On November 10, Tuesday, Russia intervened between Armenia and Azerbaijan and brokered a new peace deal to alleviate tensions on account of a military conflict in which the two countries have been involved for over six weeks. The conflict is rooted in the disputes in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the South Caucasus.
The conflict is considered one of the most serious and momentous in recent years. As per the Nagorno-Karabakh authorities, During the course of the dissension, more than 1200 people have lost their lives while thousands have been displaced.
The peace deal proposed by Russia is placed with the aim to end the conflict between the two nations. The document is signed by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan. Since September, when the conflict started, a lot of ceasefire agreements have been proposed and signed between the two heated nations. However, none so far has been successful.
How did the recent conflict start?
On the morning of September 27, both the intrigued nations have claimed to have inflicted massive and considerable losses on the other. However, this time the difference in the flare-up is that for the very first time each of the countries has proclaimed martial law.
The Warsaw-based Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW) says that the fire in the current escalation was “most likely” set up by Azerbaijan in the first place. This falls in line with what the media has reported. The media proclaims that the clashes were possibly a fallout of Azerbaijan’s bid to gain back some regions that are controlled by separatist Armenians.
In a statement, the chairman of Azerbaijan’s National Council said, “military operation of the Azerbaijani army continues to clear the territories occupied by the enemy for almost 30 years and September 27 was a ‘day of exhaustion’”. He also said alleged Armenia of using “direct support” of Russia to create a “security zone” to occupy regions around Nagorno-Karabakh.
What is the new Russian peace deal?
As per the terms and agreements of the new peace deal, both countries will now maintain positions in the areas that currently under their hold and capacity. This would somehow go in favor of Azerbaijan as it has already reclaimed more than 15-20 percent of the disputed territory during the recent conflict.
Moreover, all military operations need to be suspended and Russian peacekeepers will also be deployed in areas of maximum tensions, such as along the Lachin corridor that connects the region to Armenia and along the line of contact in Nagorno-Karabakh. This Russian force of as many as 2,000 peacekeepers will be deployed in the area for a period of five years.
Further, the internally displaced people as well as the refugees will come back to the region and the adjacent territories. Apart from this, both the nations shall also exchange prisoners of wars and bodies. After all this, a new corridor operated and controlled by the Russian authorities will be opened from Nakhchivan to Azerbaijan.
As per the reports by BBC, several people hurdled in the Armenian capital to protest against this peace deal. However, on the contrary, Azerbaijan’s Aliyev has said that the agreement was of “historic importance”.
What is the confusion in regard to the Nagorno-Karabakh region?
Geographically, Nagorno-Karabakh straddles western Asia and Eastern Europe. It is internationally recognized as a part of Azerbaijan territory since the Soviet era even though most of the region is under the control of Armenian separatists. When the Soviet Union started collapsing in the late 1980s, Armenia’s regional parliament voted to transfer the region to Armenia, a demand which the Soviet authorities turned down.
Azerbaijan forces and Armenian separatists then got entangled in several years of clashes and disruptions with the violence lasting into the 1990s, when it left thousands dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. It was in 1994 when Russia called out a ceasefire, by which time ethnic Armenians had captured the entire region.
Even though currently the disputed territory is geographically located in Azerbaijan, it is governed by separatist Armenians. They have declared it a republic and is now called the “Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast”. The Armenian government still does not recognize the region as independent but supports it politically and militarily.
What about the other ceasefire agreements?
The 1994 peace deal was not very satisfactory as the region has been marked by regular ceasefire activities. In 2016 as well, Russia has to mediate between the parties to establish peace after a Four-Day War. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group has made all efforts to get the two countries to concede on a peace agreement for several years. The OSCE is chaired by France, Russia, and the US.
The latest ceasefire agreement was brokered by Russia only, this October, but was unsuccessful.
What is the role of ethnicity in elevating the dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia?
Decades-long ethnic tensions also play an important role in the dispute as the Azeris hold a stand that the Nagorno-Karabakh region was controlled by their ancestors while the Armenians believe that Karabakh was included in the Armenian kingdom. In regards to ethnicity, the disputed region comprises a majority Armenian Christian population. However, the Christian population is internationally considered a part of Muslim-majority Azerbaijan.
But, why is Putin so interested in this peace deal? What are the stakes for Russia?
Russia plays a quintessential role in the conflict.
It is because Russia supplies arms to both- Armenia and Azerbaijan. Another reason for Russia’s involvement is that it is in a military alliance with Armenia called the Collective Security Treaty Organisation.