The recent war of words between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and the developments of the last several weeks, have demonstrated that both sides are far from inking a peace deal, which was promised by the end of 2022. Although both states vowed to intensify joint efforts on the final peace treaty in October 2022 on the sidelines of the Prague summit, little has been done since. On the contrary, the failure to hold peace negotiations has been magnified by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s controversial statements regarding Moscow’s non-recognition of Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over Karabakh, which have immensely increased the risks of renewed hostilities between Baku and Yerevan (JAM-news, October 28). Although Russia maintains the role of “key mediator” on the Karabakh issue, Azerbaijan now openly demonstrates its discontent over Moscow’s role in the peace process, particularly after the merely symbolic meeting in Sochi on October 3 (Apa.az, November 28). Continue reading
On October 5, 2020, when the full-scale war between Azerbaijani and Armenian armed forces had just started in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, President Ilham Aliyev was already talking about military reform. In an interview with Turkish state-run broadcaster TRT, Aliyev said that his intention was to remake the Azerbaijani military “based on the Turkish model but on a smaller scale.”
That reform had been underway for several years as Azerbaijan sought to move away from a Soviet model of the armed forces – featuring a heavy use of conscripts and large quantities of infantry and armor units – toward a more NATO-style professional, mobile, high-tech force. As Turkey was Azerbaijan’s closest ally, it was naturally the NATO military Baku sought to emulate.
Turkey’s heavy military support to Azerbaijan in the war against Armenia solidified that orientation. As Aliyev put it in the interview: “Turkey’s moral support and the Turkish defense industry products at our disposal strengthen us, and the whole world can see that. The Turkish Army is the second strongest army in NATO today, and no one can confront it.” Continue reading
Different interpretations of the 10 November 2020 trilateral declaration which ended the 44 day Karabakh war resulted in an open sharp exchange between the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence and its Russian counterpart. “The Azerbaijani leadership is not in the mood to consider any concessions when it comes to the country’s territorial integrity”, writes Fuad Shahbazov in this op-ed for KarabakhSpace.eu.
More than a year after the signing of the 10 November ceasefire agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia tensions in the Karabakh region again flared up in the last days, causing another round of war of words between Azerbaijan and Russia. The current discontent between Baku and Moscow seems more significant compared to August of 2021 when official Baku openly accused the Russian peace contingent in Karabakh of inaction while elements of the Armenian Armed Forces were transferred to this region. Continue reading
On Feb. 22, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev visited Moscow at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin at what was a sensitive moment—just a day after Moscow officially recognized the independence of the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, and a day before Russia launched a full-scale invasion of the country.
The main agenda of Aliyev’s visit was to sign a new declaration that upgraded the two countries’ relationship to one of “allied cooperation.” The declaration expresses both sides’ intention of strengthening cooperation across a wide range of fields, including regional security issues, military ties, energy, and trade, while calling for mutual consultations on joint efforts in international organizations, with the aim “to protect the interests of Azerbaijan and Russia.” It builds on two previous agreements signed between the two countries in 1997 and 2008 that elevated their relationship to a strategic partnership. Continue reading
The current crisis between Russia and Ukraine has put the United States and its European allies on high alert over the possibility of the first major interstate military conflict in Europe since World War II. Although efforts to find a diplomatic resolution to the crisis continue, the room for a mutually acceptable outcome has narrowed now that the U.S. and NATO have rejected Russia’s demands that no additional NATO troops be deployed to Eastern Europe, while continuing to provide arms and other aid to Ukraine.
Apart from the concerns the crisis has raised over European security and Russian revanchism, Europe is also particularly alarmed about the potential for major disruptions in its energy market, which is highly dependent on Russian oil and gas. Indeed, a military invasion of Ukraine could create an energy catastrophe in Europe if it results in Russian gas exports being cut entirely. The diplomatic fallout from an invasion could also trigger the cancellation of current energy projects within the European Union, such as the Nord Stream-2 pipeline to Germany, which would have long-term implications for European energy supplies. Continue reading
On October 6, 2021, Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov met his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir Abdollahian in Moscow to discuss regional security and economic cooperation, and to address important concerns regarding the crisis in the South Caucasus. During the joint press conference, Lavrov repeatedly highlighted the idea of a “3+3 cooperation format” including the three South Caucasus states – Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia – plus their three large neighbors, Russia, Turkey, and Iran, to focus on unlocking economic and transport communications in the region. The first meeting within the format took place in Moscow on December 2021; however, Georgia refused to take part. Moreover, recent tensions in the region between Armenia and Azerbaijan as well as Azerbaijan and Iran suggest that the proposed format will not generate visible positive outcomes.
