Analysis: Here’s What You Need to Know About Armenia and Azerbaijani
Photo by By Bumble Dee via Shutterstock
Last week, a battle broke out in the Nagorno-Karabakh region between Armenia and Azerbaijani. What began as a dispute over territory on Sept. 27, now has leaders around the world concerned for what could be the start of a full-scale war between the two countries.
How the fighting initially began this past week is said to have started from Azerbaijani forces breaking a ceasefire over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. While many in Azerbaijani are putting the blame on Armenia, the Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan rejected that notion in an Al Jazeera interview.
“Armenia has been very firm on its position,” Mnatsakanyan said. “The solution is strictly through peaceful movements, strictly on the basis of the compromise. We wouldn’t do anything that would be against our declared intentions.”
In response, Azerbaijani’s defense ministry stated that it was in fact Armenia who broke the ceasefire on Sunday by shelling the city of Ganja. This is stated to have resulted with four people injured and one dead.
While the conflicts between Armenia and Azerbaijani have heightened, the Nagorno-Karabakh region has been sparking tension between the two for decades. Originally acquired by Russia in 1813, it was not until 1923 when the Soviet government handed over the region and established it as an Armenian-majority autonomous oblast.
Although the region itself is located in Azerbaijani, the Armenian-majority autonomous oblast grew to be ethnically controlled by Armenians. And it continued to grow that way until the Armenian people residing within Nagorno-Karabakh grew tired of not having the region under the Armenian jurisdiction in 1988.
With backlash from the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic and the Soviet government, rivalry ensued between the Armenian and Azerbaijan people. It was then in 1991 when Armenia and Azerbaijan gained independence from the Soviet government and went into a six-year-long battle for control over the region.
During this time, Armenian forces sought to gain control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, but a resolution was not yet reached. But Russia and a peace committee, OSCE Minsk Group, managed to mediate between the regions a cease-fire agreement in 1994.
MORE THAN TERRITORY
Many in Azerbaijani have called the fight a battle for their land, but to Armenians, the region is much more than just land. With a population of an estimated 147,906 people, about 80% of the population is Armenian.
“We only have one condition: Armenian armed forces must unconditionally, fully, and immediately leave our lands,” stated Azerbaijani’s President Ilham Aliyev on Wednesday.
Azerbaijani has now not only placed claim over the territory once more, but leaves many Armenians who reside within the region under the sole discretion of Azerbaijani forces.
In a Newsweek interview, an analyst at the Crisis Group, Olesya Vartanyan, gave a warning of the possibilities that could arise from Armenian forces leaving the region.
“The president spoke about this on the very first day of the fighting—he wants to take back the territories and the territories are populated only by ethnic Armenians,” Vartanyan said.
“If the Azerbaijani army is able to hold the territory, then I cannot imagine any ethnic Armenian—especially after this fighting—will want to go back to the territory to live under the Azerbaijani rule.”
Turkey has now stated multiple times that its full support is behind Azerbaijani, worrying Armenians even more. Communications director, Fahrettin Altun, tweeted on Sept. 29 that if Azerbaijani were to “suffer the slightest injustice” under international law, there would be repercussions from Turkey.
Armenia is concerned that the outcome of Turkey’s support of Azerbaijani could be another genocide. Although over 30 countries, including the U.S., have acknowledged the mass murder committed in 1915 by the Ottoman Empire (now the Republic of Turkey), Turkey has not.
“I am addressing the whole world,” said Turkey President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. “You may like it, you may not. Our attitude on the Armenian issue is clear from the beginning. We will never accept the accusations of genocide.”
With an estimated 1.5 million Armenians killed during the 1915 genocide, Turkey’s neglect to acknowledge any form of responsibility, and its support of a country that wants to remove Armenians, is enough reason to illuminate the consequences.
There are now accusations of Turkey possibly sending Syrian mercenaries to help Azerbaijan on the border. BBC Arabic contacted a man who said he was flown with a group to Azerbaijan and paid $2,000 “to guard military points.”
The source also noted that although they had received no training, they were sent “wearing Azerbaijan uniforms” to Nagorno-Karabakh. The Syrain Observatory for Human Rights also reported that a group of Turkish security companies sent an estimated 320 Syrian mercenaries to Azerbaijan.
Ilnur Cervik, President Erdogan’s adviser, has denied any accusation and called it “a kind of disinformation campaign.”
RESPONSES FROM OTHER LEADERS
Over the past week France, Russia and the U.S. have now all made statements about their concerns of war. The three countries have called for Armenia and Azerbaijan to return to a peace settlement with an immediate ceasefire.
In a joint statement released on Oct. 5, all three countries are now representing the OSCE Minsk Group in the conflict.