Alwaght- Three years after Karabakh peace agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia, tensions in Caucasus show no signs of a relaxation, and no day goes without the military forces of the two countries exchanging fire. In recent weeks, the two neighbors accused each other of violating the 2020 truce in the mountainous Karabakh region, triggering concerns about start of a new round of clashes. In such strained conditions, Azerbaijani officials are fueling the fire with their strong-toned stances, risking sparking a new war with consequences not limited within borders of the two countries.
Ilham Aliyev who insists to realize his ambitions in Karabakh threatened Armenia in new remarks.
“In order for Armenia to live comfortably, it must accept our conditions and officially recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as the territory of Azerbaijan. Armenia should sign a peace treaty with us and delimit the borders according to our conditions,” said Aliyev.
The Azerbaijani president who is further destabilizing Caucasus claimed in a message last week that peace and stability in the region was due to the actions of his country and Turkey.
Armenia has grown worried about the security situation in Karabakh following Azerbaijan warnings and military moves on the shared borders. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in an address last week warned about escalation of tensions by Azerbaijan in mountainous Karabakh region and also the border areas, saying: “My conclusion comes from Azerbaijan’s growing aggressive rhetoric, and of course we have other information as well.”
Pashinyan added that his country was not the one to start aggressive or escalatory measures, so he decided to invite the EU observers. In recent days, the Armenian foreign ministry issued a statement citing the evaluations that suggested Azerbaijan was preparing for a new encroachment on Nagorno-Karabakh and for “a genocide against the Armenians.”
Given the harsh warnings of the Baku authorities and repeated violations of the ceasefire, there is a possibility of conflict in the near future, and for this reason, the Russians have repeatedly expressed concern about the failure of the ceasefire in Karabakh in the past weeks and have asked both sides to exercise restraint. In the two full-scale wars that erupted between the two countries in 1992 and 2020, tens of thousands of soldiers from both sides have been killed and injured, and refueled tensions can cause heavy casualties to the two neighbors.
Tensions were expected to ease after meetings between Aliyev and Pashinyan over the past year in Moscow and Brussels, but a verbal clash between the two leaders at Munich Security Summit last month demonstrated that differences between the two countries are too deep to be settled by mediation.
Lachin Corridor taken hostage by Azerbaijan
Though according to November 2020 ceasefire, Azerbaijan managed to reclaim a major part of its territories from Armenia after three decades, it is far from satisfied with its gains and eyes retaking the remaining parts. According to these agreements, Russian peacekeepers were stationed around the Lachin Corridor in order to prevent a possible conflict between the forces of the two countries, but with the start of Ukraine war, the peacekeeping forces left Karabakh, granting Baku a good opportunity to realize its ambitious policies.
To this end, since December, Azerbaijani forces seized control of Lachin Corridor, and practically took hostage the Armenian-inhabited part of Karabakh by encircling it. They block aids to the encircled people, sources say. This corridor is the only route through which Armenia can deliver food, fuel, and medical supplies to the Armenian residents of Karabagh. The region is home to 120,000 Armenians and its control fell to the local government after first Karabakh war.
Baku officials claim that it is necessary to establish border control and military post at the end of the Lachin Corridor, but the international community considers this act as genocide, arguing that this corridor should be opened as soon as possible. Azerbaijan ignores international calls and in recent days it has stopped the gas transfer to the Armenian-majority part of Karabakh. The interruption of gas flow along with the closure of Lachin Corridor is putting the Armenian community in a humanitarian disaster.
Aliyev seeks to put strains on Yerevan with these inhumane actions to make it yield to Baku demands. Azerbaijan’s main demand is construction of Zangezor Corridor that connects this country’s territory to the Autonomous Nakhchivan Region, a controversial plan not only strongly rejected by Armenia, but also by such regional countries as Iran and Russia.
The renewed tensions in Karabakh come as Russia is mulling re-deploying part of its peacekeepers to the region to help restore stability. The EU, too, sent its “civil mission” to the region from a couple of months ago under the excuse of efforts to work out a solution to end crisis but for the good of its interests and with a consideration of time and conditions. But none of these political and military arrangements have pushed Azerbaijan away from its stances, with Aliyev showing he is not satisfied with less than construction of Zangezor Corridor or occupation of Armenian-inhabited part of Karabakh, called Republic of Artsakh. If constructed, Zangezor Corridor will eliminate Iranian-Armenian borders and make Azerbaijan Iran’s only neighbor in Caucasus.
Karabakh developments suggest that Baku officials have no intention to back down from their ambitions which have no purpose but geopolitical changes to the region. And since Armenia and some other regional states are opposed to this policy, Azerbaijan is pressing to heighten the tensions and bring other powers to the regional game. The state of insecurity provides the best opportunity to Azerbaijan’s backer Israel to fish in troubled waters and destabilize the region.