Escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: Testing the Status Quo

With growing confrontation between Russia and Turkey Azerbaijan should understand, that the strategic alliance with Turkey will always keep it in the Ankara's orbit.

Another escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has occurred on the Saturday night of April 2. The parties accused each other of heavy shelling across the front line. The Nagorno-Karabakh (NKR) Defense Army has reported that Baku started to advance on several fronts in the Karabakh conflict zone. According to NKR, the Azerbaijani military used artillery, armored vehicles and aircraft. On the other hand, Baku representative said that the situation worsened because of the Armenian military, who on the night of April 2 massed fire against the Azerbaijani Army along the entire front line. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported that the fighting in the conflict zone did not stop: the Armenian army suffered great casualties, its military equipment and military infrastructure destroyed.

For its part, press secretary of the Minister of defense of Armenia Artsrun Hovhannisyan said that the Azeri armed forces counter-attack failed, and the Azerbaijani side suffered heavy losses in manpower and weaponry.

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed deep concern about the resumption of armed clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh and called "for an immediate ceasefire and restraint."

Everything as usual. However, with each passing day it becomes more and more clear that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict cannot remain unresolved forever, and sooner or later it will be necessary to solve this problem. Both warring parties wish to shift the conflict from the "dead spot". The manifestation of this is the periodical resumptions of hostilities from Azerbaijan and Armenia, along with officials’ statements about the need to resolve it peacefully. However, key issues related to its settlement still remain unresolved. Among them - the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijani regions under Armenian control, as well as the return of refugees.

In the context of the ongoing Russian-Turkish crisis it appears that at present Turkey (as one of the key players in the region) can initiate with the active support of the West the formation of a new alliance, which will include Georgia and Azerbaijan, i.e. countries with common geopolitical, military and energy/economic interests.

Turkey as strategic regional ally of Baku consistently supported the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and Georgia. All these countries share a common desire to change their disadvantaged status quo in the region, which does not allow them to solve problems related to their territorial integrity.

Ankara condemns the actions of Yerevan in Nagorno-Karabakh. During the escalation of the Karabakh conflict in April 1993, Turkey decided to close the land border with Armenia, which is one of the republic's exits to the outside world. Until now, this situation remains unchanged. There are no diplomatic relations between Turkey and Armenia, and Baku continues to support Turkey in the Armenian genocide issue.

The settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict could sufficiently strengthen Ankara's geopolitical position in the region and contribute to solve key strategic objectives of Ankara - membership in the European Union, penetration into the Caucasus region, and in the long term to become a relatively independent Center in Eurasia.

Thus, it seems that the West will consider Turkey as part of its geopolitical project, where Ankara under the auspices of NATO and the EU will play the role of conductor with aim to involve the countries of the region into the Western orbit by all available means, including such drastic measures, as acceleration of NATO enlargement. It can change the status quo and lead to a new balance of power in the region. Not by chance after the incident with the Russian bomber Su-24, Prime Minister of Turkey Ahmet Davutoglu said that "for the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and peace in the region a complete withdrawal from the occupied Azerbaijani lands is necessary."

In connection with the current deterioration in the conflict zone, the Azerbaijani Ambassador to Russia Polad Bulbuloglu also made a rather harsh statement that the "solution of the conflict is now possible only by military means."

Despite the high level of cooperation with Armenia, Russia's position regarding Nagorno-Karabakh is based on principles of the OSCE Minsk Group. It is important that the process should proceed on the basis of respect for Azerbaijan's territorial integrity and other fundamental rules of the international law, without use of force, as stressed in a statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry on May 24, 2010. Both sides, Azerbaijan and Armenia, insist on their own positions, as always: the main thing for Azerbaijan is the preservation of the territorial integrity, and for Armenia - self-determination and security guarantees for Nagorno-Karabakh.

In a new international situation Moscow continues to insist only on a political rather than military solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, focusing on the so-called refining of the "Updated Madrid principles", where there are still a lot of flaws and inaccuracies, mostly related to the referendum on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh and other issues. However, it seems that the format of the OSCE Minsk Group in dealing with the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement is no longer enough. Over the past few years, the feasibility of this group has often been questioned.

Nevertheless, in Baku there is also an understanding that the possibility of a military solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict can exacerbate the internal political struggle, which in its turn will create additional difficulties of the crisis settlement. In spite of Baku's dissatisfaction with the Armenian-Russian alliance Moscow's support of the Azerbaijan's territorial integrity cannot contribute to the rapid changes in the Western vector direction. After all, the risks connected with the willingness of Moscow to defend its interests, related to both security and economic considerations in the former Soviet Union area, are too high. In addition, the solution of the problem of the "Islamic state", banned both in Azerbaijan and Russia, and also of the border issues with Russia and Georgia, seem completely impossible without support of Moscow. At the same time, with growing confrontation between Russia and Turkey Baku should understand, that the strategic alliance with Turkey will always keep it in the Ankara's orbit.

It seems that now Baku is still at the crossroads between the interests of Russia and the ambitions of the West. Azerbaijan is forced to share Moscow's position regarding the status quo, taking Russia's unwillingness to "unfreeze" the conflict. However, the Western support of Turkey, in conditions of its acute confrontation with Russia can change the stalemate in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.