Nagorno-Karabakh: The History And Present Situation Of Bloody Conflict – Analysis

May 30 2023

By Matija Šerić

When any objective observer looks at the geopolitical map of the world and its crisis hotspots sooner or later he will reach Nagorno Karabakh in the South Caucasus. This ethnically Armenian region within Azerbaijan has been the subject of a dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan for a century. Because of it, two countries and two peoples have been at war for more than 100 years, of course at intervals.

Fragile peace reigns there for the most part, but wars and incidents occasionally break out, resulting in heavy casualties. What’s worse, that remote mountainous region is toxically poisoning Armenian-Azerbaijani relations, and there is no end in sight to the conflict. Although there are crisis hotspots around the globe, in terms of the use of force, the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh can only be compared to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even during the most peaceful periods, it is a matter of a week or a month when the blood of soldiers or civilians will be spilled.

The name of the province has interesting roots. The word nagorno means “mountainous” in Russian, while the word “karabah” is a combination of Turkish and Persian words that together mean “black garden”. The region is located between Lower Karabakh and Syunik on the southeastern massif of the Lesser Caucasus. Through Nagorno-Karabakh flow several small, fast-moving rivers that pass through mineral-rich country on their way to the central valley. The result is rugged but agriculturally rich land with a handful of forests. The area of the region is 4,400 square kilometers. That it is a mountainous area is indicated by the fact that, on average, the region is 1,100 meters above sea level. The capital is Stepanakert, which in practice is the capital of the unrecognized Republic of Artsakh.

The region does not directly border Armenia, but it is connected to it through the Lachin Corridor – a mountain pass that has been under the control of Russian peacekeeping forces since the end of 2020. The natural environment varies from the steppe in the lowlands to dense forests of oak, hornbeam and beech on the lower mountain slopes to birch forest and alpine meadows. The region has numerous resources such as mineral springs and deposits of zinc, coal, lead, gold, marble and limestone. Relatively close, somewhat further north, important oil and gas pipelines from the direction of Azerbaijan to Turkey and the European Union pass, therefore the energy importance of the province is visible. Any conflict threatens to disrupt Europe’s oil and gas supply.

The Ottoman, Persian and Russian Empires have long considered Nagorno-Karabakh as part of the Caucasus Mountains, which formed a natural barrier against the attacks of other powers. The province has been home to Armenian Christians and Azeri Muslims since ancient times. Depending on which great power had power, it favored one nation at the expense of another. This helped build a firm enmity between the two very related Caucasian peoples. In the 19th century, the region was ruled by Tsarist Russia, which granted privileges to Armenians. That is why the Armenian Orthodox Christian population grew, while the number of Muslims continuously decreased, and they fled to Iran and Turkey. The Russian census of 1897 revealed that Nagorno-Karabakh was home to 43% Armenians and 55% Azeris.

The tension between the two nations grew under Russian rule. Pogroms claimed the lives of thousands of both nations during the chaotic Russian Revolution of 1905. This happened again on a much larger scale after the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917. When the newly independent Azerbaijan claimed Nagorno-Karabakh in 1918, the province’s majority Armenian population resisted, forming the Armenian Karabakh National Council. British forces stationed in the region after the end of World War I provided support to Azerbaijan, hoping to break the country away from Soviet influence and gain access to significant oil reserves. Fearing a hostile environment, Karabakh Armenians attacked Azerbaijani garrisons in 1920. In response, the Azerbaijani army razed the Armenian quarter of Shusha, the largest city in the region, and thousands of Armenian civilians were killed.

While the Azerbaijani army was occupying Nagorno-Karabakh, it lost control of Baku in April 1920, which was occupied by the Bolsheviks. By 1921, the entire South Caucasus was under Soviet control. With the departure of the British, there were some indications that Nagorno-Karabakh would be transferred to the Armenian state, but the geopolitical situation changed in early 1921 with the normalization of relations between the USSR and Turkey. As a concession to Turkey (the Turks were afraid of a strong Armenian state), the province was incorporated into the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic as an autonomous province. This was foreseen by the Turkish-Soviet agreement on the normalization of relations.

However, it did not go smoothly either. The Soviet authorities formed the Kavburo (a seven-member commission for the South Caucasus) which on July 4, 1921 made a controversial decision to include Nagorno-Karabakh in the Armenian SSR! However, the very next day there was a protest by Azeri comrades, so Stalin only confirmed what had already been agreed with the Turks that the province would remain part of Azerbaijan. Stalin did not invent anything new, but only confirmed the observance of historical borders. Finally, a decree from Baku in July 1923 defined the province as part of the autonomous province of the Azerbaijan SSR. Nagorno-Karabakh received broad regional autonomy, the center was in Shusha, which was later transferred to Stepanakert.

