The Realpolitik Interests in Nagorno-Karabakh

The region of Nagorno-Karabakh is situated between Armenia and Azerbaijan. With a total area of 4400km squares, it has a population of almost 1 lakh and 50 thousand. The irony is that it is under the territory of Azerbaijan with more than 90% Armenian ethnic population. This region has been a source of conflicts between different states, but the contemporary conflict has its origin in the 90s. The story is like; after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, this territory was returned to Azerbaijan. As it was populated by ethnic Armenians, the people of this region demanded freedom from Azerbaijan which was rejected. The rebel forces stood against Azerbaijan and proclaimed its separate and independent state. Armenia-being its neighbour and ethnic shareholder- supported the rebels and skirmishes began between these two countries, i.e. Armenia and Azerbaijan. Since then, the region is under the control of Armenia but is a part of Azerbaijan in the international arena.

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The conflict resolution is entrusted to the Minsk group, which was formed in 1992. It is co-chaired by the US, Russia and France and has the objective to peacefully resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh issue between Armenia and Azerbaijan. So far, the Minsk group is considered as a failed institution because of its inability to solve the problem. They have the agenda of this conflict on their table for three decades but are unable to bring a satisfactory solution.

There is an urgent need to solve this conflict. By now, it is an issue between two states, but the world community should not forget that it can become a regional conflict- bringing in Russia and Turkey to the battlefield.

Russia is a natural supporter of Armenia against Azerbaijan, but it can not fully neglect the importance of Azerbaijan on the other hand. Russia has historical relations with the region of modern day Armenia, supporting this region against the Persian kings, Uzbek khanates and the Ottoman empire. It is claimed that in 1994, Russia backed Armenia which made them won the war against Azerbaijan. Along with that, they have deep military relations with each other as both are members of CSOT known as Collective Security Organization Treaty. This treaty made the members support each other in times of security situation. It also binds the member states to have military exercises with each other and arms sell extended to the members. Russia has a military base in Armenia, and in 2013, Russian chief commander of 102sn base said that it could support Yerevan in case Baku attacked Armenia. They have also deep economic ties with each other, and Moscow has heavily invested in the economy of Armenia. Russia is also supporting Armenia because of their shared religion and values, as Russia has been at the forefront of securing Orthodox Christians since centuries.

The case is much more similar or deeper between Turkey and Azerbaijan as well. Turkey shares 11km border with Azerbaijan and has strong ethnic, religious and economic ties. It is one of the top destinations of Turkey weapon exports and has openly supported Baku in the conflict. Turkey was the 1st country to recognize Azerbaijan in 1991 after its separation from the former Soviet Union. Turkey is heavily dependent on the natural gas of Azerbaijan and its volume of exports has recently increased and has replaced the Russian imported gas. Turkish people are openly supporting their Azeri brothers, and are of the view that Turkish and Azeris are one nation with two states.

Azerbaijan is an important state in the international arena because of its large volume of proved reserves of oil and gas. It is exporting oil to Israel, Italy, Czechia, China, Vietnam and India. It is also important to Europe as the EU looks at it as a counterfeit against Russian gas. Russia has used its gas as a political weapon against Europe many times in the past because it has a monopoly over natural gas. Although, exports of Azerbaijan in terms of gas and oil is still very low in comparison to Russia but it can be a good competitor and a balancing trader in future once it develops its infrastructure for exports. So far, Azerbaijan has an upper hand in the conflict, as it has the support of many regional countries, as well as international organizations.

Russia, on the hand, is acting smartly in the ongoing conflict. It doesn’t want to lose Azerbaijan because of its location and resources, while at the same time, it doesn’t want to abandon Armenia because of its security pacts with Yerevan.

Looking at the scenario of the conflict, its seriousness can be proved with intensity. Many countries around the world are sceptical about the role of Turkey which it plays in realpolitik. It has its hands in Syria, Libya, Iraq and now in Azerbaijan. Its relation with the EU is at the lowest tide and the recent fight talk between France and Turkey may worsen the situation. Pakistan has vowed its support to Baku, and the conflict can become larger in scale.

There is a need to punish rogue states like Armenia around the world. The USSC must take its bold decisions and should ask Armenia to withdraw its forces from the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan. If there is no respect for international law, then there is no need for global institutions and global order.

Turkey and Russia must act responsibly. They both are indeed working for their interests, but they should not forget that humanity is far superior to interests. Half of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh has been displaced so far by the shelling, and there is a need on both side to have a negotiations table for talks and resolution. The world must keep in mind the butterfly effect that if flipping of butterfly wings causes a tsunami, then a small conflict can cause a regional as well a global war.

The Minsk group should paly its constructive role now. It should ask the parties for a ceasefire, and trust-building. There should be a sense of feeling secure between these two countries, and shouldn’t attack each other’s territories. Armenia should recognize the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan, and Azeris must give a limited self govt to local Armenians within its territory in Nagorno-Karabakh. Such a settlement will give a long-lasting peace to the region, otherwise, the picture seems gloomy.

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Safi Ullah Khan
About Safi Ullah Khan 2 Articles
Safi Ullah Khan has done Masters in English Literature and Linguistics from NUML, Islamabad.

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