Peace talks have proven to be difficult for Russia as it tries to negotiate settlements between Armenia and Azerbaijan’s fight over Nagorno-Karabakh. In early April Replica Handbags, Baku’s and Yerevan’s military confrontation has claimed more than 100 lives. The conflict has unleashed bottled-up nationalism and rivalry in both sides as they blame each other of starting the fight and justifying their own claims for the region. While Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised as Azerbaijani territory, but the geopolitics of the Caucasus region may not favour Baku.
Background: the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict
Nagorno-Karabakh is a landlocked mountainous region which is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan. This area had been a fierce battleground for the former empires of Russia, Ottoman and Persia as it was a barrier between the rival kingdoms. Caught in the middle of the fighting were the Christian-Armenians and Muslim-Azeris, whose fate was determined by whichever empire became their rulers. Czarist Russia was the last empire to seize control of the Nagorno-Karabakh. When the Russian Empire collapsed, its former territories: Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia combined into a single political entity known as the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic. This short-lived state eventually fell into the hands of the Soviet Union.
Under Soviet rule, the regime set its own designs on the region to accommodate to its geopolitical position in the Caucasus. Stalin wanted public support from Armenia so he promised Karabakh to Yerevan. But at the same time, to mollify relations with Turkey, Stalin incorporated the Nagorno-Karabakh region into Azerbaijani territory as Ankara was fearful of a strong Armenian state. Thus, the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast was created in 1923. During Soviet rule, Armenia and Azerbaijan didn’t dispute over the region.
When Gorbachev introduced Glasnost throughout Soviet states, Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh became more vocal about linguistic and cultural rights. Tensions escalated in 1988 when the Nagorno-Karabakh legislation wanted to become a part of Armenian territory since a majority of the population are Armenians. Azerbaijan responded with an invasion, and the Soviet Union failed to stop the fight. When the USSR fell, Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence from Azerbaijan in 1991 December and this was followed by a war in 1992. The border conflict forced many Azeris to leave and around 20,000 died from both sides. A Russian-led ceasefire was signed in 1994, but the status of Nagorno-Karabakh remained unresolved. At the moment, the landlocked area operates as a de facto autonomous region running its own military while receiving financial support from Yerevan.
Politics in the Caucasus region
Members of the OSCE Minsk Group like Russia called for ceasefire to prevent a full-scale war. Azerbaijan says its land is being occupied by Armenians and that Armenia is responsible for the conflict in April. On the other hand, the Armenian government claims Armenians are just exercising self-determination rights. During the peace talks, Armenian and Azerbaijani media are locked in a war of words accusing each other of violating ceasefire agreements. The latest attacks happened on 25 April, where the Armenian Defence Ministry reported Azerbaijani armed forces fired across the two county’s border.
Whether or not Azerbaijan could get its way in the peace talks will depend on the Caucasus region’s bigger players. Russia, the leading power in the Caucasus, is mediating the talks. But Moscow treads carefully as the outcome of the peace talks would affect its geopolitical position. The primary goal for Russia is to prevent a full-scale war as the South Caucasus is an important trading and transportation route to all nations who depend on it. Armenia, a tradition ally of Russia, has angrily accused Turkey of deliberately escalating tensions through their staunch support of Azerbaijan. The old wounds still hurt Armenians as they have never received an apology from Turkey for the Armenian Genocide. And now Replica Handbags, Ankara’s involvement has fuelled nationalistic fervour across Armenia, and in the hearts of diaspora Armenians. On the 101st anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, Armenians from around the world called for the Turkish government to recognise the genocide. The Armenian president, Serzh Sargsyan, made it clear to Turkey not to intervene:
“I declare for the entire world to hear: there will be no purging or deportation of the Armenians of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). We will not allow another Armenian Genocide. We – means the Armenian nation, all its segments http://www.inhandbag.com, we – means our Armenian consolidation.”
Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, denied allegations of fuelling tensions: “While announcing the ceasefire regime unilaterally, Azerbaijan has once again proved to the world that the country stands for peaceful settlement of the conflict.”
Moscow’s support for Armenia is a way to deter Turkish influence in the region, and growing Azerbaijani power. Russia-Turkey relations have soured since last year when the Turkish military shot down a Russian jet in the Turkish-Syrian border. Russia has warned Ankara not to instigate further tensions: “Statements made by the Turkish leaders are totally unacceptable for one simple reason – they are calling not for peace but for war,” the Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov commented.
Although Russia is wary of Turkish influence, but Moscow is still keen to retain economic relationships with Azerbaijan as Baku is one of Russia’s biggest trading partners in arms, minerals, natural gas and agriculture. Baku has worked hard over the years to build-up a balanced relationship with Moscow. The country has remembered well of the consequences of coming into conflict with Russian interests. Russian involvement in the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 1994 costed Azerbaijan’s control of the region which damaged the two countries’ relations. The closing of the Russian-Azerbaijani borders in 1994 subsequently impoverished Azerbaijan’s economy. But in 2001 and onwards, Baku and Moscow’s relationship steadily improved and with Azerbaijan’s careful diplomacy, the country managed to flourish economically and have some freedom to build-up its own economic plans without Russia’s interference.
The Caucasus region is dominated by Russian politics. Just like 1994 when the Russian-led ceasefire left Nagorno-Karabakh status unclear Replica Handbags, this area’s fate will depend on Russia’s decisions. Russia is not keen for Turkey to increase its power and influence in the region, while Armenia is wary of possible Turkish aggression. Although Azerbaijan has Ankara’s backing, Baku’s potential as a growing power in the Caucasus may prompt Russia to be cautious in how they handle Nagorno-Karabakh’s future.