The borders of the province were drawn to include Armenian villages and to exclude as many Azerbaijani ones as possible. However, the emigration of Azerbaijanis continued and by 1926 the province was 94% Armenian. The seasonal presence of Azeris in the region was further reduced during the collectivization campaigns of the 1930s. All this helped strengthen Armenian aspirations for territory.

The Armenian majority in the province soon resented what they saw as excessive Azerbaijani influence. Although the autonomous provinces in the Soviet Union were granted wide cultural and linguistic freedom, Armenian language teachers in Azerbaijan could study in Stepanakert or Baku, but Azerbaijani officials never gave them permission to study in the Armenian capital of Yerevan. The residents of Nagorno-Karabakh demanded greater autonomy, but the authorities of Soviet Azerbaijan persistently refused. Armenian birth rates began to decline and many left the region to work in larger cities. The rural population of the area was once again taking on an Azerbaijani character, aided by the republican government from Baku, which encouraged Azerbaijani settlement.

By 1979, Nagorno-Karabakh was approximately 25% Azerbaijani. This change exacerbated tensions again. Armenian and Azerbaijani historians at this time also began to propagate radically different views of the history and culture of the region, setting the stage for the coming conflict. That conflict would have to wait until the USSR entered its final phase of existence under Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 1980s. It should be noted that despite the ethnic tensions, as long as the USSR was strong, the province lived in peace.

Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost put the wind behind Karabakh secessionist demands for unification with Armenia in 1988. Later that year, ethnic conflicts erupted, and anti-Armenian riots claimed many lives in the Azerbaijani cities of Baku and Sumgait. Attacks on Azeris took place in Nagorno-Karabakh and then spread to Armenia. Moscow placed the province under a state of emergency in the winter of 1988, but the weakening Soviet state could do little to reconcile the two sides. The incidents became even more violent and by November 1989 the Soviets had come to terms with the situation, lifting the state of emergency without a clear peace plan.

The situation spiraled out of control after Azerbaijan declared independence from the USSR in October 1991, and Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence from Azerbaijan in December 1991 following a referendum in which 99% of voters opted for independence. Azeris boycotted the referendum. Armenia supported the secessionist aspirations of its compatriots, however, with the collapse of the USSR, the republic’s borders became interstate borders, so the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh became an internal issue of Azerbaijan. However, Armenia intervened and civil war between the two new nations began.

From the beginning of 1992 to the beginning of 1994, the first war for Nagorno-Karabakh was fought. An additional impetus to the war was given by the expulsion of the population: Armenians from Azerbaijan and Azeris from Armenia. Armenian troops focused their forces on Agdam, Fuzuli and Jabrayil districts. After a siege and heavy fighting, the Armenians captured Agdam and then Fuzuli and Jabrayil. These are strategically very important areas between Nagorno-Karabakh and the border with Iran.

At the same time, the Armenians consolidated control over the key Lachin Corridor, which connects the disputed region with Armenia. Although at the end of 1993, Azerbaijani troops launched a counter-offensive, it failed and did not bring significant progress. Through the mediation of the Russian Federation, a truce was signed in May 1994 in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek. At that moment, Armenian troops controlled 14% of Azerbaijan.

The result was an Armenian victory, that is, control over the disputed province as well as seven additional border regions of Azerbaijan that were used as buffer zones around Nagorno-Karabakh. Between 15,000 and 20,000 people, including civilians, are estimated to have been killed during the fighting and hundreds of thousands displaced. About 200,000 Armenians left Azerbaijan, and 185,000 Azerbaijanis fled Armenia. 50 thousand Azeris left Nagorno-Karabakh and an additional 500 thousand fled from the Azerbaijani provinces occupied by the Armenian army. Numerous foreign mercenaries and/or volunteers from Ukraine, Russia and beyond took part in the war. Between 1,500 and 2,500 Afghan Mujahideen and Chechen fighters participated on the Azeri side. Both sides made extensive use of Russian weapons and equipment.

