Peace talks led by the Kremlin, between Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan were held on 24th June 2011 in Kazan with the objective of securing agreement on the basic principles of a Nagorno-Karabagh conflict settlement. The talks broke down with no progress – 2 days later Azerbaijan launched a military show of force in Baku.
The war between Armenia and Azerbaijan resulted in a cease fire in 1994, and since that time the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group have been trying to reach a settlement on the position of Nagorno-Karabagh. The cease fire left Armenia occupying 20% of Azerbaijan – which includes historic Nagorno-Karabagh land plus areas adjacent to Armenia and the connecting Lachin/Berdzor corridor, previously recognised as Azeri territories.
Whilst the peace talks have continued, the “line of conflict” which represents the border between the Nagorno-Karabagh Republic (NKR) and Azerbaijan has been patrolled by opposing armies. Regular sniping and exchanges take place which has resulted in deaths on both sides. At some points along the line the distance between the two sides is as little as 50 metres.
Both sides blame each other for the break-down of the peace talks signalling that there is still a lot of work required to get the 2 sides to achieve a compromise. Whilst peace has been discussed since the ceasefire, the military firepower of the Azeris has increased.
On 26th June 2011 President Ilham Aliyev stated “Our state budget has grown 16 times. Accordingly, our military spending has increased 20 times to 2,582,959,470 manats ($3.27 billion), but even that is not our limit. Today Azerbaijan’s military spending exceeds Armenia’s entire state budget by 50 percent. By their volume the military expenses will continue being a top priority in Azerbaijan’s budget until Armenia withdraws from the Azeri lands and a peace agreement is signed with this country,”
He also stated “I am completely sure that our territorial integrity will be resumed in any possible way. Therefore, we should be even stronger.” He also added “The war in Karabakh is not over yet”
Azerbaijan demonstrated its military power on the same day when it paraded through the streets of Baku, with 6000 servicemen, 400 pieces of military hardware including S-300 surface to air missiles, anti-mine carriers, unpiloted planes, combat helicopters and fighter jets.
The day before the Azeri Karabagh Liberation Organisation (KLO) held a meeting which resolved that “the futility of the Kazan meeting has once again demonstrated the OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries’ pro-Armenian position. Hence, there is no point in continuing these negotiations.” And demanded that the Azeri authorities “immediately start a war against Armenia”.
It is to be expected that the politics of peace, includes threats of war. However with the number of incidences of deaths on the “line of contact” remaining unabated , and the likelihood of peace receding, the future of the region is balanced on a “hair-trigger”.
I hope for the sake of the 144,000 Karabagh Armenians, and for the Azeris, that this is simply sabre rattling – the South Cauacasus, and the world does not need war to break out again here; the consequences do not bear thinking about
Categories: Artsakh in the World