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  • On September 27 explosions shook Nagorno-Karabakh.

  • It's a mountainous region between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

  • And the center of a relentless dispute between these countries; Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally

  • recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but was occupied by Armenia in a war almost 30 years

  • ago. Both country's armies have been dug in along

  • this line ever since. Fighting occasionally broke out but usually

  • died down.

  • This time was different. Fierce fighting erupted in September 2020

  • and quickly became a full-scale war. Both sides were accused of bombing civilian

  • areas in the region.

  • Thousands of people died, including 100 civilians. Then, in a sudden and dramatic turn in this

  • decades old conflict, Armenia surrendered.

  • A ceasefire was signed on November 9 and Azerbaijan declared victory.

  • So what sparked this war?

  • And what does the ceasefire mean for this fiercely contested place?

  • Nagorno-Karabakh is in the Caucuses, between Europe and Asia.

  • Historically, its population has been mostly ethnic Armenian with a substantial Azeri minority.

  • It's dotted with medieval Armenian churches, has always had this strong Armenian population.

  • And to complicate things, in the 18th century, a kind of very big, important Azerbaijani

  • town, the citadel of Shusha, was founded right in the middle of this territory.

  • So this was a region that was incredibly important both to Armenians and to Azerbaijanis.

  • But for most of the 19th century, it was ruled by the Russian Empire.

  • After the Empire fell, in 1918, ethnic Armenians and Azeris formed new countries: Armenia and

  • Azerbaijan. And they immediately fought over this region.

  • But just three years later, Russian Soviets conquered the entire Caucuses.

  • The soviets eventually made Armenia and Azerbaijanrepublicswithin the Soviet Union and

  • drew new borders. And they made Nagorno-Karabakh a semi-autonomous

  • region in the Azerbaijani Republic, despite its majority-Armenian population.

  • Ethnic Armenians there frequently asked to join the Armenian Republic, but were denied.

  • This was the Soviet Union. There was no democracy. There was no dialog. The kind of problem festered

  • for all those years. Still, there weren't signs of war until the

  • Soviet Union began to loosen its grip. In the late 1980s, the Soviet Union announced

  • a new policy, called glasnost, that gave its people more political freedoms.

  • But it had unintended consequences.

  • Glasnost has given people freedom not only to create but to hate.

  • Ancient feuds erupting such as the one between Azerbaijan and Armenia."

  • In 1988, ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh passed a referendum to leave the Azerbaijan

  • Republic, reviving the conflict. In Armenia, people rallied for unification.

  • While in Azerbaijan, people responded with counter-protests.

  • Violence soon erupted in Nagorno-Karabakh. As the Soviet Union fell apart, Armenia and

  • Azerbaijan declared independence, escalating the conflict into a war.

  • About 20,000 people died. And over 1 million were forced to flee their homes in the region.

  • Fighting raged for 3 more years, until Armenia finally won.

  • In 1994, both sides signed a ceasefire agreement, freezing the conflict.

  • Armenia occupied several pieces of Azerbaijan. As well as Nagorno-Karabakh, which was still

  • legally recognized as part of Azerbaijan even though it had declared itself an autonomous

  • region at the start of the war. This occupation displaced hundreds of thousands

  • of azeris from their homes. The deal was brokered by Russia, who was a

  • formal ally to Armenia but also had a good relationship with Azerbaijan.

  • Russia's role has always been a bit ambiguous here.

  • Because although they are the main mediator, they've had their own agenda, which is to

  • keep their influence in the region and if possible, get Russian troops back on the ground.

  • While Russia was not able to send troops as part of the deal in 1994, it did end up leading

  • a new international group, with France and the US to try and find a permanent solution

  • to the conflict.

  • But Armenia and Azerbaijan refused to settle. Instead, Armenia renamed formerly Azeri towns

  • and repopulated them with ethnic Armenians.

  • While its leaders called for it to be officially unified with Armenia.

