New Statesman: Russia’s role is expected to be crucial in mediating the conflict
Fighting has broken out between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces in the mountainous region of Nagorno-Karabakh, a contentious flashpoint between the two South Caucasian countries, in what is now likely the most serious escalation in recent years.
New Statesman reports in its article Why Armenia and Azerbaijan are clashing over Nagorno-Karabakh that Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but is populated by ethnic Armenians and has functioned as an Armenian-sponsored unrecognised state since the fall of the Soviet Union. Occasional peace talks between the two sides have never resulted in much progress. The latest bout of fighting has the potential to draw in outside actors if it escalates further.
Azerbaijani troops are much better equipped and trained, with the country spending around six times as much on defence as Armenia. However, the stark highlands of Nagorno-Karabakh mean that Armenian troops enjoy a topographical “defenders’ advantage” over Azerbaijani forces, in land that they know well, said Richard Giragosian, the head of the Regional Studies Center, a Yerevan think tank.
Russia’s role is expected to be crucial in mediating the conflict. The country maintains good relations with both Armenia and Azerbaijan and has called for an immediate ceasefire and talks.
Oil and gas from the energy-rich Caspian Sea also transit through the Caucasus region, making it of economic significance to western Europe and world markets.
Yet with the first US presidential debate this week and the election in just a month, the US is distracted – the rest of the world with it – and the elusive peace process seems more remote than ever.