The news was followed by 10 hours of talks, held in Moscow among the top diplomats of respective countries, sponsored by Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov who stated, to quote ‘the two countries would now begin “substantive” talks’.
Nagorno- Karabakh is a mountainous region of about 4,400 sq km, traditionally inhabited by Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks, led by self-proclaimed authorities that are not recognised by any UN member, including Armenia.
The current conflict between the two nations, Azerbaijan and Armenia, over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, has led to over 300 fatalities and has left thousands displaced with no place to go, making it the worst conflict in decades to have occurred between the two nations.
The talks finally led to an agreement on Friday, the 9th of October, to the ceasefire, that will stop the hostilities starting at midday on Saturday, the 10th of October, then allowing an exchange of prisoners and recovery of the dead bodies.
When and why?
The conflict is not current but decades old. The present-day Armenia and Azerbaijan were both parts of the Soviet Union when it was formed in the 1920s. Here, the region of Nagorno-Karabakh was inherently part of Azerbaijan (that has the majority of Muslim population), but its population is majority Armenian (that has the majority of Christian population). As the Soviet Union saw enhanced hostilities in its constituent republics in the 1980s, Nagorno-Karabakh voted to become part of Armenia, igniting a bloody war that only stopped with a ceasefire in 1994.
Since then, Peace talks have been mediated by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group – a body set up in 1992 and chaired by France, Russia and the United States, but so far no peace treaty has come to fruition. For the past three decades, clashes have continued to spike, wherein 2016 a conflict left dozens of troops dead on both sides. However, in 2019, both nations issued a statement declaring the need for “taking concrete measures to prepare the populations for peace” and yet, as for now, nothing has come close to these words.
Nagorno-Karabakh remains a part of Azerbaijan but is controlled by separatist ethnic Armenians backed by the Armenian government and the same has flared yet another conflict on 27 September 2020.
What has happened since?
Turkey being the first nation to recognise Azerbaijan as an independent nation in 1991, showing its support for the nation throughout the decades with its former Azeri President Heydar Aliyev describing their relationship as “one nation with two states”, has again, stood up in support, as their current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledging his nation’s support for Azerbaijan.
Turkish President called on Armenia to immediately end its “occupation” of the region and withdraw, saying this was the only course of action that would secure peace and his chief adviser, Ilnur Cevik, also said Turkey had told its Azeri allies to go as far as they wanted. Where Armenia has accused Turkey of providing direct military support to help Azerbaijan gain control of territory, a claim that was later denied by Azerbaijan.
On the other side, Armenia has good ties with Russia and in fact, there is a Russian military base in Armenia, and both are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) military alliance. However, Russia also has good relations with Azerbaijan and addressing the on-going conflict Moscow has called for a ceasefire.
The self-proclaimed authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh claimed that 87 of their military personnel had been killed and 120 wounded since the fighting began on the 27th of October.
Meanwhile, the fatality figure on the Azerbaijani side is nearly 400 and one aircraft, four helicopters and a number of tanks have been destroyed.
On the Armenian side, media said three civilians had been killed in an Azerbaijani air attack on the town of Martakert. State news agency Armenpress said seven civilians and 80 service personnel had been killed since the fighting began. And its defence ministry released a picture of an Armenian SU-25 jet, it said had been shot down by a Turkish F-16. Turkey has rejected the allegation as “cheap propaganda”.
Exhibiting concern on the dispute, the High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said: “I am deeply disturbed by the reported loss of civilian lives and injuries, as well as damage to civilian property and infrastructure.”
Where most claims and denials from both sides remain nebulous and conflicted, a picture of shattered glass, broken homes, fractured bodies and demolished dreams, paints a thousand words. However, it is fortunate that the talks ended on a peaceful note where the two neighbouring countries agreed to a ceasefire.