Category Archives: South Caucasus Region

Could Turkey’s Infrastructure Projects in Karabakh Overshadow Russia’s presence?

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

Azerbaijan-Armenia border dispute – could the conflict re-escalate?

Armenia's Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev attend a meeting of heads of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan October 11, 2019. Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin)

Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev attend a meeting of heads of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan October 11, 2019. Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin)

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

Russia’s peace mission in Karabakh provokes reaction in Azerbaijan

Photo: Opening ceremony of accommodation for the Russian peace-keeping contingent in Karabakh; Russian Ministry of Defence

Photo: Opening ceremony of accommodation for the Russian peace-keeping contingent in Karabakh; Russian Ministry of Defence

As part of the 10 November ceasefire agreement that ended last year’s 44-day war, a contingent of Russian soldiers was deployed to Karabakh as peacekeepers. However, the lack of a formally agreed mandate and perceptions of Russian overstepping has led to growing tensions between Baku and Moscow, writes Fuad Shahbazov in this op-ed for KarabakhSpace.eu.

The second Karabakh war ended with the signing of a Russia-brokered ceasefire agreement and the deployment of Russian peacekeeping forces with the aim of preventing further hostilities and ensuring stability in the region. However, the ceasefire arrangements between Azerbaijan–Armenia on one side and Russia–Turkey on the other has left more questions than answers. The fact that there is still no formally agreed mandate for the Russian forces operating on the ground causes outrage in Azerbaijan as local authorities loudly criticise Moscow for provocative actions. Continue reading

Azerbaijan Feels Pressure to Join Moscow-Dominated Eurasian Economic Union

 

Photo credit: MIKHAIL KLIMENTIEV/AFP/Getty Images

EAEU member states’ leaders pose for a picture before a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in Sochi on May 14, 2018. (Photo by Mikhail KLIMENTIEV

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 18 Issue: 68

The next meeting of the Intergovernmental Council of the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) will be held in the central Russian city of Kazan, on April 29–30 (TASS, March 17). A key agenda item for the EEU member states may reportedly be to discuss the possibility of bestowing observer status on Azerbaijan and, at a minimum, to allow its delegation to take part in this and future meetings, if officials from Yerevan approve. For Russia, this would be an important first step toward Baku’s eventual full membership in the regionalist bloc (Central.asia-news.com, April 19; Turan, April 24). However, from the point of view of Armenia, several important issues will need to be addressed before it would agree to Azerbaijani attendance at this week’s EEU gathering. Continue reading

What’s driving Turkey and Ukraine’s growing alliance?

President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy (L), attend a signing ceremony ahead of press conference in Istanbul, Turkey on October 16, 2020. (Murat Cetinmuhurdar / AA)

President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R), and President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy (L), attend a signing ceremony ahead of a press conference in Istanbul, Turkey on October 16, 2020. (Murat Cetinmuhurdar / AA)

In the past few years, Turkey has been gradually increasing its influence in Ukraine amid escalating tensions with Russia, challenging Moscow’s standing in the Black Sea region. The strategic cooperation between Ankara and Kyiv is not limited to political statements but encompasses other important fields, such as the economy, security, and, in particular, defence industries.

Relations between the two countries gained further impetus with the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and reached their peak during the administration of President Volodymyr Zelensky, who assumed office in 2019. The conflict in eastern Ukraine and the growing military activity of Russia in Donbas have made the Ankara-Kyiv axis a top priority for both states. In recent years, high-ranking figures have made several official visits. Continue reading

The Second Karabakh War and Caspian Energy

Trans-Caspian Pipeline (Photo-Credit: IENE)

Trans-Caspian Pipeline (Photo-Credit: IENE)

On November 10, the second war in Nagorno-Karabakh ended with a Russia-brokered ceasefire agreement signed between Azerbaijan and Armenia. While the 44-day war caused severe damages to frontline settlements and civilian casualties on both sides, frequent missile attacks carried out by Armenia towards Azerbaijani cities and infrastructure beyond the frontline raised concerns not only in Baku but also in the EU regarding the security of vitally important energy infrastructure. The possibility of damages to energy infrastructure, particularly the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline, would explicitly put the role of these pipelines in European energy security under question.

