• For approximately four decades, territorial disputes and ethnic conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Central Asia have impacted the Nagorno-Karabakh region in the South Caucasus. Recently, tensions escalated at the border between the two countries.
• Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Artsakh, is a landlocked region in the South Caucasus, within the mountainous range of Karabakh.
• Nagorno-Karabakh is a disputed territory, internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but mostly governed by the Republic of Artsakh, a de facto independent state with an Armenian ethnic majority established on the basis of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic.
• Azerbaijan has not exercised political authority over the region since the advent of the Karabakh movement in 1988. Since the end of the Nagorno-Karabakh War in 1994, representatives of the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan have been holding peace talks on the region’s disputed status.
• Observers believe an all-out war between Armenia and Azerbaijan is unlikely due to a number of factors. In this disputed region, there are hundreds of civilian settlements, residents of which would be directly impacted and potentially displaced if any large-scale war were to break out between the two countries.
• Although Turkey released a statement following the developments this past weekend that it would back Azerbaijan “in its struggle to protect its territorial integrity”, observers believe any military escalation would draw regional powers like Turkey and Russia more deeply into the conflict, something that wouldn’t be preferred by either Ankara or Moscow.
• There is also the question of the network of oil and gas pipelines and strategic roads to which access might be blocked or interrupted for the region at large should any large-scale fighting ensue. For both Armenia and Azerbaijan, these would create immediate challenges, leading observers to believe that a war would not be in the interest of both countries.
Mains Paper 2: International
Prelims level: Nagorno-Karabakh conflict