Armenia and Azerbaijan fought the disastrous 44-day war in 2020, allowing Azerbaijan to seize control of some Armenian-controlled territories in disputed Nagorno-Karabakh. Following that, there was still a state of relative peace despite the strained relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The military forces of Azerbaijan and Armenia started exchanging artillery fire on September 13. According to Armenia, 105 Armenian soldiers were killed in two days, while Baku claims 71 Azerbaijani soldiers were killed. As it stands, the clashes appear to be too bloody, and the situation has the potential to escalate into a full-fledged conflict. It should also be noted that Azerbaijan bombs Armenian cities, which was unexpected because Azerbaijan has never done anything like this before. Through this radical action, Baku is attempting to persuade Yerevan to comply with Azerbaijani demands. Azerbaijan’s main goal is to completely de-occupy the Karabakh region, and Baku also aspires to have the access to the Zangezur corridor to reach its exclave Nakhchivan. Azerbaijan appears to be taking advantage of the situation that Russia, Armenia’s main ally, is having horrible experiences in Ukraine right now and does not have time and resources to deal with the Caucasus effectively. This current event can be seen as follows: Baku exerts the most pressure on Yerevan while seeing what Moscow can do in this situation. Baku may be more brutal toward Armenia if Moscow displays hesitation, which could worsen the situation in the entire region. Although the international community supports Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, Baku’s bombardment of Armenian cities may harm the country’s image in the eyes of the entire world. Some EU officials have already spoken out against Baku’s military actions. As the whole, the situation is very fragile in the entire region.
Even in March, Azerbaijan issued a set of 5 proposals to normalize relations with Yerevan. The document is an important source to find out the objectives of Azerbaijan, in the document 5 main priorities are underscored:1- Mutual recognition of each other’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, inviolability of international borders and political independence, 2 – Mutual confirmation of the absence of territorial claims against each other’s territory and the legal obligation not to make such claims in the future,3 – To refrain from threatening each other’s national security, using threats and force against each other’s national independence and territorial integrity, as well as from other actions incompatible with the UN Charter, 4 – Delimiting and demarcating the Armenia-Azerbaijan state border, and establishing diplomatic relations.
5 – Opening transport communications, and establishing other relevant communication and cooperation in other areas of mutual interest.
These proposals highlight Azerbaijan’s top priorities, which include preserving its territorial integrity and the clear understanding that no one wants to live in a constant state of war. Both countries have an interest in normalizing their relations, but there are numerous complex issues preventing peace rather than fueling the current conflicts.
Although some areas of the region are still under the control of Armenia with the help of Russian “peacekeepers,” Azerbaijan demonstrated its relative military and technological dominance during the Second Karabakh War and as a result, took control over a significant portion of the region. Azerbaijan will not rest until it has control of the entire region, and Yerevan is well aware of this. The problem is that it is obvious that it is painful for Armenia to simply give up these lands, but it is also clear that the war against Azerbaijan was already a painful trauma for the whole country. The Armenian government somehow managed to save itself from angry demonstrators, as a consequence, it can be stated that the public is not mentally prepared to give up these lands, if the government simply complies with Baku’s demands, it will put itself in danger, however, if the government refuses to accept a difficult reality and continues to fight, the country may face a serious threat. As it stands, Armenia’s situation is too complicated. It comes as no surprise that accepting a new reality is fraught with psychological difficulties and is far from simple. This puts a lot of pressure on the Pashynian government, which is trying to look at these events realistically and seems to be more interested in finding a peaceful way to end the bloody conflict.
It should also be noted that Azerbaijan’s other requests are also problematic for Yerevan. The last proposal, for example, includes access to the Zangezur corridor. This implies that there is some sort of demand to make the corridor extraterritorial property. In general, this demand stresses Azerbaijan’s position, Azerbaijan emphasizes that it is the winner of the war and not only wants to retake the Karabakh region, but Baku also wants to connect with its exclave and main ally Turkey through this corridor. This obviously further undermines the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Armenia, which has already lost a significant portion of the Karabakh region and this adds to the pressure on the nation. It should also be stressed that this corridor has the potential to benefit Armenia’s economy, but Yerevan continues to try to postpone negotiations in order to resolve the issue on its own terms, while Baku is ready to increase its pressure.
It is not surprising that Baku thinks the war can be more effective in retaking other areas of the Karabakh region that are now under Armenian entities since the Azerbaijani government achieved success through the 2020 war. A new war can be a further step toward achieving the head of state’s political objectives because the military victory had strengthened Aliyev’s position and legitimization.
Armenia learned once more during these recent clashes that it cannot rely on Russia. Now that Azerbaijan is bombarding Armenian cities, Russia is obliged to support its ally Armenia. However, as is clear, Russia is currently suffering in Ukraine and cannot use its troops to assist Armenia. It is also crucial to remember that, despite the fact that some EU officials harshly condemned Azerbaijan’s actions, the EU actually needs Azerbaijan more in order to lessen its reliance on Russian energy. As a result, Armenia should not expect western “intervention” to prevent the disaster. The West is also very busy with the Ukraine-Russia war. However, because politics is hard to predict with high accuracy, it is also crucial to mention that as Russia’s positions deteriorate, the West may become more active. As was recently announced, Nancy Pelosi intends to visit Armenia, which, if it happens, will be a powerful indication of US support for Armenia.
After the bloody clashes, both sides achieved the ceasefire on Wednesday. Armen Grigoryan, secretary of Armenia’s Security Council, told to Armenian television:”Thanks to the involvement of the international community, an agreement has been reached on a ceasefire.” The shooting in border areas had stopped. Despite this, the situation is extremely fragile and requires close observation from the international community in order to prevent a full-scale war between Azerbaijan and Armenia. This conflict can also make regional powers such as Turkey (the president stated that Ankara is ready to send any kind of help to Azerbaijan), Russia (despite Russia shows reluctance, possible more active involvement should not be underestimated), and Iran (Iran is hostile toward Azerbaijan and stated that it will not accept any kind of change of borders between states) to involve in the conflict and exacerbate the situation in the whole region. It is also difficult to predict what kind of impact Nancy Pelosi’s visit will have.