Azerbaijan-Armenia Standoff


Naseebullah Achakzai
Azerbaijan had been a bone of contention between Persian and Russian empires. In 1828 both empires divided the region between themselves after a prolonged war. Present Azerbaijan became the part of Russia while a lion share of the area was converted into Persion empire. In 1924 Joseph Stalin declared Azerbaijan an autonomous region. Nagorno- Karabakh, a mountainous region in the south of Caucasus has been a region of confrontation and smouldering conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan since 1918. Both States have fought bloody wars over it. During the 1988_1994 war, 30 thousand people were killed. In addition to that, in 80, s when the USSR was near to its disintegration, the parliament of Nagorno-Karabakh passed a resolution in favour of merging with Armenia. Again in 1991, in a referendum, the people of Nagorno-Karabakh voted in favour of independence and declared the region as an independent republic (Artsaj). The government of Nagorno- Karabakh shares Banking and administrative systems with Armenia since 1994 ceasefire. While, on the other hand, the world community considers the disputed region as a part of Azerbaijan. The UNO in this regard has passed a resolution in 2008 by declaring Nagorno- Karabakh the part of Azerbaijan. Being the part of Southern Caucasus, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh have tremendous strategic importance. This region is a gateway to Europe which is located between the Black and the Caspian Seas. In addition to this, it is a supply route for energy_ rich Azerbaijan to Europe. Though Nagorno-Karabakh has no known energy resources, the conflict is connected with deep interests of Russia, America, Turkey, Iran and the EU. Further, the region has attracted the competition between Russian and American oil and gas companies so that to extract the Hydrocarbon resources of Azerbaijan. Turkey which has cultural affinity, economic and energy interests with Azerbaijan, is supporting Azerbaijan in the conflict. Armenia is alleging Turkey for its military support to Azerbaijan in the present war on Nagorno-Karabakh. Further, Turkey imports one_third of its total Gas supply from Azerbaijan and is the part of Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline. Apart from this, Turkey as deep Military ties with Azerbaijan and has provided with Drones and Military assistance to Azerbaijan time and again. Furthermore, there is an old history of confrontation between Turkey and Armenia. Armenia alleges Ottoman empire of the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915, while Turkey denies the allegations. These developments have compelled Turkey to support Azerbaijan so that to increase its influence in the region. More players; America and Israel are supporting Azerbaijan on the ground to have foothold in the region and have an eye on Iran which is located next to Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan has been a trustworthy friend of America who supports the US_Afghan and anti_terrorism policy. The USA wishes to influence in the region for economic interests and to encounter its rival Moscow. In addition to that, America wants to reduce the Western dependence on Russian and Iranian energy supply so that to diminish their (Russia and Iran) geopolitical heaviness and to weaken their economies. Except for this, the USA is supporting Azerbaijan as both the states have deep strategic relations. Azerbaijan air corridor has vital importance for the USA against Europe, Russia, Iran and Afghanistan, which could be pertinent strategic vitality for the USA.On the other hand, Russia is supporting Armenia so that to confront the US in the region. It has Military bases in Armenia and has provided with military equipment. Many analysts observe this at the prism of geopolitics and neo_imperialism on the part of Russia after the annexation of Crimea and South Ossetia. Furthermore, Russia wishes to curtail Azerbaijan’s engagement  with the west and trying to bring Azerbaijan in its circle of interests. On the other side, the Turkish Russian gas agreement is going to expire in coming years, Russia wants to use Nagorno-Karabakh as a pressure tool against Turkey so as to extend the agreement. Notwithstanding to that, Russian foreign policy aims to aggrandize its sway over the South Caucasus region that is a profound energy transport route from the Caspian region to Europe. Iran is another regional player of the region. It has borders with both Armenia and Azerbaijan and is home to both Azeri and Armenian people. Azeri_Turkush community is the largest ethnic group in Iran that is comprised of 15 to 20 million people who have protested in Iran against Armenia. Iran fears that once Azerbaijan holds the Nagorno- Karabakh, a separatist moment of Azeri population in Iran (as there is a nationalist SANLM  group and Azerbaijan Popular Front Party in Azerbaijan who are struggling for greater Azerbaijan and  allege Iran for occupying Southern Azerbaijan ). Notwithstanding to that, Iran fears that American and Israeli influence in the region can jeopardize its sovereignty. Hence, It will not allow Israel and America to have presence in its backyard. Owing to this, Iranian policy has been tilting in favour of Armenia. As for as the EU is concerned, the union has its own economic interests in the region. Many states of the union import energy from Azerbaijan through a vast route via Georgia and Turkey. The Union has always supported peace in between both Azerbaijan and Armenia. And has established many peace missions for establishing peace and regarding the solution of the issue of Nogotono_Karabakh. The EU considers a peaceful region beneficial for its own interests. Once the issue is solved, the gas pipeline routes could be decreased which would be a heave for the economies energy receiving states. The union also favours Minsk  Group resolutions and supports the sovereignty of Azerbaijan on the disputed region by complying with the UN resolutions regarding Nagorno-Karabakh.  Economic interests have not only resulted in violence in Nagorno-Karabakh but have also involved many regional and international players in the conflict. Every involved state has its eyes on the fulfilment of its interests and the encirclement of its rival. Consequently, civilians pay. The sufferer are the common men of Nagorno-Karabakh. Though, the people of Nagorno-Karabakh have declared and announced themselves free from Azerbaijan, but on the flip side, the UNO acknowledges the stance of Azerbaijan on the conflict.  What come may, this long, bloody conflict needs serious steps regarding its solution.

(-The writer is a M.Phil Political Science & Freelance columnist.)