The 44-day war between Armenian forces and Azerbaijan raises new debates. Azerbaijan freed its lands which had been under Armenian occupation for about 30 years. Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia signed a ceasefire agreement on November 9, 2020, which shaped the region in light of the new realities and Turkey’s stronger involvement in the region by as an important ally of Azerbaijan. By signing this document, Yerevan accepted Azerbaijan’s terms, but over time the implementation of the document became difficult for several reasons.
First of all, it seems that the ceasefire signed on November 9, 2020 will continue to be one of the most effective documents going forward, as the final peace document is far from being signed between the parts. The document is also important for ensuring Russia’s effectiveness in the region. Thus, a permanent peace agreement would be against Russian interests, as the Kremlin wants to maintain its long-term presence and dominance in the region through conflict. Neither permanent peace nor all-out war serves the purposes of Russian foreign policy in the region.
Ankara’s key role
Turkey has clearly shown its interest in being an effective actor in the post-war South Caucasus. Ankara supported Azerbaijan in the war and it is no secret that Turkish-made drones played an important role in Azerbaijan’s victory. Ankara wants to increase its influence in the region in the post-war period and ensure a safe route to Central Asia via Azerbaijan. This fact brings a new dimension to the Russian-Turkish rivalry which has already been observed in Syria and Libya. In addition, it is evident that playing an influential role in the post-conflict region would help Ankara to strengthen its economic ties with countries in the region and increase Turkey’s role in regional and global politics. Ankara is actively seeking to extend its tools of soft power across the South Caucasus to Central Asia and to play an active role in the future of this vast region. Far from being a romantic initiative, the search for a rational unity based on the economy of Turkish countries could transform these actors into a global actor.
During the war, the efforts of France, and then the United States, showed that global players are trying to balance Russian hegemony in the region. In particular, the administration of US President Joe Biden is trying to be more active in the region as part of a new US foreign policy strategy. In this environment, the problems of achieving permanent peace become more complex.
A document to change
In fact, the November declaration changed the geopolitical map of the region because, with this declaration, Yerevan and Baku agreed to open up transport links and regional economic integration. According to the document, Russia has become a key state ensuring peace and a ceasefire in the region, and Russian peacekeepers have been deployed along the line of contact in Nagorno-Karabakh, including the Lachin corridor. A joint Turkish-Russian monitoring center has also been established in Aghdam. The center monitors respect for the ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but above all, it also ensures the presence of Turkey in the region. Thus, two regional powers – Turkey and Russia – reinforced their positions in the South Caucasus, ensuring their diplomatic and military presence.
It may seem that the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has been resolved and the status quo has been changed, but despite everything, as a new status quo has not emerged, the new political and security environment threatens peace, and a difficult environment of stability and security remains in the post-conflict era. Namely, the ceasefire has been repeatedly broken at the borders of the states of Azerbaijan and Armenia, as well as some incidents that occurred in the areas of Azerbaijan which are under the control of the soldiers of the Russian peace. Problems related to the implementation of the above-mentioned document remain, as the remains of Armenian military units have not been removed from Azerbaijani territories which are under the control of Russian peacekeepers.
What makes the situation worse?
Confused actions and statements from both countries involved in conflict and other regional actors aggravate the situation. Iranian activities arouse discontent in Azerbaijan, although the two countries have expressed interest in maintaining friendly relations.
As a result, the Iranian Ambassador to Baku was invited to the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry and a Note Verbale was submitted to the Ambassador expressing his discomfort at the recent arrival of Iranian vehicles in Azerbaijani territories supervised by soldiers from Russian peace.
Second, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu recently said that Russia will help Armenia modernize its army, stressing that Armenia is a key partner and ally of the Kremlin in the South Caucasus region. The Azerbaijani side reiterated that the redeployment of the Armenian army would threaten peace in the region. Another threat to peace is the harsh rhetoric of the new Armenian Minister of Defense, Arshak Karapetyan, who has shown that the post-war period will not be soft and that peace will not be secured in the short term. In turn, Azerbaijan continues its cooperation with Israel in the military field, aims to conclude military agreements worth $ 2 billion with Israel and further strengthens its military ties with Turkey and Pakistan.
On the other hand, new opportunities for regional economic integration are emerging, as mentioned above. Ankara and Moscow support regional economic integration by opening transport corridors in the region. In this sense, the Zangezur corridor is a very important transport route. All parties involved in this project will benefit. With the opening of the Zangezur Corridor, the Autonomous Republic of Nakhichevan will be directly connected to Azerbaijan, and Turkey will also have the opportunity to connect directly with other Turkish-speaking countries in Central Asia. Armenia will have access to transport links with Iran via the Nakhichevan and with Russia via northwest Azerbaijan. In addition, a new platform proposed by Azerbaijan and Turkey that would involve Russia, Iran, Georgia and Armenia, could propel peace and development in the region.
Considering the problems mentioned above, the region’s problems should not be resolved in a short time. However, it is essential that governments and nations understand that a rationalist and constructivist approach is the main element needed to bring peace and development to the region.