State Department “Deeply Concerned”

The State Department has stated that it is “deeply concerned” about the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, where another war threatens to break out between rivals Armenia and Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has repeatedly violated the ceasefire agreement signed after the 2020 war and there have been large troop movements paired with attempts to provoke Armenian troops into a confrontation. Tensions have been steadily rising since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Renewed conflict only a matter of time

Abkhazia is an unrecognized state located in the Nagorno-Karabakh region between Christian Armenia and Muslim Azerbaijan. Both countries claim this area as part of their ancestral homeland.

When the Soviet Union collapsed and the two countries became independent they went to war over the region, fighting the First Nagorno-Karabakh War from 1988 to 1994.

This war was a decisive Armenian victory and resulted in the expulsion of Azerbaijanis from the region, while the Armenian population declared an independent republic.

Fighting flared up repeatedly in the ensuing years, but in 2020 tensions erupted into a full-scale war as Azerbaijan launched an offensive with Israeli weapons and tacit support from Turkey.

The fighting was incredibly bloody given the small size of the two countries and their armies; thousands were killed on both sides, though the outnumbered and outgunned Armenians got the worst of it.

The decisive Battle of Shusha ended the war with a clear but incomplete victory for Azerbaijan, which kept the land in Nagorno-Karabakh which it had conquered in a peace deal brokered by Russia, though much of the contested area remained in Armenian hands.

Another war in Nagorno-Karabakh increasingly likely

That means that another war is inevitable at some point, and with Russia distracted in Ukraine Azerbaijan appears to have decided that it now has the perfect opportunity to finish what it started in 2020.

Russian peacekeepers have been largely ignored as Azerbaijani forces have repeatedly crossed the line of contact and have reportedly engaged in isolated firefights with Artsakh troops.

Even more concerning is the cutting of a gas pipeline that supplies Stepanakert, Artakh’s capital. Since 2020 this pipeline has gone through territory held  by Azerbaijan. Without it, 75,000 civilians in Stepanakert have no heat or electricity.

Along with the U.S. State Department, the Russian Foreign and Defense Ministries have expressed their concerns about the potential for a violent escalation.

If another war broke out it would be almost in Russia’s backyard, but Russia has its hands full in Ukraine. A new war between little Azerbaijan and little Armenia is unlikely to attract much attention from the rest of the world given the larger conflict.

The timing is perfect for Azerbaijan to follow the 2020 success by taking the rest of the contested territory. For Armenia the situation couldn’t be worse, and outside help is very unlikely.

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