Baku, Azerbaijan – In Khankendi, the capital of the occupying Nagorno-Karabakh Administration, hospital corridors are filled with the bodies of dead Armenian soldiers, and wounded soldiers are constantly brought to hospitals. The Azerbaijani army encircles Shusha on the road to Khankendi, the distance to the city is several kilometers. Today, the Armenian army again targeted cities with rockets, and Azerbaijan announced that at least one civilian was killed. International media are reporting that the moment to decide the outcome of the war is approaching.
As the Nagorno-Karabakh war enters its forty-first day, the circle around the occupying Armenian forces is increasingly narrowing, especially around the city of Shusha.
Advancing to victory step by step, the Azerbaijani army has saved 16 more villages from occupation as of today. Azerbaijani leader Ilham Aliyev announced the names of the villages on his Twitter account.
Accordingly, The Villages of Upper Veyselli , Upper Seyitahmetli, Gorgan, Third Mahmutlu, Gacar and Diwanalilar of Fuzuli, Upper Mezre and Yanarhac of Gabriel, Gezyan, Balasoltanli and Merdanli of Gubadli, Bashdeli of Zangilan, Karabulak and Moshmaat of Khojaly, Atagut and Tsakuri of Khojavend were cleared from the Armenian troops. Thus, four cities and more than 200 towns and villages have been liberated since 27 September.
Azerbaijan’s prosecutor general’s office announced that the Armenian army, which has been targeting civilians living in cities since the beginning of the war, also today launched an attack on Barda. There is at least one loss of life in the city hit by rocket and artillery fire.
On the Armenian side, which loses territory almost every day, there is a great panic. Before the echo of images of child soldiers being led to the front line in a wooded area in Nagorno-Karabakh was over, a new development took place.
Russian media are reporting that Anna Akapyon, the wife of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who is receiving military training, and many women with him are ready to go to the front line.
The most violent conflict is around Shusha, where the road to khankendi, the capital of occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, will be opened. Shusha is located on the road connecting Khankendi to Armenia.
The occupying Nagorno-Karabakh administration, which is not recognized by the international community, confirms the heavy fighting, while the American Associated Press (AP) news agency serves up photos of the shelling.
Pictures show explosions around the critical City, with the BBC reporting that Azerbaijani troops were very close to Shusha, now a few kilometres away.
Footage released by Armenian media showed Armenian soldiers wounded in clashes around Shusha moving behind the front line.
The AP also passed photos of wounded soldiers brought to the hospital in Khankendi. The chaos in hospitals is reflected in AP’s footage.
The bodies of Armenian soldiers killed by the Azerbaijani army in the war are waiting in the hospital corridor on stretchers.
In front of the hospital in khankendi, there are dozens of bloody stretchers. Similar frames have been passed by the AP before.
BBC Russian reports that the main strategic importance is the clashes near Shusha and along the Lachin road, which connects Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. By liberating Shusha from occupation, the Azerbaijani army will have achieved its most important victory in Nagorno-Karabakh since the start of the fighting on September 27.
The Shusha-Lachin road has been closed to civilians for several days and fierce fighting continues for its control. Russian journalists staying in Karabakh on Thursday released videos of gun battles on the road.
A report by Eurasianet on Friday said Armenian soldiers had dug ditches along the road in preparation for the road’s defense.
Canadian journalist Neil Hauer wrote in an interview with the Asia Times that the moment to decide the outcome of the war was approaching: “what is the point of this? Only in mid-November can the final results of the war in Karabakh be resolved.”
If the Armenians can somehow hold on and maintain their position at the high ground, they will have the opportunity to stabilize the situation and make the war hopeless.
But if Azerbaijani forces retake Shusha, they will gain a dominant position over the rest of Karabakh, and especially over Khankendi, ten kilometers from the foot of the mountain.”
It was confirmed by Armenia in the first days of November that the Azerbaijani army killed Colonel Arthur Sargsyan, Deputy Minister of defense of the occupying Nagorno-Karabakh administration.
Ceasefires declared four times in Nagorno-Karabakh broke down within minutes. Two of the ceasefires were led by Russia and one by the United States.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who has lost thousands of troops since September 27 and has not stopped the defeat, once again asked Russian leader Vladimir Putin for help. Pashinyan, who sent a long letter to Putin, asked for the start of consultations in which the support that the Moscow administration can offer Yerevan will be discussed. In his letter, Pashinyan cited the second article of the Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance Agreement of 29 August 1997 as the justification for the assistance.
But Russia’s response to Armenia was not at the level of the head of state, but through Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Lavrov, who has twice declared a ceasefire before, told Pashinyan that they would help if the clashes were moved directly to Armenia.
The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), signed by Armenia, Russia and three other states, predicts that when any attack is carried out on these countries, others will step in. However, according to international law, Nagorno-Karabakh is not Armenian territory and is under occupation.
The response to Pashinyan’s letter literally caused an earthquake in Yerevan, Armenia’s former leader Levon Ter-Petrosyan says Russia politely showed the door.
Speaking to local media, Ter-Petrosyan said: “Putin responded to Pashinyan through the Russian Foreign Ministry. Don’t you understand what you’re saying? If you don’t understand that, shame on us today…. Putin said with complete sincerity and generosity, ‘I am obliged and ready to ensure the full security of Armenia, but in the end I understand – I am not the one who will solve the Karabakh conflict for you.’