For the next twenty years, a fragile peace followed, in which both sides were still considered enemies, and the truce would occasionally be violated. The issue of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh continued to dominate the political life of both countries. At least two Armenian prime ministers came from that province, which has taken an important place in the Armenian identity – it is even presented as the “Armenian paradise”. Unlike them, the Azerbaijani government continued to remind its population of the conflict and problems caused by the Armenian occupation of the south of the country.

This was followed by diplomatic efforts of the international community for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Back in 1992, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) created the Minsk Group in order to find a diplomatic solution. In 1996 in Lisbon, the co-chairs of the Minsk Group became Russia, France and the USA, which took over the leadership of the peace process. The group proposed ending the Armenian occupation of seven Azerbaijani regions and granting autonomy to Nagorno-Karabakh out of respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of both Azerbaijan and Armenia.

The plan was to give the disputed province the greatest degree of autonomy in exchange for its remaining in Azerbaijan. Also, care was always taken of the return of displaced persons. The plans failed in 1996 and 1997 due to Armenian opposition as the Armenians did not want to give up the stolen parts of Azerbaijani territory. In 1999, under the auspices of the Minsk Group, the Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations continued in the USA, but there were no results.

Diplomatic mediations continued in Prague in April 2004. That and the following year, 11 meetings of representatives of the two countries were held, but no peace agreement was reached. In 2006, it seemed that there might be a convergence of views, but the negotiations in Rambouillet and Bucharest ended ingloriously. In November 2007, negotiations were held in Madrid. The so-called Madrid principles: the withdrawal of Armenian troops from Azerbaijan, the granting of autonomy to Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan, free access to the Lachin corridor, the right of refugees to return, etc.

In December 2009, a joint statement was adopted by the Minsk Group and the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia, which stated on progress in the adoption of the “Madrid principles”. In October 2010, in Astrakhan, the two presidents agreed to exchange prisoners and enable the return of the remains of those killed. Commitment to a peaceful solution was reaffirmed. However, all these efforts of the Minsk Group and other mediators did not yield concrete results. In April 2016, a four-day war broke out on Azeri initiative, as they were annoyed by the failure of diplomacy. Territorial changes were minor and losses were suffered by both.

Tensions continued in an extremely uneasy geopolitical atmosphere between the West and the East. In July 2020, Armenian forces attacked the city of Tovuz in Azerbaijan, which is of strategic importance as it is located on important energy routes. The conflict motivated the Azeri side to try to improve the situation on the battlefield in their favor with a major offensive. At the end of September 2020, the six-week Second War for Nagorno-Karabakh began, in which Azerbaijan won a significant victory. Thanks to Russian diplomacy, the war ended on November 10.

Baku returned all occupied territories outside the disputed region as well as parts of Nagorno-Karabakh, including the culturally significant city of Shusha. Approximately two thousand Russian soldiers are deployed as peacekeepers along the Lachin Corridor with a mandate of at least five years. The war was marked by the use of drones, sensors, long-range heavy artillery and rocket attacks, as well as state propaganda. The UN strongly condemned the war, but this did not stop its duration.

The war of 2020 brought changes in favor of Azerbaijan, but the problem of Nagorno-Karabakh still remains relevant. There still exists the internationally unrecognized Republic of Artsakh on 3,100 square kilometers, which is isolated from the world except Armenia. An illegal Armenian entity still exists in the heart of Azerbaijan. The population is 99.7% Armenian, and the primary language is Armenian. The region is connected to Armenia via the narrow Lachin Corridor.

The international community called for a peaceful solution to the conflict through negotiations, but the US, Russia and China remained mostly neutral without taking more concrete steps. Azerbaijan, now that it has the strong support of Turkey after the armistice, remains a far more powerful country. Admittedly, recently, while Armenia is ruled by a pro-Western government in principle with Nikola Pashinyan, the USA is trying to support the Armenians, but concrete results have not been seen yet.

In recent months, the situation has been heating up even more. March and April of this year saw sporadic clashes, the deadliest since a brief escalation in September 2022 when Armenian officials said Azerbaijan had killed 105 of their officers and Azerbaijanis reported 71 of its forces were killed. Since December 2022, the Laca corridor has been blocked by activists under the guise of environmental protection, but actually for political reasons.

The blockade generates severe consequences for the population. The import of food, fuel and medicine was blocked, and 120 thousand inhabitants of the province were captured, creating a humanitarian crisis. Shortages of food, medicine and electricity are widespread. Armenia’s foreign ministry said the checkpoints were a “flagrant violation” of the 2020 ceasefire agreement. It called on Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh to “eliminate the illegal blockade” and ensure the withdrawal of Azerbaijani forces.