BACKGROUND: The Tovuz/Tavush incidents on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan in July 2020 became a prelude to the second war between Baku and Yerevan in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. On September 27, 2020, fighting escalated beyond the established “meeting point” (Line of Contact) with the involvement of a significant number of military personnel, artillery units, and long-range missiles, threatening the geopolitical stability in the Black Sea-Caspian region. Continue reading

Searching for the right formula for South Caucasus regional co-operation

President Erdogan’s initiative for a 3 + 3 regional co-operation format in the South Caucasus offers the possibility of opening up the region through an extensive network of land corridors. Not everyone has welcomed the initiative, but the prospect of turning a fragile region into a beacon of stability after a long period of instability and violence is a worthy aspiration, argues Fuad Shahbazov in this op-ed for KarabakhSpace.eu.

The second Karabakh war has shifted the geopolitical and geo-economic realities in the South Caucasus region, particularly heightening the possibility of competition over the region’s transport corridors. The Moscow-brokered ceasefire agreement signed on 10 November brings with it the possibility of opening a number of transit routes, which have been closed for almost 30 years. In the aftermath of the Armenian forces’ devastating defeat in the 44-day war, the idea of regional co-operation becomes increasingly important. Continue reading

The Revival of Islam: How Do External Factors Shape the Potential Islamist Threat in Azerbaijan?

International Counter-Terrorism Review (ICTR)

International Counter-Terrorism Review (ICTR)

Abstract

Considerable scholarly work on the post-Soviet region has focused on the various regional conflicts and security challenges, but rarely on the roots of the growing Islamism factor as a new source of threat. Following the demise of the Soviet Union, with its forcibly imposed atheist agenda, the majority of Muslim countries in Central Asia and the North Caucasus witnessed growing Islamic sentiments that led to a long-term, violent Islamic insurgency in the North Caucasus and, to some extent, in Central Asia. However, unlike other Muslim countries in the post-Soviet space, Islam plays a minimal role in Azerbaijan. 

The country has maintained its unique secular model mainly due to the firm “secular nationalism” ideas put forward by local intellectuals since the 19th century. Nevertheless, it is necessary to understand the historical evolution process of Islamic thought in Azerbaijan, underline the role of certain external actors in promoting radical Islamic ideology, and understand how they pose an existential threat to national security and identity. Continue reading

Why is Azerbaijan trying to rekindle Israeli-Turkish ties?

An image from a pro-Azerbaijani community protest in Washington DC (Photo credit: Jerusalem Post)

An image from a pro-Azerbaijani community protest in Washington DC (Photo credit: Jerusalem Post)

The recent normalisation deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan signify substantial changes in the Middle East. The new agreements were signed following substantive negotiations on several security-related issues, including Iran and Turkey’s growing influence.

However, unlike their Arab counterparts, both Ankara and Tehran denounced the Abraham Accords, labeling them as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause and a “dagger in the back of Muslims.” Nevertheless, media reports in December 2020 revealed that Turkey and Israel had established a secret channel for negotiations to prepare a roadmap to further bilateral relations. The fact that Tel Aviv and Ankara’s reconciliation process emerged just weeks before newly elected US President Joe Biden was to assume office suggests that Ankara was keen to send a positive signal and prevent any possible political isolation under the new administration. Continue reading

Turkey’s rise and Iran’s decline in the South Caucasus

Azeri Artillery shelling Armenian positions (Photo: BBC)

Azeri Artillery shelling Armenian positions (Photo: BBC)

Following the deadliest large-scale violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh region for nearly three decades, the active phase of the conflict ended in November with a signed ceasefire agreement. But while the conflict asserted Turkey’s influence in the South Caucasus region, it also contributed to increased tensions between Ankara, Moscow, and Tehran.

The Turkish-Russian confrontation in the South Caucasus can be seen as a logical continuation of the rivalry in Syria and Libya, which resulted in shifting the regional balance of power along the southern borders of Russia. The active political involvement of Ankara in the conflict caused deep outrage not only in Moscow but also in Tehran, another important regional actor.

When fighting began, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey would continue to support Azerbaijan “with all its resources and heart.” During the war, Ankara provided Baku with active political and military support by exporting at least six armed Bayraktar TB2 type attack drones and supplying smart munitions (MAM-L), including precision-guided missiles. Continue reading