Baku, Azerbaijan – The Azerbaijani army is advancing, the Armenians are in shock! The connection is broken. According to the latest news, the Azerbaijani army is advancing in the war in which the world is locked, and control of the Vardeniz-Agdere highway, which connects Armenia with occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, has changed hands.
After clashes that took place far from the hot spot in the summer, a new war began at 08.10 am on September 27, the world is watching for seconds.
After Armenia attacked, the Azerbaijani army responded heavily, and successive explosions were heard from Nagorno-Karabakh.
International news media report that the most violent clashes between the parties have taken place in the Caucasus since 2016.
Reuters reported that the Caucasus is a corridor where oil and natural gas are transported to the world market, and the Armenians reported heavy losses.
The Armenian-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh regional government said another 15 Armenian soldiers had been killed since Sunday morning. Thus, the Armenian army lost 31 soldiers in the clashes.
Armenians note that the Azerbaijani army hit the area with heavy artillery. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said that the village of Terter on the border was the target of Armenian artillery fire.
Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry announced this morning that six civilians were killed and 19 injured in the Armenian attacks.
In the clashes, Azeri troops captured the summit of Murovdag, thus changing hands control of the vardeniz-Agdere highway, which connected Armenia with the occupied zone.
Currently, the transport of military materials from Armenia to occupied Kelbajar and Agdere was prevented.
The Azerbaijani army also gained control of some of the hills around the village of Talish in the counterattack, with the Armenian forces reportedly retreating, suffering heavy casualties.
Both Azerbaijan and Armenia declared mobilization, while the Baku administration declared a curfew between 21.00 and 06.00 local time in six cities and 16 regions, including the capital.
“We are on the verge of a large-scale war in the South Caucasus, the outcome of which is unclear, “Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in a televised statement.
As the world was locked in war, Turkey, as expected, gave full support to Azerbaijan, while the United Nations (UN) the United States, the EU, Russia, France, Germany and China called on the parties to stop the conflicts.
According to international law, most of the region belonging to Azerbaijan is now under the occupation of Armenia. There were also four days of clashes in the region in 2016.
The sides also clashed this summer, but this time the fighting was in the Tovuz region further north. 16 soldiers and one civilian were killed in clashes in which heavy weapons were also used.
For years, the Organization for security and co-operation in Europe has been mediating for the solution of the problem. Similar activities of the Minsk Group, which includes Russia, France and the United States, have not yet yielded any results.
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. Two days of fighting on the Nagorno-Karabakh border left 13 Azerbaijani soldiers dead. 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 claim 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.
Azerbaijan’s expectation of a possible agreement is the return of the occupied territories. Armenia’s expectation of a possible agreement is to guarantee security for the Armenians of Karabakh and hold an independence vote.
A worrying aspect of the agreement for Azerbaijan is that the option of ‘independence’ will be put to a referendum. A concern for Armenia is that the Lachin Corridor, which connects Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, cannot be protected, and international security guarantees reduce their influence in the region.