Nagorno Karabakh: the most unwanted but not surprising conflict of 2020

Since September, Armenia and Azerbaijan have been involved in a fierce war for Nagorno Karabakh and its surroundings, a region of strategic importance as the corridor of oil and gas pipelines that transport oil and natural gas from the Caspian Sea to the rest of the world market . The separatist enclave is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but inhabited mostly by Armenians.

The historical conflict that has its roots in the dissolution of the Soviet Union and continues sporadically despite the ceasefire agreed in 1994. But this time the situation was different: it was the longest period of violence and a military operation much broader, claiming more than 4,000 lives, including civilians.

An armed escalation with multiple causes: a negotiation process stalled for years, a more assertive Azerbaijan due to its growing economic and military power under the constant pressure of its population, the aggressive attitudes repeatedly expressed both by the leaders and by the absent international community .

Finally, the foreign support that both sides received. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged support for Azerbaijan. Russia, traditionally an ally of Armenia, played a strong mediating role for its part.

According to figures from the Russian government, at least 8,000 people were injured and tens of thousands were driven from their homes. There was no consensus on either side on who is responsible for the violence.

A peace agreement negotiated by Russia, signed on November 10, handed over several regions to Azerbaijan, a part of Nagorno Karabakh itself and three territories around it. The agreement also provides for the deployment of Russian peacekeeping personnel and the establishment of an observation center.

If the agreement is respected by the parties, free movement and the construction of roads could become a reality, as long as under the control of the Russian troops who safeguard the peace process.

But the Armenians are not happy with the outcome of the conflict. The agreement has turned for them into a national tragedy that has sparked anger against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinián. Armenia has been under a wave of protests for days demanding its resignation. An estimated 90,000 Armenians have been displaced. Many have nowhere to go after having burned their houses before Azerbaijani troops occupied the area.

Peace has not brought peace to the residents of the separatist enclave. For now, the agreement ratifies the Russian and Turkish influence, and reduces the role of Europe in the region.