Turkey Behing Armenia-Azerbaijan Flare Up?

  • In Armenia, no one denies the need to ensure the inviolability of Nagorno-Karabakh.
  • Azerbaijan can't afford the loss of Nagorno-Karabakh purely based on pride.
  • Both nations will not benefit the start of war.

On Sunday, tensions rose near the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. As a result, people took to the streets in the capital of Azerbaijan, Baku, and even entered the parliament building. For Armenia, the once fought-over region of Nagorno-Karabakh is both a heavy burden and a symbol of valor and military spirit.

Nagorno-Karabakh is a disputed territory, internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but mostly governed by the Republic of Artsakh (formerly named Nagorno-Karabakh Republic), a de facto independent state with an Armenian ethnic majority established on the basis of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. Since the end of the Nagorno-Karabakh War in 1994, representatives of the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan have been holding peace talks mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group on the region’s disputed status.

Given the specific mentality in the region, any symbol has be defended, even if it would lead to bloodshed. In Armenia, no one denies the need to ensure the inviolability of Nagorno-Karabakh.

On the other hand, after the memorable events that brought Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to power, the influential “Artsakh clan”— that is, of the self-proclaimed, breakaway republic comprising most of the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh— was removed from power.  Its representative, and former President of both Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, was  under investigation.

Pashinyan is in a precarious position. He has to deal with the attacks by the opposition, and yet he needs to facilitate a referendum on the powers of the Constitutional Court of the Republic, and all against the background of the coronavirus pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has seriously affected Armenia, with natural consequences in the form of economic difficulties.

It should be noted, that Azerbaijan is far superior, from the economic prospective. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Armenia failed to develop strong economy. Azerbaijan’s economy is largely based on the Caspian oil sales. Armenia’s trump card is Russian support.

Overall, Armenia does not need the conflict to escalate at this time. The coronavirus pandemic continues to effect the nation, as well as on global economies generally. Nevertheless, Armenia can’t ignore Azerbaijan, and has to respond to any provocations.

Azerbaijan can’t afford the loss of Nagorno-Karabakh purely based on pride. The long-standing conflict has a significant impact on the Azerbaijani foreign and defense policies. One of Azerbaijan’s advantages is the significantly larger population and stronger defense forces.

There are no diplomatic relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, largely due to the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Due to the two wars waged by the countries in the past century—one from 1918 to 1921 and another from 1988 to 1994—the two have had strained relations.

Additionally, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has thrown his support in favor of the Azerbaijan. At the same time, however, Turkey would have no chance in a conflict against Russia.

Moreover, Azerbaijan does not want a full-blown conflict now. Neither side will be satisfied, and at the same time, will not give rest to the movement of the line of division of troops for a couple of kilometers.

Each side, in order to win this conflict, would need to gain control of each other’s capital cities, which won’t happen. Therefore, the conflict will reach en passe. This conflict is infused with bravado, but it will not materialize into the full war, as it would be completely foolish for both nations.

It is highly likely that Turkey is responsible for the new tensions. Turkey and Russia have polar opposite agendas, and Erdogan continues to struggle with Libya and Syria. It could have been Turkish strategy to aggravate the Kremlin with the renewed Karabakh tensions.

Only time will tell the severity of the latest flare up of the conflict. The Kremlin does not forget or forgive.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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