Phoney peace fails to break Armenia-Azerbaijan deadlock
Since a ceasefire brought the 2020 Karabakh war to an end, peace initiatives have won only rhetorical support while the reasons driving conflict multiply.
The 2020 Karabakh war was widely framed as breaking the preceding status quo of 26 years, but assessments of its transformative potential overlook the fact the war resulted in outcomes satisfying only a minority of stakeholders – Turkey and, to a considerable but ambiguous extent, Azerbaijan. Two false narratives have circulated widely which obscure this absence of consensus – that the war ‘ended’ the Karabakh conflict, and that Russia ‘won’ the war.
Two significant post-war dynamics contradict the notion that the Karabakh conflict is now resolved. The first is the widening of the spaces and issues in conflict. Azerbaijan’s restoration of sovereignty over territories it lost in 1990s surfaced the long-submerged issue of border demarcation between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani forces are now deployed across the border to occupy 40-100 square kilometres of Armenia’s territory.
Since no formal border has ever been demarcated, Azerbaijan maintains a ‘plausible deniability’ narrative about these deployments. Their purpose appears to be to compel Armenia to agree to Azerbaijani terms for a wider settlement, which include Armenia’s fulfilment of Article 9 – the final and most transformative clause of the 2020 ceasefire statement.
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