This weekend, for the second time this year, the conflict flared up between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region. Azerbaijan is claiming the recapture of several areas and Armenia has reported multiple deaths and mobilized the male population. Fears are growing about a new war in the area. Four Things You Should Know.
How did Nagorno-Karabakh actually originate?
Nagorno-Karabakh was part of Azerbaijan during the Soviet Union, but was already dominated by Christian Armenians at that time. Even before the fall of Soviet rule, the Armenian population of the region claimed independence.
After a major conflict in the early 1990s between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan, in which the former received help from Armenian troops and the latter from Turkey, a fragile ceasefire was established. Final standings: Azerbaijan retained control of the area, but the Nagorno-Karabakh government has since in fact ruled autonomously with influence from Armenia.
Nagorno-Karabakh still has many buildings broken down as a result of the war that raged in the area between 1988 and 1994. This is a street in the city of Şuşa in Nagorno-Karabakh (photo: ANP).
The Azerbaijanis consider the area to be Azerbaijani and for the millions of inhabitants of the country it is a thorn in the side that they have nothing to say about it in practice.
The conflict has flared up more often since the armistice, but this year it seems to be happening more often than in other years. In July, for example, at least 12 people were killed in clashes on the border area of the region. The reason for this may have been an Azerbaijani drone in the border area.
The last major escalation was in 2016, when a shooting incident at the border turned into a major four-day war. The Minsk group of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) brokered a solution at the time.
It is very difficult for both countries to make concessions, as both Azerbaijan and Armenia see the loss of the area as an attack on pride, honor and prestige. This makes a rapprochement or consultation between both countries complicated to explain to the population.
In addition to Armenia and Azerbaijan, more countries play a (large) role in the background at Nagorno-Karabakh.
Oil-rich Azerbaijan mainly receives support from Turkey. Both countries maintain close ties with each other. As in Turkey, the population of Azerbaijan is predominantly Muslim.
After the clashes in July and this weekend, the Turkish government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quick to express support for Azerbaijan. The country also pledged military support if necessary.