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Nagorno-Karabakh War

By Syed Zain Abbas Rizvi | October 2020

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The year 2020 seems to be packed with catastrophic surprises for the world. The recent clash between the arch-rivals Armenia and Azerbaijan has left dozens of people dead with heavy casualties on both sides. The war is increasing tensions in the south-eastern region of Europe and there is a strong possibility that more countries will soon join the war theatre, transforming Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict into an allied war. However, to know the reason behind the recent Armenia-Azerbaijan clash in an already troubled region, one needs to look back to the tumultuous relations between both the nations.

Azerbaijan is an oil-rich country in the south eastern region of Europe, bordered by Russia and Iran from north and south respectively. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan are neighboured to the west by Turkey, creating topography of both allied and rivalled positions. The recent conflict dates back to the clashes between the Catholic Armenians and Muslim Turkics that took place in the mid of the 19th century. Although the peace prevailed in the early 20th century, it was short-lived. After the end of the World War I, Russian Revolution led to the making of Nagorno-Karabagh, a 4,400 sq. km region, as the Soviet Socialist Republic of Azerbaijan in the 1920s. The Armenian majority refused to accept the division and it continued its struggle continued up till the loosening of the Soviet control over the Karabagh matters in the 1980s.

The disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991 sparked the underlying tensions between Armenia and newly-founded Azerbaijan, escalating hostility over the disputed Karabagh region, which was seemingly in the favour of joining Armenia, in place of Azerbaijan. From 1988 to 1994, approximately 30,000 lives were lost in the confrontation over the Karabakh region that by itself declared its independence in the 1991. At that juncture, the Armenian forces controlled the disputed region and refused to recognize the independence of the Nagorno-Karabagh and backing it up as the buffer between Armenia and Azerbaijan to the conflict till date. Despite of a Russian brokered ceasefire and multiple referendums, both sides continue to bicker over there mountainous terrain; Azeris demanding their rightful land back while Armenians showing no signs of retreat while the respective populations suffer the economic and residential consequences.

The current situation is the mirror of the last serious conflict between the duo back in April 2016, that rendered dozens of dead on either side and pervading hostility for months. Since last Sunday, Nagorno-Karabakh, has reported 16 casualties and mounds of damage to the military. Armenia also reported injuries while Azerbaijan reported 5 civilian deaths along with reports of 30 injured civilians. Both parties claim to have acquired the strategically important regions of the disputed territory. Despite the clash being only a mirror relatively to the brutal history, neighbouring countries like Turkey and Russia have shown signs of possible territorial escalation which could lead to a proxy war if not resisted by a ceasefire immediately.