With Russia preoccupied with Ukraine, the EU has taken a leading role in mediating between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the last two years, and for good reason: success in stabilizing the South Caucasus would pay off economically. That is it would mitigate the negative consequences of sanctions against Russia, as Azerbaijan could easily become the main supplier of oil and gas to the EU. At the strategic level, the EU does not need new wars in the neighborhood, but peace. President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan spoke on May 14 in Brussels, hosted by Charles Michel, President of the European Council. In the coming weeks, it is planned that additional talks will follow in other countries of the East and West, but the question is whether they will bring concrete progress. Even if something is agreed upon, it is questionable whether and how it will be implemented on the field. A good example is the Israeli-Palestinian agreements, for example, from Oslo in 1993, which were never implemented on the ground.

Whatever solution is agreed upon for Nagorno-Karabakh, it is important that it be of a peaceful character. Neither side has the ability to unilaterally defeat the other and get what they want. No one can carry out their Opeation Storm like Croatia in 1995. The only rational solution is to respect the international borders of Azerbaijan and the peaceful reintegration of the disputed region into the constitutional and legal order of Azerbaijan. At the same time, Armenians should receive all possible rights as a national minority and Nagorno Karabakh as a majority Armenian province. A good example is the successful reintegration of the Croatian Danube region from 1996 to 1998 under the supervision of the UN.

The province could be given a high degree of autonomy like the German-majority South Tyrol in Italy or the Swedish autonomous province of Åland within Finland. A good example is the rights of cantons in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina according to the original Washington Agreement. In any case, demilitarization should be started, political autonomy should be granted to Nagorno-Karabakh, and the political, cultural, linguistic and religious rights of minorities should be institutionally ensured. The agreement should be created by the representatives of the Azerbaijani and Armenian people, not EU bureaucrats or bureaucrats from America, Russia or Turkey. There are exceptions, but most of them are arrogant foreigners who primarily look at their own promotion. After all, it is unthinkable that the EU, USA or Turkey were shaped by foreign diplomatic negotiators. Foreigners can only be mediators and never tutors. When Armenians and Azeris realize that they are directed at each other more than at anyone else, the solution will be in sight.

CSI launches social media campaign for Armenians threatened by genocide

May 30 2023

As Azerbaijan tightens noose around Armenians, “The Cost of Silence” campaign seeks to mobilize support

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND, May 30, 2023/ — Human rights group Christian Solidarity International is launching a month-long social media campaign, entitled “The Cost of Silence,” on Tuesday, May 30, to highlight the growing threat of genocide faced by Armenian Christians in Nagorno Karabakh and the Republic of Armenia.

The campaign grew out of a fact-finding mission to southern Armenia in late March this year. A CSI team traveled to several villages on the tense Armenia-Azerbaijan border, where they were able to meet with Armenian families displaced from Karabakh by Azerbaijan’s 2020 invasion and ethnic cleansing campaign, as well as survivors of Azerbaijan’s 2022 assault on the Republic of Armenia.

The night before the CSI team arrived in the region, Azerbaijani forces occupied 110 hectares of Armenian farmland nearby. Two weeks after their visit, on April 11 the same villages they visited were bombarded by the Azerbaijani military.

“The Cost of Silence” seeks to share the stories of these Armenians with a wide audience. People who interact with the campaign will have the opportunity to sign a pledge of solidarity with Armenian Christians under attack, calling on their governments to do everything in their power to break Azerbaijan’s siege. They will also be directed to a range of advocacy resources to take action on behalf of the Armenians.

The region of Nagorno Karabakh, where 120,000 Armenian Christians live, has been under siege by the dictatorship of Azerbaijan since December 12. Azerbaijan has blocked the only road connecting the region to the Republic of Armenia, and thus to the rest of the world. It has also cut gas and electricity lines into the region. A humanitarian disaster is in the making.

In 2020, Azerbaijan launched a full-scale war against Nagorno Karabakh, killing thousands, driving tens of thousands of Armenians out of their homes, and committing numerous war crimes against civilians and captured soldiers. In September 2022, Azerbaijan launched a two-day assault on the Republic of Armenia itself.

Azerbaijan’s dictator, Ilham Aliyev, has referred to Armenians as “dogs,” “rats,” and “humanoid creatures,” and pledged to “drive them out of our lands” – which according to Aliyev, includes not only Nagorno Karabakh, but nearly all of the Republic of Armenia itself.

