Azerbaijani ambassador to US: Nagorno-Karabakh conflict continues to be very strategically dangerous to the whole region
Azerbaijan and Armenia have been locked in a land battle for almost three decades, but some officials say that long-running feud has reached a dangerous tipping point – capped by casualties and daily cease-fire violations.
“It is an unresolved conflict and continues to be very strategically dangerous to the whole region,” Elin Suleymanov, the Azerbaijan ambassador to Washington, told Fox News this week. “The status quo is not sustainable. We don’t have peacekeepers. The soldiers are facing each other, sometimes just 100 feet apart. You never know when someone will decide to really destabilize.”
The former Soviet nation, in the Caucasus mountains south of Russia and north of Iran, is technically still at war with neighboring Armenia, dating back to 1991, after the fall of the Soviet Union. The people of Nagorno-Karabakh voted to secede from Azerbaijan and received Armenian military backing to do so. The U.N. has, however, passed a number of resolutions recognizing the disputed territory as Azerbaijani, and border tensions have been punctuated by bouts of unrest ever since.
“The potential for major escalation is always there. Both sides have enough weapons, enough armor -- the conflict could arise at any time,” Suleymanov cautioned. “There is a dangerous reality on the ground where things could really get out of hand.”
At its worst point, in 1994, the conflict claimed the lives of 30,000 people and prompted a refugee flow of more than one million, bringing about a precarious cease-fire agreement. But as it now stands, cease-fire violations are daily happenings, often taking the form of sniper-fire exchanges across the dividing line. Around once a month, Suleymanov said, the sniper fire is stepped up to artillery exchanges.
And the two warring factions have stepped up their military capacity, too. “People today have lived with this stalemate conflict,” Suleymanov said. “People want to see peace; people want to intermarry. People want to heal.”