The Guardian: the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict sparks international concern for a few reasons

The Guardian: the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict sparks international concern for a few reasons

Tensions over Nagorno-Karabakh region have caused one of Europe’s ‘frozen conflicts’ to erupt. The Guardian reports in its article Why are Armenia and Azerbaijan fighting and what are implications that despite signs in the past two years of possible progress towards peace, one of Europe’s “frozen conflicts” has erupted again.

Since Sunday, forces from Nagorno-Karabakh along with the Armenian military have been fighting Azerbaijani troops, armour and aircraft. At least two dozen people have been killed including civilians, and hundreds more are said to be injured. Azerbaijan has claimed to have taken territory inside Nagorno-Karabakh, a claim the Armenians dispute, and it appears to be a fluid situation on the ground.

The border between the two is considered one of the most militarised in the world, said Laurence Broers, the Caucasus programme director at Conciliation Resources, a peace-building group. “We have a situation where we have trench warfare going on in Europe more than 100 years after the first world war,” he said. “In some areas the lines are so close they can hear and potentially talk to one another.”

An Armenian revolution in 2016 ushered in a new generation of leadership and raised hopes that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict could move towards resolution. Those aspirations have since windled, with Armenia’s prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, taking a firm line on the issue similar to his predecessor’s.

Other than the humanitarian issue, with civilians on both sides being killed, the conflict sparks international concern for a few reasons. The major one is that regional powers including Russia, Turkey and Iran are invested in the South Caucasus to varying degrees. If the fighting is left to fester, “you could have a process of sleepwalking, as you did in the first world war, into a larger regional conflict,” Broers said.

Armenia has claimed that Turkey is sending Syrian fighters into the area to fight on Azerbaijan’s side, though there is not yet strong evidence for this and Azerbaijan calls it “complete nonsense”.

The wider South Caucasus is a crucial artery for gas and oil from Azerbaijan into Turkey and on to Europe and other world markets. Azerbaijan supplies about 5% of Europe’s gas and oil demands, and fighting in 2016 came close to a number of these pipelines.

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