According to reports in the Azerbaijani media, Armenia shelled Azerbaijani positions near the war-torn Karabakh region over the weekend. The two former Soviet republics have been fighting over this area for almost thirty years. This time, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry accused Armenia of attacking Azerbaijani military positions near Lachin and Kalbajar. And later, the Azerbaijani military retaliated.
The Second Karabakh War ended with a cease-fire agreement in 2020, but there continue to be flare-ups between the two countries, and those have worsened since the start of the war in Ukraine. The ceasefire was brokered by Russia and used to be monitored by a Russian peacekeeping force. But since the war in Ukraine began, Russia has not been paying attention to events in Karabakh, which encourages flare-ups.
According to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “even before the Ukraine war, the Karabakh conflict was already a diplomatic and security minefield that Moscow could navigate only with difficulty. Now Russia also seems unable (or unwilling) to enforce the peace, with reports that Moscow no longer has a full contingent of peacekeepers deployed there.”
In light of this, other countries have been attempting to fill in the gap left by the Russian peacekeepers. According to State Department Spokesman Ned Price, “Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. The Secretary and President Aliyev discussed Azerbaijan and Armenia’s historic opportunity to achieve peace in the region. The Secretary reiterated the United States’ offer of assistance in helping facilitate the opening of regional transportation and communication linkages.”
“Secretary Blinken encouraged continued bilateral dialogue, such as the recent meeting between the Azerbaijani and Armenian Foreign Ministers in Tbilisi,” Price added. “The Secretary also reaffirmed his support for productive EU-brokered discussions. He conveyed that the United States has been an OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair since 1994 and stands ready to engage bilaterally and with like-minded partners to help Armenia and Azerbaijan find a long-term comprehensive peace.”
Four UN Security Council Resolutions recognize that the Karabakh region and the seven adjacent Azerbaijani districts including Lachin and Kalbajar belong to Azerbaijan under international law. Armenia occupied these areas of Azerbaijan in the 1990s, which resulted in one million Azerbaijanis becoming internally displaced persons. For almost thirty years, the international community under the auspices of the Minsk Group attempted to get Armenia to give back these lands and make peace with Azerbaijan, without success.
After Armenia attacked Azerbaijani positions in 2020, Azerbaijan retaliated by liberating most of Karabakh and the seven Azerbaijani districts. Nevertheless, although a ceasefire agreement was signed under the auspices of Russia, ending the conflict, many in Armenia refuse to accept their defeat, was the case with the past weekend’s shelling.