Armenia and Azerbaijan in renewed conflict over disputed territory
(7 October 2020)
Fighting has broken out in the disputed mountainous region of Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed ethnic Armenian territory surrounded by Azerbaijan territory.
The Nagorno-Karabakh region in the southern Caucasus Mountains covers an area of around 4,400 square kilometres (1,700 square miles). It has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by the Armenian government since a 1994 ceasefire following hostilities.
The original conflict started in 1988 when the densely populated ethnic Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan declared independence and made a bid to join Armenia. At the time of the ceasefire in 1994, the Armenian forces also held additional Azerbaijan territories outside the disputed region.
In the years since, international mediation has brought little progress and sporadic fighting has broken out in the region.
The conflict could have further repercussions for neighbours Russia, Turkey and Iran, with Russia openly supporting the Armenians and Turkey showing support for Azerbaijan.
Russia and Turkey have traditionally worked to diffuse latent hostilities between the two neighbours in the Caucuses, but with cooperation breaking down between the two powers and with their focus being redirected elsewhere in the region, efforts by Russia and Turkey to keep the area free of conflict have been ineffective recently, leading to increased fighting.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on Turkey to defuse the situation, given its decades of support for Azerbaijan. “We are deeply concerned by the escalation of hostilities. All sides should immediately cease fighting,” he stated.
However, Turkey has defied a joint call from the United States, France, and Russia for an immediate cease-fire in Nagorno-Karabakh. “We look at the calls coming from around the world, and it’s ‘immediate cease-fire.’ What then? There was a cease-fire until now, but what happened?” said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu during a visit to Azerbaijan.
There are fears that the conflict could spiral into wider regional confrontations; both Turkey and Israel have a close security relationship with Azerbaijan, Russia has a defence pact with Armenia, whilst neighbouring Iran is trying to play a role in mediating the conflict.