20 (1,530 Armenian drams) a day. The government is facing a constant budget deficit that leads towards a 16 percent unemployment rate all-time high.

The meetings like the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council are a positive gesture to improve the ruined image of Armenia but how much benefit Armenia can get from these events where mostly the big shares go in the mouths of big fishes.

The ticking clock is going against tall claims made by Nikol Pashinian during his election to improve the country’s economy and to end poverty in his country.

Armenia is in a trap between internal and external challenges. The impact of the external challenges is directly affecting the internal situation of the country.

The fast-developing situation on Nagorno-Karabakh by the international community is increasing pressure on Armenian to end this illegal occupation of the 20 percent territory of Azerbaijan. Armenian claims are not getting serious attention in the international arena.

The United Nations (UN) resolution violation by Armenia is resulting in global isolation. On another side, Armenia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anna Naghdalyan rejected a statement by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that he made on Nagorno-Karabakh recently and Armenian rhetoric can lead to a major rift between the two countries.