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Nagorno-Karabakh has been a long-running conflict. On 19 Sep 2023, Azerbaijan launched an offensive & regained control of the enclave. Authorities have indicated that the ethnic Armenian enclave would dissolve on 01 Jan 2024.

Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous region in South Caucasus, with 95% ethnic Armenian population, predominantly Christians (with close historical & socio-cultural ties with Armenia) lies within Azerbaijan’s territory with a 5 KM Lachin Corridor being its only link with Armenia. it is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan; it was controlled by ethnic Armenian forces.

The conflict fits Sam Huntington’s narrative on “the clash of civilizations.” It has seen conflicts among Russian, Ottoman & Persian Empires. In 1923, USSR established Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast – home to 95% ethnic Armenian population within the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic.

Since the collapse of USSR, Nagorno-Karabakh has been a source of conflict between Armenia & Azerbaijan. The two former Soviet Republics fought a six-year war upto 1994 in which 30,000 people were killed. A Russia-brokered ceasefire (Bishkek Protocol) made it de facto independent with a self-proclaimed government of ethnic Armenians in Stepanakert, reliant on close economic, political & military ties with Armenia.

In a 44-day war in 2020, > 5,000 people were killed. A Russian-brokered ceasefire ended the conflict. Armenia was forced to give off much of the land it controlled. Russia deployed 5,000 peacekeepers to monitor Lachin. Tensions continued.

Since Dec 2022, pro-Azerbaijan activists blocked off Lachin Corridor several times cutting off Nagorno-Karabakh. The UN in Feb 2023 ordered Azerbaijan to allow free movement of people & goods through Lachin Corridor. That did not happen. Instead, on 19 Sep 2023, Azerbaijan launched a swift “anti-terrorist” offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh & regained control triggering a mass exodus of ethnic Armenians.

President Ilham Aliyev is now a hero in Azerbaijan. Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan faces popular backlash – Russian security guarantees & Western rhetoric did not help his cause. The future of 120,000 inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh, most of them now in Armenia, remains uncertain. Azeri spokesman has urged them to return.

Armenia, disillusioned with Russia, now plans to join International Criminal Court which has indicted Putin for war crimes.

An opinion piece in Financial Times, titled “End of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict holds hope for new beginning,” aptly says “The goal should be to build a region defined by the interests of the future, rather than the agonies of the past.”

Source: The article has reference to open sources incl Al Jazeera, FT, Centre for Preventive Action & Indian Express.

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