  • Meanwhile, Azerbaijan planned a comeback. From 2008 to 2019, it spent $24 billion on

  • its military. Six times more than Armenia.

  • All the while reiterating its claim to Nagorno-Karabakh. On the ground, both countries maintained a

  • On the ground, both countries maintained a military presence along the front lines. Where skirmishes broke out occasionally.

  • In 2016, they fought a war that lasted 4 days.

  • So people called this a frozen conflict. But it was in no way a frozen conflict. It was

  • a smoldering conflict. And it reignited when another country suddenly

  • intervened.

  • In the past few years, Turkey

  • Turkey has increasingly intervened in conflicts around the region, in order to

  • tilt the outcomes in its favor. By sending troops into the Syrian civil war,

  • it captured a swath of territory along its border in 2019.

  • And in 2020, its troops have turned the tide of the Libyan civil war in favor of the government,

  • who is helping Turkey claim valuable natural gas deposits in the Mediterranean.

  • These are also ways for Turkey to push back against its major rival, Russia, who is also

  • fighting in both conflicts. So in July 2020, when skirmishes broke out

  • in Nagorno-Karabakh, Turkey saw an opportunity and threw its support behind Azerbaijan, whose

  • majority Azeri-population is a Turkic ethnic group.

  • Azerbaijan is probably the closest country there is to Turkey. The two languages are

  • extremely close. There was even talk of, you know, one nation and two states.

  • And they also, I guess, wanted to kind of on a crude level, have a thumb in the eye

  • for Russia. In August, the two held joint military exercises

  • in Azerbaijan. And Turkey's supply of weapons to Azerbaijan

  • dramatically surged.

  • Which included advanced drones. I think this conflict has been planned for

  • many months jointly in Ankara and in Baku. And so with Turkey's support, Azerbaijan

  • launched its attack. In just over a week, Azerbaijani soldiers

  • had pushed at least 20 kilometers into Armenian-held territory.

  • A few weeks later, they advanced further into Nagorno-Karabakh, and also got close to the

  • Armenian border.

  • It wasn't a fair fight. Armenia fought back but was nearly defenseless

  • against Azerbaijan's deadly drones. Then, on November 8, Azerbaijan won its biggest

  • victory. It captured the historic city of Shusha, just 15 kilometers from the capital,

  • Stepanakert.

  • That's when Armenia agreed to surrender. The ceasefire agreement that ended the war

  • The ceasefire agreement that ended the war

  • dramatically reshapes who controls Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan will keep what it captured and

  • take over this part from Armenia. This part remains under control of ethnic

  • Armenians, but they won't be alone. Russia didn't intervene in the war, but

  • brokered this deal which calls for 2,000 of its troops to serve there as peacekeepers.

  • Russia obviously had its ideas about how to end this conflict with Russian peacekeepers.

  • And certainly didn't rush to help Armenia. Turkey also gains a foothold here.

  • The deal calls for the construction of a road here, which would give Turkey access to Azerbaijan.

  • Plus, in agreement with Russia, Turkey will now send its own peacekeeping troops to the

  • region. So while Azerbaijan is celebrating and Turkey

  • and Russia won strategic rewards, Armenia is in turmoil.

  • After the deal was announced, mobs stormed government buildings in the capital and called

  • for the removal of the Prime Minister. I think, Armenia, is in a huge state of trauma.

  • It's going to take a long time for it to recover from this. And the political crisis, I think,

  • is going to be ongoing for a long time in Armenia.

  • In Nagorno-Karabakh, ethnic Armenians in newly-captured areas may be forced out.

  • Some have already burned their homes before leaving. While Azeris who fled during the

  • previous war, could make their way back. Ultimately, the agreement does nothing to

  • end the hostility between the two countries. Until that happens, this conflict

  • could have another round again.

  • It is much more a deal than it is a peace.

On September 27 explosions shook Nagorno-Karabakh.

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The Armenia and Azerbaijan war, explained

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/12/03
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