by Evan James, Big League Politics:
The Russian government has renewed its call for an end to hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
According to The Guardian, Russian Minister of Defence Sergei Shoygu spoke to the Azeri and Armenian ministers of defence and urged them to respect the conditions of their previously agreed-upon ceasefire.
Azerbaijan claims Nagorno-Karabakh because it lies within its borders. Armenia claims the territory because a majority of ethnic Armenians populate and govern it. Both sides have accused the other of ratcheting the conflict up into full-blown violence and targeting civilians.
More than 500 people are said to have died throughout 17 days of fighting.
Big League Politics’ Richard Moorhead wrote the following about the conflict when it first broke out:
Ethnic warfare over the area first erupted in 1988 as the two nations separated from the collapsing Soviet Union, and has flared up intermittently since then.
The region is largely internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, and Azeri attempts to assert sovereignty over the mountainous region have been met with fierce resistance from the local population before. The fighting exploded over the weekend when Azerbaijan attempted to move its military personnel into the area, and it appears that the latest round of fighting has been the most vicious so far.
The warfare escalated when Armenia accused Azerbaijan of deploying artillery and airstrikes against pro-Armenian fighters in the region, with Azerbaijan claiming it only used the weapons in response to Armenian attacks of the same variety.
Armenia is Christian, and Azerbaijan is Muslim. The former has conditional backing from the Russian Federation, while Azerbaijan is staunchly supported by neighboring Turkey. Many Armenians are staunch in their defense of the region as an Armenian territory, citing the legacy of the Ottoman Empire’s genocide of the Armenian population of Anatolia following World War I.
Russia is in a difficult position and it’s good to see them actively working for peace. Despite Turkey’s assistance to the Azeris, it would not be wise for Russia to give too much assistance to their Armenian allies. A large-scale regional war with the backing of major powers risks greater escalation and devastation that’s not worth it for anyone.