Decades of conflict: The complex history of Armenia-Azerbaijan relations

Lebanon – Feb 27 2024

Report by Yazbek Wehbe, English adaptation by Nadine Sassine
One hundred and twenty years of wars and conflicts between the two neighboring countries, Armenia and Azerbaijan, the essence of which is an ethnic-sectarian conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, or Artsakh according to the Armenian name, as well as border disputes.

Two major wars between the two countries during the last four decades, in the years 1992 and 2022, in addition to the small wars, caused about forty thousand deaths and displaced over a million people from both sides.

More than once, negotiations took place between the two parties to resolve the dispute, but they did not succeed, without forgetting how complex the conflict was, as Armenia was receiving support from Iran while Turkey and Israel stood alongside Azerbaijan.

After Russia had emphasized its commitment to protecting regional stability and ensuring Armenia's sovereignty, in the past two years, its commercial interests prevailed and it became closer to Azerbaijan. 

As for the United States, it stands to some extent in the middle despite its criticism of Baku, even if it is interested in not expanding Moscow's influence.

Last September, the Armenians of Artsakh decided to stop fighting and withdraw from the region following an Azerbaijani attack. They felt that most of the world had abandoned them and even those closest to them, so the region came under Azerbaijani control. A large portion of its population left, while a minority remained reassured by Azerbaijan’s announcement that it seeks the peaceful reintegration of the region.

Attempts were made between Baku and Yerevan to reach a comprehensive peace agreement, but obstacles emerged, as Azerbaijan refused in mid-November to participate in talks with Armenia in Washington because of what it considered the latter’s biased position.

The picture has changed in the past weeks, as Germany is hosting the delegations of the two countries on Wednesday and Thursday after a meeting that brought together ten days ago in Munich, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, in which they agreed to continue negotiations between their countries.

As for why Germany was chosen, because Azerbaijan objects to Paris hosting any meeting, considering it a party to its clear support for Armenia, Germany was chosen for its active role in the European Union.

The negotiations aim to avoid more problems, resolve border disputes, and enhance stability, amid the continuing atmosphere of caution between the two countries and the fear of a return to the language of war.

But will the regional role be influential and supportive of such a rapprochement, or will interests play a role?