The Modern Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict: Picking at Old Scars

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Armenian troops marching in formation (Image Credit: EU Political Report)

The Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, marked by historical, ethnic, and territorial complexities, has once again captured international attention. The bitter rivalry between the neighboring countries has resulted in periodic bouts of violence and sporadic wars since the late 1980s. At the heart of the recent escalations lies, as usual, the tense and tragic history between the two nations.

The tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan emerged in 1991 with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The conflict has primarily centered on Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnically Armenian enclave located inside Azerbaijan. Although Armenia claims the territory, it is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. The war in the early 1990s resulted in Armenia gaining control of Nagorno-Karabakh and several surrounding districts, leading to widespread displacement and loss of life.

Tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan reached a boiling point on September 27, 2020, as clashes erupted in Nagorno-Karabakh. Both sides accused each other of initiating hostilities. Azerbaijan, backed by Turkey, launched a large-scale military offensive to regain control of the region, while Armenia provided military assistance to the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh. The conflict led to a significant loss of life and the displacement of civilians. A ceasefire agreement, brokered by Russia, was reached on November 10, 2020, temporarily halting the bloodshed.

However, the situation remained fragile, and on September 13-14, 2022, the areas along the Armenian-Azerbaijani state border witnessed a new escalation. These clashes resulted in a high number of casualties and detentions. Combatants and non-combatants on both sides suffered injuries and loss of life, with sniper fire, mines, and explosive remnants being the primary causes.

The Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict has had severe humanitarian consequences. The use of heavy artillery, drones, and advanced weaponry has exacerbated the crisis, with reports of civilian casualties and infrastructure damage on both sides. The region’s residents have faced hardships, including blockades, shortages of essential supplies, and restricted access to medical services. The ICRC’s resumption of critical patient evacuations provides some relief, but the healthcare infrastructure remains strained.

Furthermore, the conflict has been associated with the targeting of Armenian public figures and officials using Pegasus spyware. The joint investigation conducted by Amnesty International’s Security Lab, Access Now, the Citizen Lab, CyberHUB-AM, and independent mobile security researcher Ruben Muradyan revealed that at least twelve Armenian public figures, including journalists and human rights defenders, were targeted between October 2020 and December 2022. The conflict is believed to have been the driving motive for the targeting.

The issue of the Lachin Corridor, the only road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia, has been a significant point of contention. Azerbaijan’s blockade of the corridor has put thousands of lives at risk, hindering access to essential goods and services. The shortage of medicines, medical supplies, and fuel has created a worsening humanitarian crisis in the region. The blockade has also disrupted education, with schools and kindergartens facing closures due to heating and electricity shortages.

Russia has played a complex role in the conflict, being a military ally of Armenia while also brokering the 2020 peace deal between the two countries. The international community, including the OSCE Minsk Group, has been involved in diplomatic efforts to facilitate a lasting resolution. However, finding a comprehensive and sustainable solution remains a significant challenge, requiring meaningful dialogue, compromise, and adherence to international rulings.

Amnesty International and other organizations have called for the banning of highly invasive spyware like Pegasus, which undermines human rights safeguards. They urge authorities worldwide to take action against spyware that evades detection and violates privacy.

The Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, rooted in historical, ethnic, and territorial complexities, continues to inflict suffering on both sides. Recent escalations in 2020 and 2022 have led to further casualties and humanitarian challenges, including blockades and limited access to essential services. The international community must intensify efforts to foster dialogue, uphold humanitarian principles, and work towards a just and lasting resolution that respects the rights and aspirations of all parties involved. Additionally, action should be taken to address invasive spyware like Pegasus, which threatens the right to privacy and other basic human rights. Only through peaceful negotiations can the path to reconciliation, stability, and the well-being of affected populations be achieved.

Written by Imane Moumen

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