28 September 2020   Leave a comment

Armenia and Azerbaijan have had a long-standing dispute over the rights of people who live in the disputed region known as Nagorno-Karabakh. That dispute has broken out into open conflict. Armenia has a Christian majority population and Azerbaijan has a majority Muslim population. The population of Nagorno-Karabakh is majority Armenian, but it falls within the national territory of Azerbaijan. The Council on Foreign Relations gives a good background to the conflict:

“In the 1920’s, the Soviet government established the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region—where 95 percent of the population is ethnically Armenian—within Azerbaijan. Under Bolshevik rule, fighting between the two countries was kept in check, but as the Soviet Union began to collapse, so did its grip on Armenia and Azerbaijan. In 1988, Nagorno-Karabakh legislature passed a resolution to join Armenia despite the region’s legal location within Azerbaijan’s borders. As the Soviet Union was dissolving in 1991, the autonomous region officially declared independence. War erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the region, leaving roughly 30,000 casualties and hundreds of thousands of refugees. By 1993, Armenia controlled Nagorno-Karabakh and occupied 20 percent of the surrounding Azerbaijani territory. In 1994, Russia brokered a cease-fire which has remained in place since.”

There have been many attempts by outsiders to mediate the conflict, most notably by the Helsinki Commission. Unfortunately, these efforts have not yielded fruit, and the recent outbreak in fighting has the potential to draw in outside powers. Russia has a defense treaty with Armenia and Turkey, a member of NATO, strongly supports Azerbaijan. Iran, a Shia Muslim state, seems to be more favorable to Armenia, largely because it fears the Turkic Azeri population even though they are Muslim, albeit Sunni Muslim. Unfortunately, outside powers are more than willing to sell weapons to both states, regardless of policy alignments. Both countries can ill-afford a sustained arms race.

Posted September 28, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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