Christian Solidarity International (CSI) and other human rights organizations have issued a Genocide Warning for Armenian Christians in Nagorno Karabakh.
CSI’s campaign webpage for “The Cost of Silence” can be visited at:

Contact: Joel Veldkamp | [email protected]

CSI is an interconfessional Christian human rights organization, campaigning for religious liberty and human dignity.

Joel Veldkamp
Christian Solidarity International
email us here
Visit us on social media:

CSI's Joel Veldkamp discusses the looming threat of potential genocide in Armenia.

Overcoming the Challenges of Transitional Mobilization

May 31 2023

Tuesday, May 30, 2023 / BY: Suha Hassen;  Jonathan Pinckney

Nonviolent action can be a powerful way to bring about peaceful transitions from autocratic rule to democracy. But even when initially successful, movement leaders often face significant challenges, from frustrations that grievances are not addressed quickly enough to counterrevolutions aimed at restoring the authoritarian status quo. This report examines two recent transitions—the 2011 Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia and Armenia’s 2018 Velvet Revolution—and presents recommendations for improving the likelihood that change initiated through nonviolent action leads to robust and lasting democracy.

Political transitions that originate in nonviolent action campaigns are more likely to lead to democracy than transitions that originate through other means. Yet even political transitions that begin with this democratizing advantage face several challenges along the uncertain road to democracy. The organizers, activists, and political parties that unified to initiate the transition often face pressure to fragment into competing factions, a dynamic that can lead to outbreaks of violence. Previously independent civil society forces must decide whether and how to engage with the transitional government, which may deprive them of critical leadership and temper the transformative character of their demands. And actors across the political spectrum must balance retaining autonomy with accepting external support from foreign donors and aid organizations.

A growing literature and the examples of two recent cases, the 2011–2014 transition in Tunisia, the so-called Jasmine Revolution, and the 2018 transition in Armenia, the Velvet Revolution, serve to illustrate these challenges. While the details differ from case to case, an overarching finding is that the challenges, and hence their solutions, are embedded in the kinds of relationships activist movements develop internally and with civil society, the transitional government, and external actors. This schema provides a way for activists and supporters to understand better how to respond to and mitigate disruptions that could threaten the success of a transition, particularly preventing outbreaks of violence.

The actionable recommendations provided in this report emphasize excellent communication among the different actors, shared strategies for engagement among activist groups, and clarity in the roles external partners may play, all as means to improve the likelihood of achieving a robust and lasting post-transition democracy.

Among activists and civil society actors, the report recommends developing dense networks of communication, expanding tactical repertoires to include tactics that have lower risks of violent escalation, and pursuing contention through systematized, structured interactions that lower the stakes of any single political struggle. For the relationship between activists and transitional governments, the report recommends fostering a wide spectrum of civil society–government interactions, from confrontational to cooperative, to build the capacity of transitional governments to bring about political reforms while maintaining external accountability structures to ensure they will do so. Finally, for the relationship between civil society activists and international actors, the report emphasizes the importance of local autonomy and providing types of support (particularly training and convening) that allow local actors to be the primary drivers of transitional reforms.

Civic engagement and mobilization vary in political transitions that originate in nonviolent action, with ramifications for long-term peace and democracy. This report provides recommendations for resolving common challenges that arise during the transition period, drawing on insights from the 2011 Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia and the 2018 Velvet Revolution in Armenia. The report was funded through an interagency agreement between the United States Institute of Peace and the Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance Center at USAID.

Suha Hassen is a PhD candidate at George Mason University and a research analyst for the Nonviolent Action program at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). Jonathan Pinckney is the director of applied research at the Horizons Project and a former senior researcher with the Nonviolent Action program at USIP.

EU expects Armenia and Azerbaijan to reiterate political will to normalize relations


 13:31, 1 June 2023

CHISINAU, JUNE 1, ARMENPRESS. President of the European Council Charles Michel has expressed hope that during the upcoming June 1 meeting in Chisinau Armenia and Azerbaijan will once again reiterate political will to normalize relations.

“This important meeting will take place today,” Michel told reporters during the opening of the 2nd European Political Community Summit in Chisinau when asked on his expectations from the Armenia-Azerbaijan summit, where Michel himself will participate together with the German and French leaders. “I’ve had the occasion to meet with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Brussels a few weeks ago. We had some progress. And I hope this will once again be a chance to reiterate common political will to normalize relations between the two countries,” he said.

