Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has announced he had signed an “unspeakably painful agreement” with Russia and Azerbaijan to end the war over the disputed area of Nagorno-Karabakh, just hours after Azerbaijan claimed it captured the region’s strategic city of Shusha.” I have made a difficult, extremely difficult decision for personally me and all of us. I have signed a declaration with the Presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan on stopping the war” he said. Pashinyan also said he decided to sign the agreement based on a deep analysis of the military situation and “on the conviction that in the existing situation this is the best possible outcome.”
On the other hand, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev Speaking after the agreement was announced, said that deal would “return our territories without any further bloodshed.” He said all military operations in the region that sit in Azerbaijani territory but have been populated and controlled by ethnic Armenians have stopped. “Today, I am signing this agreement with pride! Congratulations to the people of Azerbaijan!,” Aliyev added. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russian peacekeeping forces will be deployed along the contact line in Nagorno-Karabakh and within the corridor that connects the region with Armenia. So what is this conflict, which is going for the past few weeks?
WHAT IS THE NAGORNO-KARABAKH REGIONS?
Straddling western Asia and Eastern Europe, Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but most of the region is controlled by Armenian separatists. Nagorno-Karabakh has been part of Azerbaijan territory since the Soviet era. When the Soviet Union began to collapse in the late 1980s, Armenia’s regional parliament voted for the region’s transfer to Armenia; the Soviet authorities turned down the demand.
Years of clashes followed between Azerbaijan forces and Armenian separatists. The violence lasted into the 1990s, leaving tens and thousands dead and displacing hundreds of thousands. In 1994, Russia brokered a ceasefire, by which time ethnic Armenians had taken control of the region. While the area remains in Azerbaijan, it is today governed by separatist Armenians who have declared it a republic called the “Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast”. While the Armenian government does not recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as independent, it supports the region politically and militarily.
Even after the 1994 peace deal, the region has been marked by regular exchanges of fire. In 2016, it saw a Four-Day War before Russia mediated peace. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, chaired by France, Russia, and the US, has tried to get the two countries to reach a peace agreement for several years. This October, both countries agreed to a ceasefire agreement, which was also brokered by Russia but was unsuccessful.
It began on the morning of September 27, since when each country has claimed to have inflicted serious loss on its opponent. What’s different about the current flare-up is that this is the first time that both countries have proclaimed martial law. According to the Warsaw-based Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW), the current escalation was “most likely” initiated by Azerbaijan. Media reports have noted that the clashes were possibly a fallout of Azerbaijan’s bid to reclaim some territories occupied by separatist Armenians.
The chairman of Azerbaijan’s National Council has said in a statement that the “military operation of the Azerbaijani army continues to clear the territories occupied by the enemy for almost 30 years”. He said September 27 was a “day of exhaustion” and alleged Armenia has occupied regions around Nagorno-Karabakh with the “direct support” of Russia to create a “security zone”
WHAT IS IN THIS NEW DEAL?
The peace deal, which was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and Armenia’s prime minister, took effect on Tuesday from 01:00 local time (21:00 GMT Monday). Under the deal, Azerbaijan will hold on to areas of Nagorno-Karabakh that it has taken during the conflict. Armenia has also agreed to withdraw from several other adjacent areas over the next few weeks. both sides will now maintain positions in the areas that they currently hold, which will mean a significant gain for Azerbaijan as it has reclaimed over 15-20 percent of its lost territory during the recent conflict, the AFP reported.
Under this agreement, all military operations are suspended, Russian peacekeepers will be deployed along the line of contact in Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Lachin corridor that connects the region to Armenia. These Russian peacekeepers with a force of roughly 2,000 will be deployed in the area for five years.
Refugees and internally displaced persons will return to the region and the adjacent territories and the two sides will also exchange prisoners of wars and bodies. Significantly, a new corridor will be opened from Nakhchivan to Azerbaijan, which will be under Russian control. According to a BBC article that a large crowd gathered in the Armenian capital to protest against the peace deal, while Azerbaijan’s Aliyev has said that the agreement was of “historic importance”.
HOW THIS DEAL IS IMPORTANT FOR RUSSIA?
Russia’s role in the conflict has been somewhat opaque since it supplies arms to both countries and is in a military alliance with Armenia called the Collective Security Treaty Organisation.
In a statement released last month, Dmitry Peskov, the Press Secretary of the President of the Russian Federation, said Russia “has always taken a balanced position” on the matter and has “traditionally good relations” with both countries.
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