Possible ceasefire after four days of heavy fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh

Tue 5 Apr 2016

Possible ceasefire after four days of heavy fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh

On April 5th a ceasefire was reached between Azerbaijan and separatist forces in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. On April 2nd intense fighting broke out in the Armenian populated Nagorno-Karabakh enclave inside Azerbaijan. Although this is not the first violation of the truce, signed in 1994 by both Armenia and Azerbaijan, it looked like a full-scale war with tanks and drones marking a significant difference from the previous gunfire incidents over the years.

Accusations
From both sides a different story about the beginning of the intense fighting is told. The Armenian military accused Azerbaijan of launching a major offensive with heavy weapons like tanks, helicopter gunships and heavy artillery. On the other hand, the Azerbaijani military said they had to take urgent measures to respond to an intensive fire from Armenian side involving mortars, grenade launchers and artillery.

The recent outbreak of fighting has been the bloodiest in years. Azerbaijan reported  on April 4th that 16 of its servicemen were killed in the past 48 hours. Officials in the breakaway region had earlier said 20 of their soldiers were killed since the fighting started. The Armenian Defence Ministry announced seven casualties

International response
An all-out war between Armenia and Azerbaijan could drag in the big regional powers like Russia and Turkey. The Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stated they would stand by Azerbaijan. Diplomats from the United States, Russia and France co-chair the Minsk Group, part of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), to mediate the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In a statement — by ambassadors Igor Popov of Russia, James Warlick of the United States, and Pierre Andrieu of France — they called upon the sides to stop shooting and take all necessary measures to stabilize the situation on the ground. A full-meeting on April 5th in Vienna is convened to discuss the breakdown of the 21-year-old cease-fire. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said they are planning to head to the region for mediation purposes.

Ongoing conflict
Nagorno-Karabakh has been part of Armenia until 1923, when Stalin decided to merge it into the Socialist Republic of Azerbaijan granting the area the status of autonomous region.  When the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s, Armenia and Azerbaijan fought over the Nagorno-Karabakh region which declared itself independent from Azerbaijan after a local referendum. It ended with a truce signed in 1994. The “frozen conflict” has been going on for over two decades without success to settle any peace agreement between the conflicting parties. Cross-border shootings have occurred increasingly over the past years. Peace negotiations mediated by the Minsk Group have seen little progress.


Sources: BBC1, BBC2, Reuters, Civilnet, Eurasiareview, RFE/RL1, RFE/RL2,
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