“Rights and Security…” Who is listening?

When a wild animal senses a wounded victim, there is no pacifying their appetite. While Armenia continues to double down on its concessions of accepting Azerbaijani territorial integrity that includes Artsakh, the Azeri response this week is hardly optimistic. Dictator Aliyev, who has committed war crimes and ignored the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling on Berdzor (Lachin), arrogantly declared that he will not negotiate with Artsakh. He said that the Armenians must accept Azerbaijani rule or leave and demanded a corridor through sovereign RoA territory (so-called Zangezur). He openly displays disdain for all Armenians, particularly those that he claims are his citizens in Artsakh. 

The West, obsessed with beating the Russians to the punch, continues to offer empty words that overstate the prospects of a peace agreement. Russia is only concerned with maintaining control in the South Caucasus and will turn on Armenia in a moment to serve that objective. Agreements, such as the lauded and often referenced November 2020 trilateral agreement after the war, mean nothing as Russia and Azerbaijan violate its content on a daily basis. Sadly, Armenia continues to point out the violations with a victim mentality. Azerbaijan taunts Armenia with brazen comments such as last week’s threat that it can carry out any military operations against Artsakh. Aliyev further demanded the resignation of the Artsakh government and the dissolution of the parliament. Even a casual observer would conclude that any “peace” agreement in this environment would be absurd. Azerbaijan is so confident in its position that it openly threatens military actions if its demands are not met. Why not? It’s not as though following rules and abiding by agreements got them here. It has been quite the opposite. They have violated every agreement and continuously committed acts of aggression. 

the objective of self-determination remains in the hearts and minds of our brethren

While Armenia has wasted time with unilateral concessions, its military needs drastic attention. What is the difference between standing up with self-interest in the diplomatic process with an Azeri threat of violence and the inevitability of Azeri military action even with a peace deal? Both carry the threat of conflict, but the latter contains the false assumption that the Azeris want peace. The former is focused on the interests of the Armenian people, while the latter inadvertently has encouraged Azeri aggression. Apparently Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is sufficiently alarmed by Aliyev’s response that he publicly questions the latter’s commitment to recent agreements in Brussels. He has good reason to draw these conclusions. The Armenian strategy has been to use unilateral concessions to draw Azerbaijan into reciprocation or be identified as a non-committed party to be pressured by the mediators. Aliyev has not responded positively to any of the concessions. His comments have been focused on what remains, which is more of a surrender than a peace deal. The alternative of pressuring Azerbaijan is only viable if the mediators are willing to go to extremes such as sanctions and other economic mechanisms to influence Azerbaijan. They have been consistently unwilling to go down that path. Azerbaijan has committed war crimes, violated international laws, ignored agreements with their signature and failed to implement an ICJ ruling, yet the West and Russia have done nothing to enforce civility. Some blame it on the power of fossil fuel for addicted western nations. Do not underestimate the impact of the Israeli/Azerbaijani alliance as it relates to Iran and the United States. The western nations are operating as diplomatic mediators but are driven by countering Russia and are limited by the Turkey/NATO and Israel/Azerbaijan partnerships. This is the reality of geo-political alignments of self-interest, yet Armenia clings to the hope that continuous concessions will appeal to Azerbaijan’s sense of righteous relations. There is no such thing as a soul for that state. They are driven by a false sense of history, blind aggression fueled by racism and a series of profitable relationships.

In this context, the voices of Armenia speak of “rights and security” for Artsakh as a reciprocal agreement. What should we make of this “policy” statement? Probably the most important observation from a democratic perspective is that the people of Artsakh do not support this direction. On numerous occasions based on press statements from Stepanakert and political analysts, the objective of self-determination remains in the hearts and minds of our brethren. Before we criticize this as unrealistic, remember they are the only ones who live on the land, have sacrificed for their rights and will bear the consequences of alternatives. They understand what Azeri rule with its oppression and racism will mean. The Armenians in the Republic of Armenia don’t live there, and they have officially ended their long tenure as the security guarantor. Those of us in the diaspora don’t live there and certainly the non-Armenian, third party mediators do not reside in Artsakh. Moreover, Armenia is the only party that clearly states this as an objective. The Azeris display open disregard for this idea. In their view, the matter was resolved in 2020, and the Armenians of Artsakh either live under Azerbaijani rule (and its consequences) or leave. This is officially referred to as a deportation and is within the definition of genocide. The mediator parties have been intentionally vague on this matter. Without international guarantees (as Armenia has stated repeatedly), there will be no rights or security. 

