The Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict Continues to Escalate

Sophia Vlahakis, Editor-in-Chief, News and Sports

As one of the sole Christian countries in the Middle East, Armenia has long faced challenges and is still battling to protect its heritage. While fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh region started in 1988, the dispute ties back to a century ago when 1.5 millions Armenians were killed in the Armenian Genocide at the hands of the Turkish government who denies these systematic killings to the day.

Nagorno-Karabakh or Artsakh has been occupied by Armenians for thousand of years and having faced a history of persecution, the territory declared independence from Azerbaijan aiming to reunite with its cultural homeland. This launched a six year war of violence that cost 30,000 lives between the former Soviet republics and ended in a Russian administered ceasefire. The result was a displacement of many Azerbaijanis from the region as the Armenian enclave was proclaimed an autonomous zone in the hands of ethnic Armenians; although, it remained recognized as part of Azerbaijan. 

There have been many clashes regarding Artsakh since 1994 and a persistence of common hostility, but serious fighting did not breakout until this past July and only escalated in late September. Although many have hesitated to assign blame, analysts strongly hypothesize that Azerbaijan revived the conflict. Fighting has dramatically escalated since and the tension that exists between the two shows no signs of dissipating. Just under 1000 deaths have been reported in this wage of artillery and drones including civilians and the military. Many soldiers, however, were informal and just regular civilians a few months prior who headed to fight under a moral obligation. 

This conflict is not just representative of the decades long stalemate between Armenia and Azerbaijan nor is it just limited to a dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory, it is representative of the tension in the Middle East and just how close a region wide clash is. Russia serves as a middleman between the two nations but has a military obligation to Armenia. As well, Turkey, a member of NATO, has shown support for its ethnic Turkish ally, Azerbaijan. The first problem that arises from this is that Russia and Turkey are already at odds with conflicts in Syria and Libya. The other problem is that the involvement of Turkey brings up the unrecognized Armenian Genocide of 1915 and further justifies the feelings in Armenians that they are fighting for survival: Turkish President Erdogan alluded to this on July 22, “We will continue to fulfill this mission, which our grandfathers have carried out for centuries…” Due to Turkey’s extensive military resources, Turkey can largely skew the dispute to the favor of Azerbaijan.  The military deficit is a severe weakness for Armenia, though it is not for a lack of strong will as many with Armenian background or connection to Artsakh have rallied together. 

Living in a land that is not geographically designated as Armenia is not the sole basis for this conflict. Lucrative oil pipelines that pass through this region further complicate the crisis because Azerbaijan and Turkey will not let profitable land go. Turkey is highly invested in this territory for financial reasons.

With a stalemate being the only realistic solution for a return to “stability,” the United States has finally interfered to bring about peace but this third attempt at a ceasefire has already shown signs of faltering. The initial attempt for a ceasefire was settled by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on October 10th and the second was planned for October 11th following the same guidelines; however, each time the ceasefire collapsed within hours and both sides blamed the other. Following extreme campaigning on behalf of Armenian Americans and the fear of an escalating conflict, the United States brokered a ceasefire based off of the previous terms to go into action on October 26th but once again, allegations arose demonstrating the extreme distrust and need for a settlement. 

The United States feels vulnerable due to their alliance with Turkey but as President Trump pointed out, a solution is a necessity. Every day has led to more lives lost and a region wide ethnic battle seems imminent.