Oxford's oldest student newspaper

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Conflict in the Caucasus: The escalation of the Armenian and Azerbaijani conflict

Matthew Barrett discusses the ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the contested area of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Recent clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan have left many dead on both sides. As a result, further violent protests took place around the world. Cher and the Kardashians have been among the many outspoken individuals, seeking to raise awareness and demand action.

Both sides accuse the other country of igniting the conflict. The fighting has been conducted mainly through artillery and drones, to deadly effect. The current skirmishes appear to show the most serious spike in hostilities since the April War of 2016 which saw hundreds killed over several days of fighting.

Violence erupted in the afternoon of the 12th of July along the two countries’ northern border of the Tovuz District of Azerbaijan which borders Armenia’s Tavush Province. 16 people are reported to have been killed, a civilian amongst them.

In a statement released by Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry, it was revealed that the civilian killed was a 76-year-old member of the village of Agdam. It claims the attacks on the civilian population were deliberate and “an integral part of Armenia’s aggressive policy”. It went on to add that Armenian armed forces “continuously” shelled Azerbaijani population centres from heavy weapons and also seriously damaged people’s farmsteads and properties, and infrastructure in residential areas.

The violence left multiple Azerbaijani servicemen dead. Protests were sparked in the country’s capital Baku following the funeral of an army general who was killed. An estimated 30,000 people took to the streets demanding the Azeri government fully deploy the army in all-out war against Armenia demanding “Start the war” while shouting “Death to Armenians” and “Karabakh is ours”. Several demonstrators also managed to break into the parliament building.

Armenia, meanwhile, has accused Azerbaijan of bombing a Kindergarten building in the village of Aygepar. Reports have also emerged of Azerbaijani forces using human shields in order to attack the Armenian position. Azerbaijani soldiers allegedly used the gardens and yards of civilians in order to fire at Armenian forces knowing that return fire would not be possible. There have also been reports of the Azerbaijani military opening fire in the direction of a mask production factory, which plays an essential part in the country’s coronavirus response. A Chernobyl style ‘catastrophe’ has also been threatened by the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry spokesperson who has claimed that Azerbaijani drones are capable of targeting an Armenian nuclear power station.

This is no new occurrence. The two countries have been locked in conflict over the Nagorno – Karabakh region since the end of the 1994 war, which followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. The territory is currently inhabited by ethnic Armenians and is known locally as Artsakh. It is nevertheless internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan.

The recent violence took place to the north of the disputed territory which led the Turkish foreign ministry to claim that the attacks were “attempts by Armenia to divert the attention of the international community from the illegal occupation of the Azerbaijani territory of Nagorno-Karabakh… and to block the political solution by adding new dimensions to the conflict”. Turkey is Azerbaijan’s closest political ally.

Russia, one of Armenia’s closest allies, has called any escalation of the situation “unacceptable” and urged restraint and compliance with the ceasefire on both sides. Trust in Russia has declined in Armenia recently according to public opinion surveys. Russian arms sales to Azerbaijan despite its strategic partnership with Armenia may be one of the factors behind such a decline.

Around the world protests and violence by the diasporas of both countries have taken place. In Los Angeles, a violent clash between Armenian protestors and Azerbaijani protestors erupted in front of the Azerbaijani consulate resulting in the injury of four people, including a police officer. In London, scuffles broke out in front of the Armenian Embassy between Azerbaijani protestors and Armenian counter protestors. “Safarov” was allegedly chanted by the Azeri side. Ramil Safarov is an Azerbaijani Army Officer who axed an Armenian soldier to death in his sleep during a NATO sponsored training seminar in Budapest. Having been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in Hungary, he was then extradited back to Azerbaijan, welcomed as a hero and pardoned by the president Ilham Aliyev.

Prominent celebrities have also tweeted their solidarity with Armenia over the recent conflict. Cher tweeted about Azerbaijan’s threat to bomb Armenia’s nuclear power station. Kim Kardashian tweeted about Azerbaijan’s unprovoked attack on Armenia during a global pandemic, ignoring the UN’s appeal for a global ceasefire. The hashtag #SupportArmenia has been widely circulated on social media platforms. Baroness Cox has also written to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab urging a firm stance be taken by the British Government to work with the Armenian Government to ensure security in the region. She has also urged immediate steps be taken to promote de-escalation of the conflict.

Despite unanimous calls for the de-escalation of the conflict, deep ethnic and historic ties to the territory on both sides means that a resolution to the conflict seems unlikely in the near future.

Support student journalism

Student journalism does not come cheap. Now, more than ever, we need your support.

Check out our other content

Most Popular Articles