(VOVworld) – On April 5 conflicting parties in the Nagorno-Karabakh region disputed by Armenia and Azerbaijan reached a ceasefire agreement after days of fierce fighting. Despite the ceasefire resolving the long ethnic and religious conflict between the two countries will be difficult.
Fighting erupted on April 2 in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, killing at least 90 people including civilians and wounding hundreds. Despite promising to honor the ceasefire, the conflicting parties have shown a determination not to concede to each other’s sovereignty claims, signaling a possible return to the fighting.
Soviet era differences
During the time of the Soviet Union, Nagorno-Karabakh was an autonomous region of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic and was claimed by both Armenia and Azerbaijan. Nagorno-Karabakh used to be inhabited by Armenians. Conflict began in 1988 and has continued ever since. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 removed the last obstacle to an all-out war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. On January 6, 1992, the region declared independence from Azerbaijan. By 1994 Armenia and Azerbaijan were ready for a ceasefire and restored Nagorno-Karabakh former status.
Despite the 1994 ceasefire and subsequent peace talks mediated by the Minsk Group under the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe co-chaired by the US and Russia, fighting broke out frequently. Since 2008 the two countries have held a number of high-level talks but have failed to find a permanent solution to their territorial dispute.
Once again the two sides have agreed to honor a ceasefire, maintain the status quo, and seek a peaceful solution to their conflict. Azerbaijan, however, says the ceasefire does not mean it has given up its intention to restore its sovereignty over the region. Azerbaijan defends its stance of striking back immediately if Armenia violates the ceasefire. Armenia vows to protect the Armenian community in Nagorno-Karabakh, saying if military conflict continues, it will recognize the independence of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has drawn in a number of other countries including Turkey and Russia. Although Turkey-Russia relations have not improved since Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet fighter, disputes between Armenia, Russia’s close ally, and Azerbaijan, backed by Turkey, provide an opportunity for Russia and Turkey to show off their power and influence.
Although many countries have called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to show restraint and honor the ceasefire, Turkey says it will support Azerbaijan at any cost. Turkey has closed its border with Armenia and is obstructing Armenian trade and economic ties with other countries. Armenia has controlled the Nagorno-Karabakh region since the 1988-1994 war. Russia has a military base there and supports Armenia politically and militarily. Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev paid a visit to Armenia on April 7. Although the Nagorno-Karabakh region is not specifically mentioned in the Russia-Armenia alliance, Russia will not remain neutral because its interests are affected.
Analysts say that if fighting escalates again, it will unpredictably affect the security and stability of the South Caucasus region.