What would be helpful in this process would be a general criteria of “rights and security.” Today, we have polar opposite views expressed by Artsakh and Baku. In Artsakh, it is defined as the ability to live in cultural, religious and political freedom. There has been a functioning government for over 30 years and a defensive military. If you ask our brethren in Artsakh, the only “rights and security” come from defending yourself to maintain freedom without Azeri oppression. It is not a new idea. They have articulated it and sacrificed for it since 1988. On the other side of the spectrum, we have a defiant and belligerent Azerbaijan that ignores all standards of justice and civility declaring that all current infrastructure must be dissolved and Artsakh “reintegrated” into Azerbaijan. That is a huge gap. Armenia’s definition of “rights and security” has been left vague in deference to the negotiating process. Thus far, it has become a unilateral concession and resulted in a stalemate. Aliyev, who ignores all sense of diplomatic decorum, will usually initiate military operations when his tolerance is exceeded. I would assume that attributes have been released privately in order to gain support from the mediators. To date, Azerbaijan continues to respond with an approach befitting the dictatorship and racist regime it has become.

What is particularly ironic in this sea of anarchy and uncertainty is Armenia’s role as a nation that refused to recognize Artsakh for 30 years and now feels empowered to negotiate the future of those they claim no governmental responsibility over. Armenia has stated that it advocated direct talks between Artsakh and Azerbaijan. Initially, Aliyev, in a ploy to neutralize Ruben Vardanyan, stated he would only work with people native to Artsakh. When his demand was met, he immediately reneged by stating there will be no direct talks, only compliance to Azerbaijani rule. As a result, the concept of “rights and security” remains unclear because the designated Armenian party is not being given voice. An absurd sequence at best.

The entire concept of “rights and security” for Artsakh (a policy downgrade from 30 years of self-determination) is dependent on international guarantees. This is code for an on-site multinational peacekeeping force. It would be expected that the Europeans, particularly France, would shoulder most of the burden. The hole in this argument is that if you have already declared recognition for the “territorial integrity” of the 86.6 thousand square kilometers of Azerbaijan, why would you advocate a peacekeeping force on their “sovereign” territory? It seems as if the decision to unilaterally announce “territorial integrity” needed to succeed (not precede) the “rights and security” dialogue. Granted, the reasoning was to take a major issue off the table, but until it is reciprocated, it is meaningless and complicates the “security” issue. If Armenia has declared the inclusion of Artsakh in the 86.6 thousand square kilometers of Azerbaijan, what mediating party will commit troops to keep peace in an area already ceded? With a belligerent Azerbaijan, Armenia needs to make it easier for third party intervention. This sequence complicates that move.

The current negotiating environment is very unstable despite the public relations statements by the mediating parties. The parallel process between Moscow sponsored, EU sponsored and US sponsored diplomatic activity seems like an endless game of musical chairs. Armenia may have an opportunity to reset the parameters with Azerbaijan rejecting everything. Armenia needs to position them as the bad guys in a process that at least three outside parties are invested in. If the mediators sincerely believe this process has possibilities, then the party consistently blocking progress should be exposed. This is logical, but when layering in the political implications, it is uncertain. Regardless, Armenia must do something to use Aliyev’s lack of commitment to their advantage. Perhaps Pashinyan’s recent statement about Aliyev is that opportunity. If we simply leave this as a static dialogue of unilateral concessions, the inevitable military intervention by the Azeris will create intolerable risk for Artsakh’s “rights and security.” With Russia’s duplicitous adventures in the region and essentially ignoring Armenia, they would love to see the western mediating efforts fail. The ball is in the court of the Armenians to adjust since we have the most to lose. If Aliyev keeps reacting with more racist and threatening responses, the Armenians need to be in a position to exploit their barbarism with actions from the mediating parties. Enough of trying to be good faith compromisers. Armenia and Artsakh are in danger. Self-interest is the priority.

Stepan was raised in the Armenian community of Indian Orchard, MA at the St. Gregory Parish. A former member of the AYF Central Executive and the Eastern Prelacy Executive Council, he also served many years as a delegate to the Eastern Diocesan Assembly. Currently , he serves as a member of the board and executive committee of the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR). He also serves on the board of the Armenian Heritage Foundation. Stepan is a retired executive in the computer storage industry and resides in the Boston area with his wife Susan. He has spent many years as a volunteer teacher of Armenian history and contemporary issues to the young generation and adults at schools, camps and churches. His interests include the Armenian diaspora, Armenia, sports and reading.

