Two ex-Soviet republics in the Caucasus region seem to have found themselves amidst fighting once again, namely Armenia and Azerbaijan. The age-old conflict is centered around the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Traditionally, the region was inhabited by Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks and both came in occasional conflict for control throughout history. The Nagorno-Karabakh region is mountainous but strategically vital due to its location between the two countries.
The region is an ethnic-majority Armenian. However, when Azerbaijan and Armenia became part of the Soviet Union in 1920, the Soviets declared the territory to be under the authority of Azerbaijan, much to the dismay and protest of the Armenian population in Nagorno-Karabakh. In the years to follow, Armenian groups in the region made several calls to be transferred into Armenian control. In the early ’90s when the Soviet Union broke down, the two countries erupted into full-scale war.
Both sides committed war atrocities. In 1991, The OSCE Minsk Group was created co-chaired by France, Russia and the US to find a solution to the conflict. Finally, in 1994, a cease-fire was declared, and the region was internationally accepted as part of Azerbaijan. However, there has been no success in establishing a peace treaty to date and conflicts periodically rise in the region, the latest of which took place between July and October 2020.
A hundred have been killed and another hundred wounded in on-ground fighting for the last five days. The Armenian government has said to have shot down several Azerbaijani drones near the capital of Yerevan. While the international community including Russia, France and the US have asked the two to immediately cease hostile action, Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan has stated that a cease-fire was only possible if Armenia ended its “occupation” of the region.
Nagorno-Karabakh is effectively governed by separatist Armenian groups in power and regional politics have further helped flare up the tensions in the region. Turkey is an open supporter of Azerbaijan. French President Emmanuel Macron has recently accused Turkey of supplying the region with Syrian jihadists. However, Turkey has declined these claims.
International communities including the UN do not recognize any separatist Armenian groups as legitimate in the region, recognizing the territory as belonging to Azerbaijan. Regardless of the lack of international support separatists have formed a self-declared Republic of Artsakh which de facto controls the region with the support of Armenia.
Pakistan is the only country in the world that does not recognize Armenia, and it was the third country after Turkey and Romania to recognize the state of Azerbaijan. And so, similar to its friend Turkey, Pakistan has made its stance clear on the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. And in turn, Armenia has sided with India and against Pakistan on the Kashmir Conflict.
Pakistan was allegedly reported to have sent troops to Azerbaijan to fight against the Armenians in the ongoing conflict, according to Indian media outlets and an Armenian news report which heard locals speaking of Pakistani presence in Azerbaijan. Pakistan has outrightly refuted such claims, calling them Indian propaganda.
The Foreign Ministry of Pakistan has denied the presence of its troops in Azerbaijan. The Foreign Ministry stated that while it stands behind Azerbaijan and vouches for peace and stability in the region such claims are “irresponsible, speculative and baseless”.
Armenia has found itself an ally in Russia and the country houses Russian military bases. The Armenian foreign minister stated in an interview with a Russian news agency that it accuses Turkey of increasing instability in the region by deploying Syrian jihadists to the war-front while also supplying arms and drones to Azerbaijan. Both Turkey and Azerbaijan deny this, with the Azerbaijan government stating that while it respects external support, it does not need troops or help in the conflict.
Armenia and Azerbaijan are engaged in a violent outbreak in Karabakh since Sunday resulting in widespread civilian deaths and unrest in the region. It is crucial now, that a long overdue peace treaty takes place between the two regarding Nagorno-Karabakh. A treaty which stands on the interests of the parties involved in the conflict, and not one which has external powers breathing down the region’s neck.