(Image courtesy of David Stanley, https://flic.kr/p/ZemSxS; CC BY 2.0, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)
Fountain Valley High School

The Armenian-Azerbaijani war, explained

On Sept. 27, long-standing tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the jurisdiction of the Nagorno-Karabakh territory (often referred to as the Republic of Artsakh) erupted into war. With the conflict garnering international attention, the United States, among other countries, has entered the region to help broker a ceasefire.

Truces, first brokered by Russia and then France, have been broken with both sides accusing each other of violating them. Armenia has had 874 military personnel deaths and 37 civilian deaths at the time of writing as reported by the Nagorno-Karabakh Defence Minister. Azerbaijan has reported 61 civilian deaths but has not yet reported any military deaths.

Nagorno-Karabakh has been internationally recognized as belonging to Azerbaijan, but the majority of the territory’s population is Armenian. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the ethnic Armenian enclave declared independence in 1991 and began a war that ended in a 1994 ceasefire.

The war resumed last month following an Azerbaijani military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh, which Azerbaijan claimed was in response to Armenian shelling. Armenia reacted by declaring martial law and mobilizing its troops.

In response to the restarted outbreak of fighting, Armenian President Armen Sarkissian said, in an interview with France 24, “Why on Earth on the 27th of September [did] Azerbaijan start a war against the… people of Nagorno-Karabakh.”

Following an incident where an Armenian SU-25 fighter jet was shot down allegedly by a Turkish F-16, President Sarkissian gave a statement on Oct. 21 at the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO, of which Armenia is a member), stressing that “there can be no war solution to this conflict.”

Sarkissian recognized that “a third party [Turkey] is involved in action there… that has supported and brought to the area Islamic terrorists and unfortunately that third party is a member of NATO” and urged “that a NATO member like Turkey will stop being a part of the conflict and will contribute to the ceasefire.”

In a speech at the inauguration ceremony of the Turkish Parliament, Turkish President Erdogan Tayyip sided with Azerbaijan and said that “permanent peace in the Nagorno-Karabakh region will only be possible if Armenia leaves the Azerbaijani lands it has been occupying.” Turkey is a close ally with Azerbaijan and is Azerbaijan’s third-largest military equipment provider.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev denied foreign involvement in an interview with Fox News on Oct. 23 saying that Azerbaijan is “against any form of internationalization of the conflict” and that the claims of mercenaries fighting for Azerbaijan were “fake news just in order to damage the image of our country.” President Aliyev also responded to the failure of the past two ceasefires saying that Azerbaijan is “ready to agree on a ceasefire today.”

The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has urged the two countries to end fighting.

“The tragic loss of civilian lives, including children, from the latest reported strike on 16 October on the city of Ganja is totally unacceptable, as are indiscriminate attacks on populated areas anywhere, including in Stepanakert/Khankendi and other localities in and around the immediate Nagorno-Karabakh zone of conflict,” Guterres’ spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

Along with the UN, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Minsk Group’s Co-Chairs Igor Popov of the Russian Federation, Stephane Visconti of France and Andrew Schofer of the United States released a statement saying they “remain actively and fully engaged in facilitating negotiations for a peaceful and comprehensive settlement in accordance with their OSCE mandate.”

On Oct. 23, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with foreign ministers from Azerbaijan and Armenia in another attempt to broker a ceasefire. The meeting resulted in a ceasefire, which Azerbaijan broke again.

Last month, the war finally ended with a peace deal negotiated between Armenia and Azerbaijan.