1 For those distracted by news elsewhere: the war in #Karabakh may be moving towards a potentially bloody battle for the city of Shusha (which Armenians call Shushi) deep inside the territory. Azerbaijani forces are reported to be no more than 3-4 km away.
2 A week ago the push was towards Lachin between Armenia and NK. A switch to Shusha may make less sense militarily but has political significance. To see their flag over the high citadel of Shusha appears to be the No. 1 objective of Pres. Aliyev and the Azerbaijani public.
3 Shusha has great meaning in Azerbaijan as the birthplace of poets and composers. It was their town in Karabakh before the war, with an 85 percent Azerbaijani population. See this patriotic video released today.
4 Baku's aim may be to attempt this soon, before winter weather comes. However, Shusha is a cliff-top citadel, very hard to capture. In 1992 it fell to Armenians mainly because Az. units just abandoned it. Here is a Russian reporter in the town today
5 Sitting above Stepanakert, the town also has great strategic significance for the Armenians.
What happens next? One can only say with some certainty that given the geography a new phase of the conflict deep inside Karabakh itself is likely to be messy and horrible.
6 Tens of thousands of Armenians have already fled from Karabakh but many remain and are virtually cut off now. There has already been low-level ethnic cleansing in the south and SE. Here is video footage today of deserted Armenian villages.
7 Diplomacy is still missing in action sadly. No predictions then, only to say that outsiders should pay close attention to events around Shusha/i, despite all else that’s going on in the world.

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More from @Tom_deWaal

23 Oct
1 From Putin's comments yesterday on #Karabakh war at Valdai Club: First, worth noting that he talked about several other issues, such as cyber-security and the START treaty, before the war came up. War wasn’t the first item on the agenda. kremlin.ru/events/preside…
2 Second, Putin wanted to come across as absolutely even-handed: “For us Armenia and Azerbaijan are equal partners.” That will obviously infuriate Armenians as the Az. military advance continues. No mention of CSTO commitments, only of shared Christianity.
3 Third, Putin expressed frustration with both sides that they were not flexible enough and never agreed to Russian peace plans. This is a common Putin theme on this conflict: that is up to the parties and not Russia to "take responsibility” for NK conflict.
Read 4 tweets
22 Oct
THREAD 1/ Read @cavidaga's story here to understand the huge emotions in Azerbaijan riding on the war and the subject of return —and also the impossible conundrum that is the town of #Shusha.
2 Shusha is Karabakh’s city on the hill, a town of great meaning for Azerbaijanis, the birthplace of composers and poets, seat of khans. It was also home to many Armenians (who call it #Shushi) and to Karabakh’s cathedral, shelled by Az. forces in the recent fighting.
3 In the late Soviet era Shusha's population was 85 percent Azerbaijani, 13 percent Armenian. See my 2003 book cover, for view of both mosque and church. images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/41-e-…
Read 10 tweets
18 Oct
1 Reports already of breakdown of last night's #Karabakh truce hours after it was agreed. Again a reminder of why a truce is desperately needed: the huge human cost of conflict. (If you don’t need reminding, please look at my Twitter feed over last three weeks.)
2 Take note of what OHCHR, ICRC, Amnesty, have said: Sustained Azerbaijani bombardment of NK itself and its Armenian population, many civilian casualties, destruction of civilian infrastructure, tens of thousands displaced, use of banned weapons (cluster munitions).
3 Many Armenian strikes on Azerbaijani town of Ganje, Terter, Barda, including places where IDPs from war of 1990s were living and were displaced again. Worst strike with many casualties, mass destruction, occurred yesterday in Ganje.
Read 10 tweets
15 Oct
1/5 Georgia votes in a key parliamentary election on Oct. 31. If you missed @Carnegie_Europe excellent (if quite bleak!) discussion on #GVote20 with Giorgi Gogsadze, Salome Asatiani and Stephen Jones, watch here. Some key points:
2/5 Consensus: Despite progress, Georgia is still not a consolidated democracy. Ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party led by Bidzina Ivanishvili commands massive resources and is likely to win unprecedented third term. Parliament likely to have “raucous but not united” opposition.
3/5 Gogsadze: New electoral rules mean 120/150 seats decided proportionally, 1% threshold of entry to parliament. Quota of women means at least 30 female MPs. Coalition possible but GD predicted to win 45-50% of seats. Had big boost from good handling of pandemic.
Read 5 tweets
28 Sep
New thread. I'm quoted here on the #Karabakh fighting. (There is a lot more nuance if you watch the whole interview) I’m aware that people like to quote me selectively so important for me to state a few core beliefs I have about this conflict
1 No side has a monopoly of justice. Both sides have historical claims to Karabakh. It was the site of a medieval Armenian kingdom in the 12th century and an Azerbaijani (Persian Turkic Shia) khanate in the 18th c. Both peoples have lived together here, mostly peacefully.
2 There is a lot of propaganda out there. Both sides cannot be right, but both cannot be wrong – and frequently are in their assertions. Treat all official statements from both sides with a big pinch of salt!
Read 11 tweets
27 Sep
Horrible news. This AM a military offensive by Azerbaijan on #Karabakh frontline. Already a small war. Heavy weapons used, Internet down in Az, Arm. side announced mobilization. Follows rise in bellicose rhetoric from both sides—Karabakh Arm. leader declared today...
2/ that, if Az. "declares war, it will get war." Early indications suggest Baku wants to remake facts on the ground in regions it lost in 1990s. Perhaps tries to seize a moment when int. community is disengaged, US in election season, OSCE leaderless, before winter comes.
3/ Can't overstate how dangerous this is. Two sides are now heavily militarized, able to strike civilian areas and strategic assets as never before. In 2016 they had a “limited” but tragic short war in which 200 people died. Pressure on both to "achieve" more than back then.
Read 8 tweets

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