Armenian Ministry of Defense denies Azerbaijani reports on using ‘Iranian UAVs’



 08:41, 11 May 2023

YEREVAN, MAY 11, ARMENPRESS. As of 08:25 the Azerbaijani military continued shelling Armenian positions near Sotk with artillery and mortar fire, the Ministry of Defense of Armenia said in a update after the Azerbaijani forces launched the attack at 06:00 Thursday.

Units of the Armed Forces of Armenia are taking the necessary defensive-preventive measures, the ministry added.

Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani side continues spreading fake news. 

The Ministry of Defense denied Azerbaijani media reports claiming that the Armenian military is using ‘Iranian UAVs’.  The Ministry of Defense said that the Azerbaijani media reports are untrue and again stated that the Armenian military does not have Iranian UAVs in its arsenal.

Armenian military positions in Sotk under Azeri gunfire



 09:16, 11 May 2023

YEREVAN, MAY 11, ARMENPRESS. The situation in the direction of Sotk was unchanged as of 09:00, the Armenian Ministry of Defense said in an update.

The Armenian positions in Sotk are under Azerbaijani artillery and mortar fire since 06:00, May 11.

As of 09:00, the situation in the other parts of the border was relatively stable, the ministry added.

Azerbaijan disregards meeting held in Washington, and planned talks in Brussels and Moscow by launching attack – MFA




YEREVAN, MAY 11, ARMENPRESS. The Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said that Azerbaijan is explicitly disregarding the foreign ministerial talks held in Washington D.C., as well as the planned meetings in Brussels and Moscow with its latest aggressive actions.

Below is the full statement issued by the Armenian Foreign Ministry on May 11 after Azerbaijani forces attacked Armenian positions in Sotk.

“In the early morning of May 11 Azerbaijani armed forces, once again resorting to provocative and aggressive actions, opened fire on the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia using mortars and artillery. There are wounded on the Armenian side.

These repeated violations of one of the fundamental principles of international law – the non-use of force or the threat of force – demonstrate contempt of the Azerbaijani side for the agreements, including the obligations assumed by the Trilateral Statement of Sochi on October 31, 2022.

These actions of Azerbaijan, aimed at destabilising the situation, are also an open disregard for the meeting held in Washington, the meetings planned in Brussels and Moscow, aimed at the normalisation of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the efforts made by international partners interested in stability and peace in the South Caucasus.

We call on the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan to stop the groundless, unjustified and shameful attempts aimed at disrupting the negotiation process by using force and thereby exerting pressure on Armenia.”

PM Pashinyan accuses Azerbaijan of attempting to nullify progress of Washington talks




YEREVAN, MAY 11, ARMENPRESS. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on May 11 that by launching a new aggression Azerbaijan wants to annul the progress recorded in Washington and disrupt the planned negotiations in Brussels and Chisinau on May 14 and June 1 respectively.

“Today, around 06:00, units of the Azerbaijani armed forces launched intense artillery gunfire  at military positions deployed in the direction of Sotk settlement of Gegharkunik Province, Republic of Armenia, striking the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia. The intensity of the active artillery bombardment somewhat decreased after the adequate and effective countermeasures by the Armenian army. There are four wounded on our side, whom I wish speedy recovery,” PM Pashinyan said at the Cabinet meeting.

Pashinyan said that this provocation, along with other actions by Azerbaijan, seeks to annul the progress reached during the foreign ministerial talks on May 1-4 in the United States.

“Today’s provocation also seeks to disrupt the trilateral format talks in Brussels on Sunday, as well as the five-sided talks in Chisinau planned for June 1. Experience shows that Azerbaijan needs the negotiations process only for getting an argument for escalation and war, while escalations are used exclusively for nullifying any progress achieved in the talks. This is what’s happening now,” the PM added.

PM Pashinyan also said that the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry’s May 10 statements accusing the Armenian army of violating the ceasefire are false.

“They fabricate such information for escalating the situation. If escalation is not what Azerbaijan seeks, any local incident can be swiftly resolved through achieving a preventative agreement on clarifying and exchanging information through existing communications. No such thing happened yesterday for one simple reason, because there was no incident and the Azerbaijani disinformation machine fabricated this story with a past date for escalating the situation. While the main goal of escalating the situation is to nullify and negotiations progress and disrupt the course of future negotiations,” Pashinyan said.