Vicken Cheterian: Azerbaijan did not stop the war in Karabakh even after the ceasefire
After two years, many eyes are again turning to Karabakh. May this conflict turn to a war again between Azerbaijan and Armenia? Vicken Cheterian, a senior analyst and specialist on Caucasus politics says, even Azerbaijan got more than its demands in the beginning, never stopped the war.
Vicken Cheterian is a lecturer in history and international relations at the University of Geneva, and Webster University Geneva.
What’s happening in Karabakh?
Since August 2, and for the last 48 hours, there has been a major military escalation initiated by Azerbaijan. This is the most dangerous military escalation since November 9, 2020, in Mountainous Karabakh. Artillery and attack drones were used. There are numerous casualties from the armed forces of Azerbaijan and Karabakh. The fighting concentrated mostly, but not exclusively, around Lachin Corridor, which is the only link between Mountainous Karabakh and Armenia - and the outer world. This is the area of security responsibility of the Russian peacekeepers, which reveals how much Russian authority has degraded as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It also reveals that Azerbaijan, and since the start of this conflict, has favored the use of force and threat of war, rather than diplomacy and negotiations, as an instrument for conflict resolution.
Is Azerbaijan preparing for a new war?
Azerbaijan did not really stop the war, even after the November 9, 2020 agreement. This agreement gave to Azerbaijan much more than what it was demanding before the war. Azerbaijani authorities, and specifically its president Ilham Aliyev, clearly continues to use the logic of war, military threats, and limited military escalations, to press more and more concessions from Karabakh and from Armenia. But the sum of those concessions seems to add up to a policy of ethnic cleansing of Karabakh from its Armenian population, in spite of a discourse Azerbaijan maintains about “multiculturalism” and that Karabakh Armenians are “citizens of Azerbaijan.” This policy of ethnic cleansing is evident when you see what Azerbaijan is doing in territories of Karabakh proper it occupied in 2020, like Shushi/Shusha and Hadrut.
Ukraine, Kosovo, Taiwan… Will the conflict restart in this climate of war?
Ukraine, Taiwan, Syria, Iraq, Ethiopia, and many others reveal that today we do not have an international order, we do not have a system of global governance. The post-Cold War order has collapsed, and in this order the UN was completely marginalized, turned into a badly functioning international NGO. What we have is a logic of “balance of power” which is even less regulated than the Concert of Europe in the 19th century.
Not only do we not have a global political governance that could address questions of war and peace, but we also lack a global socio-economic governance to address acute crisis of climate change, depletion of resources, destruction of biodiversity and mass pollution. We collectively simply failed to evolve beyond the political logic of nation-states when this later is not adapted to solve the challenges humanity is facing.
How will the rest of the world react if the conflict resumes?
Azerbaijan launched the war in 2020, and is continuing its occasional military aggressions since then, exactly because there is no real reaction to stop its policies. Russia is busy in a destructive war in Ukraine, and lacks resources to bring stability in the South Caucasus. The US is busy with two global conflicts - Ukraine and Taiwan - while the EU has just signed a new gas deal with Azerbaijan. The balance of power favors Azerbaijan, and Ilham Aliyev is taking advantage of that.
What should be the solution in Karabakh? What can satisfy the people most -both for Armenians and Azerbaijanis?
There are evidently possibilities to achieve peace between Armenians and Azerbaijanis, if basic principles are respected. That of human rights, right to security, and right to live in peace and dignity. The same principles should be applied to all regardless of ethnicity or citizenship. Yet, in autocratic regimes, such rights are not respected - not only the rights of the “wrong” ethnicity, but even that of the majority. Basic human rights of Azerbaijani citizens are not respected, so it would be an illusion to expect that Aliyev regime will respect human rights of the Armenian “enemy.” We are left with a logic of balance of power and continuous militarization and wars, a political environment that favors autocratic regimes. Only a social movement that calls for reforms within Azerbaijan could change the conditions in which the Karabakh conflict evolved for the last 30 years.
*Born in Istanbul, Kadikoy in 1989, he has written for many different newspapers and magazines. He received his Cultural Studies Master's degree from Bilgi University. His first book “Futbol mu? Yok daha neler” was published in 2012, which was a compilation of his many interviews. He analyzed Resat Nuri Guntekin’s political views in his own material in his second book “Operada Mucella Suzan,” which was published in 2019. His first novel “Aksamlar Artik Serin” was published in November 2020, and his second novel “Biraz Ses Olsun” was published in January 2021.