Azerbaijan indicated this week that it is open to peace talks with neighboring Armenia. The timing of the directive is no coincidence. Last week marked exactly two months since Azerbaijan began the offensive that definitively took control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region. That’s how it stands.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have been fighting for more than thirty years over Nagorno-Karabakh, an area the size of the province of South Holland. Almost the entire region lies within the borders of Azerbaijan, but the population was largely ethnic Armenian. After the military operation carried out by Azerbaijan last September, almost the entire population fled to Armenia.
“The short but fierce battle means the end of Nagorno-Karabakh as we know it,” analyst Zaur Shiryaev of the International Crisis Group told NU.nl in September. He expected that the Nagorno-Karabakh region would then come under the direct authority of Azerbaijan. In the same month, the local government announced that Nagorno-Karabakh would cease to exist on January 1, 2024.
“Almost nothing is happening in Nagorno-Karabakh anymore,” Shiryaev told NU.nl last week. “It is estimated that there are fewer than a hundred Armenians remaining in the area. A UN mission has visited twice, but the area is no longer on the international radar.”
“Keep Washington and Moscow out”
Shiryev sees Azerbaijan’s call for peace talks as a sign that the country wants to maintain its control. “Azerbaijan does not trust Western incentives for peace talks. They see too many threats and too few promises. Azerbaijan would like to see more focus on issues such as investments and reconstruction.”
Shiryev says Azerbaijan views aid from the United States in particular as too intrusive. The government is also concerned that there is legislation in effect in the United States that does not allow direct assistance to the government of Azerbaijan.
“It seems that Azerbaijan still trusts Brussels, but then foreign ministers and other senior officials must participate in the peace talks,” Shiryaev continues. “Washington and Moscow seem to want to keep Azerbaijan out.”
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