BACKGROUND: After the second Karabakh war, Turkey revealed its intention to establish a 3+3 cooperation format in the South Caucasus, including Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia along with Turkey, Russia and Iran, with the intention to boost intraregional economic cooperation and new transit links. The initiative was received positively by Russia and Iran, much less so by Georgia and Armenia given the security situation of these countries. For Armenia, participation in the format along with Azerbaijan in the aftermath of the large-scale conflict seems challenging, as Yerevan has avoided agreements on any land trade corridors with Azerbaijan as long as disagreements over borders remain unsettled. In the case of Georgia, Russia’s participation in the format spells a danger of negative repercussions. Continue reading
Last September, long-brewing strains between Iran and Azerbaijan reached an unprecedented level, resulting in the deployment of troops and large-scale military drills by both sides. The most immediate trigger was the Azerbaijani authorities’ arrest of two Iranian truck drivers on Armenia’s Goris–Kapan highway (which partially straddles the undelimited portion of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border) for illegally entering the territory of Azerbaijan (Turan, September 15; see EDM, October 6, 27). In addition to Baku’s and Tehran’s rival demonstrative military exercises near the two countries’ shared border, their mutual diplomatic rhetoric became even more aggressive. Inadvertently or not, Baku’s blockade of the road for Iranian trucks also notably spotlighted Iran’s energy exports to Karabakh. Continue reading
On July 28, The United States’ House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2022 Foreign Aid Bill proposed by Congressional Armenian Caucus co-chair Frank Pallone to restrict US foreign military financing and training assistance to Azerbaijan. According to the amendment, Azerbaijan is banned from receiving any military aid under International Military Education and Training (IMET) and Foreign Military Financing (FME) programs (Armenpress, July 29).
While this decision was widely cheered in Armenia, it passed by largely unnoticed in Azerbaijan, even though US military aid to the country had become an object of frequent debate in recent years, particularly during the years of the Donald Trump administration. The White House’s attention to the region at that time was emphasized by the visit of then-National Security Advisor John Bolton, in October of 2018 (see EDM, October 29, 2018). The Trump administration’s main interest in Azerbaijan mostly revolved around that country’s role in strategically important trans-regional energy projects (Southern Gas Corridor) as well as its proximity to the Middle East antagonist Iran. Hence, the growing bilateral cooperation between Washington and Baku resulted in a short-term influx of military aid allocated to Azerbaijan, estimated at around $58.6 million in 2018 and $42.9 million in 2019, respectively. Continue reading
Russia may have deployed thousands of soldiers in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, but it isn’t the only external power to have gained influence following the 44-day war. In this opinion piece for KarabakhSpace.eu, Fuad Shahbazov looks at Turkey’s involvement in the reconstruction of territories returned to Azerbaijani control following last year’s war, and Ankara’s strengthening position in the South Caucasus region.
On 10 November, the Russia-brokered ceasefire agreement silenced the guns in Nagorno-Karabakh, putting an end to the bloody 44-day war. Although more than six months have now passed, many questions remain unanswered. Nevertheless, in ending the war, Russia took its long-awaited opportunity to exacerbate its influence in the region and ensure a physical presence in Karabakh, thus acquiring additional leverage over both Azerbaijan and Armenia. Continue reading
One week from the start of the dispute on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, the situation remains without a resolution. In this opinion piece for KarabakhSpace.eu, Fuad Shahbazov looks at what is driving Azerbaijani actions on the ground and in the diplomatic arena, and the possibility of escalation.
Half a year after the Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement was signed between Azerbaijan and Armenia ending the 44-day war in Karabakh, peace in the complex region is not on the horizon. A new stage of discontent and harsh statements came last week after Azerbaijani Armed Forces reportedly crossed the border with Armenia in the Syunik province and advanced around 3 kilometres by Sev Lake. Yerevan dubbed this action as an explicit provocation and an attempt to occupy Armenian territory, whereas Baku denied the accusations, stating that Azerbaijani border guards established a military control point at the heights around the lake without advancing into Armenian territories. A day later, another official statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan said that there is no reason for panic as border demarcation/delimitation process is a complicated process. Continue reading