Sunday (September 27th) clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh began in the morning with Armenia violating the ceasefire. Nagorno-Karabakh is recognized as part of Azerbaijan by the United Nations (UN) and the international community. However, some areas in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, which accounts for about 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s territory, have been under Armenian occupation since the early 1990s. The region was declared a ‘Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’ in 1991. But no country, including Armenia, has recognized this place internationally.
Nagorno-Karabakh (Upper Karabakh), which covers an area of 4,400 square kilometers in the South Caucasus, has been waiting for a solution for many years as the biggest problem between Azerbaijan and Armenia. So, what is the history of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, both countries of the former Soviet Union? The word origin of the’ Nagorno-Karabakh ‘ region consists of a mixture of several different languages. Even a few languages found in its name show how the region has been exposed to the transition between different cultures throughout history.
Nagorny (or Nagorno) in English is Karabakh. The word’ Nagorny ‘means’ mountainous ‘ (нагорный), in Russian. In Azerbaijani, just like in Turkish, it is referred to by the words ‘dağliq’ or ‘yuxarı’, which means ‘mountainous’. Karabakh, on the other hand, is a common word in Turkish and Persian, meaning ‘black garden’.
When Azerbaijan and Armenia joined the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1922, Nagorno-Karabakh developed into a structure that seemed accepted, but was not adopted by Armenians. In Nagorno-Karabakh, which was granted autonomous region status under the Republic of Azerbaijan in 1923, the status quo was maintained until the end of the 1980s, when the Soviet system came to a standstill, although ethnic Armenians living in the region raised their discomfort with the Azerbaijani administration from time to time.
Along with the process of openness (glasnost) and reconstruction (perestroika), which Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, initiated in 1985 to pave the way for a blocked system, Nagorno-Karabakh, like all the problem areas of the Caucasus, came to light. Evaluating the ever-weakening authority of the Soviet administration, the Autonomous Administration of Nagorno-Karabakh demanded annexation to the Republic of Armenia in 1988. While this demand was not reciprocated, after Azerbaijan and Armenia declared their independence in 1991, the secession attempts of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh also intensified.
During this period, the Azerbaijani population in Karabakh had fallen by up to 20 percent due to forced migrations. In a referendum held on December 10, 1991, which was boycotted by Azerbaijanis remaining in the region, Armenians voted to leave Azerbaijan. After the referendum, the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh was declared, but this initiative did not find a response in the international community. Tensions between the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, supported by the Armenian army, and the Azerbaijanis living in the region increased with the declaration of independence. In 1992, the conflict turned into a hot war between the Armenian army and the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Azerbaijani army.
At the end of the war, the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh took control of the entire region, as well as occupied seven neighboring regions (Rayons). Thus, the direct contact points of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan were quite limited. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has been described in academic circles as a ‘frozen conflict’ for years. Despite the ongoing settlement negotiations at intervals, violations of the mutual ceasefire are frequently repeated both on the Nagorno-Karabakh-Azerbaijan contact line and on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border. August 2014 saw the bloodiest clashes in 20 years. 13 Azerbaijani soldiers were killed in two days of fighting on the Nagorno-Karabakh border. The Armenian Defense Ministry also announced that 20 soldiers were killed.
Half a million refugees took refuge in Azerbaijan and Armenia, and about a million people were forced to relocate. Some towns and villages that existed before the beginning of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict were completely abandoned and destroyed. More than 14 percent of Azerbaijan’s territory is still under occupation. Azerbaijanis say that the region has historically been under their control and therefore belongs to them, while Armenians claim that Armenians have always lived in the region and that Azerbaijani rule is illegitimate.
Other states were reluctant to intervene because it was seen as a domestic issue. Since 1992, the conflict has become interstate due to the fact that it took place between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Defense spending in Azerbaijan has increased by about 50 percent every year since 2003. In 2012, defense spending accounted for a fifth of Azerbaijan’s total public spending. Armenia also expanded its arsenal with the help of Russia.
Although the exact numbers are not known, it is believed that the population of Lachin and Kelbajar with small settlements totaled about 14 thousand people. According to the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, there has been no significant increase in the population since 2005. Ethnic Armenians settled in the region have limited access to infrastructure, economic activities and public services. Many of them are also missing identity documents.
The weakest part of the problem is the contact line, which is 175 kilometers long. This line, filled with minefields, resembles the trenches of the first World War. 30 thousand soldiers have been deployed to the contact line by the Armenian side and slightly more than this number by Azerbaijan. The negotiations, conducted through the OSCE Minsk Group, have been difficult, as leaders are approaching a compromise, but are backing down out of concern that their country may not meet the demands of the public. Azerbaijanis and Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh cannot influence the process. Armenian and Azerbaijani public opinion has more influence on the process than the locals of the region.
The Minsk Group Co-Chairs have no spokespersons or media secretaries. For this reason, the talks have little media coverage. Russia, having previously taken a position close to Armenia, now prefers to stand at an equal distance from Azerbaijan and Armenia. This strategy strengthened after the war with Georgia in August 2008. The strategic priority has become the isolation of Georgia. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is less important to the United States than the conflicts in the Middle East. The Armenian Lobby in Congress, the energy security of the Caspian Sea Basin, the ‘fight against terrorism’ and the ability to use Azerbaijani airspace on flights to Afghanistan are priority issues for the United States.