Yesterday 19/7 there were reports of gunfire, along Armenia’s border with Azerbaijani exclave Nakhchivan, in the area of Sadarak / Yeraskh. Azerbaijani social media subsequently suggested reports of advances by Azerbaijani forces.
If true would likely be in the no man’s lands that still obtain between the lines of actual control in this area. (In summer 2018, Azerbaijan also reported advances in this area, meaning advances into no man’s lands:…)… On 20/7 local Armenian community head in Yeraskh Rudik Oghikyan was reported wounded by Azerbaijani fire, on the same day that Ilham Aliyev is meeting Vladimir Putin in Moscow to discuss implementation of Armenia-Azerbaijan agreements so far.
These ceasefire violations follow earlier incident 14/7 when an Armenian soldier was killed near Nakhchivan, and previous incidents in other border areas. Why do ceasefire violations continue despite the ceasefire agreement of 9/11/2020?
Baku is seeking to avoid a repeat of the 1990s – where the militarily victorious side, then Armenia, was not able to consolidate its victory into a favourable peace from a position of strength.
Azerbaijan is consequently seeking to maximise pressure on Armenia to force it into a comprehensive peace agreement, for which – from Baku’s perspective – there will never be a better time than now.
Tensions also put pressure on Russia to ‘deliver’ on agreements reached so far, especially on what Azerbaijan refers to as the “Zangezur corridor”, a right of safe transit across Armenia’s southernmost Syunik region conceded by Nikol Pashinyan in the 9/11/2020 CF declaration.… This would ostensibly be a crucial link in the opening up of regional connectivity, but as I argued in this piece for @valdaitweets, this will remain illusory for as long as coercive bargaining tactics prevail.
Beyond military pressure, Azerbaijan is pressuring Armenia with purported claims on Syunik, expressed through territorial revival of what was originally a Russian tsarist-era administrative unit, the Zangezur uezd, as a modern economic region + historical Azerbaijani ethno-space.
The logic seems to be “two can play at that game” and aims at establishing parity between Karabakh and Zangezur as contested spaces and a quid pro quo dynamic: if Armenia “renounces” Karabakh, Azerbaijan will “renounce” Zangezur.
This comes simultaneously with a visit by an Azerbaijani delegation to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, amid speculation that Azerbaijan may be ready – since it considers its own conflict solved – to recognise the TRNC.
That would be a stark reversal of Azerbaijan’s role as defender of the territorial integrity norm over the last 25 years. Promoting the "Zangezur" concept, Azerbaijani think-tankers are using the same kinds of territorially expansionist messages + tropes they condemned for years.
Contesting Armenia’s territorial integrity also shapes perceptions of what is actually in conflict, keeping the focus on the inter-state dimension + the regulation of borders between ARM and AZ, rather than the governance of majority-minority relations within the same state.
Current tensions therefore serve to maximise pressure on Armenia, remind Russia of its obligations, keep Azerbaijan mobilised around the axis of the conflict and keep the focus off discourses of self-determination.

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More from @LaurenceBroers

15 May
On the ‘borderization’ of #Armenia: this week a number of territorial encroachments by Azerbaijani forces were reported on Armenia proper, along the international border between Armenia and those parts of #Azerbaijan that were under Armenian occupation.
On 13/5 Nikol Pashinyan confirmed that some 250 AZE troops had advanced 3.5 kilometres around a remote lake in ARM’s southernmost Syunik region, Sev Lich, that Soviet-era maps indicate is divided by the de jure border. Other movements reported in Gegharkunik.
AZE says it is demarcating the border per maps in its possession. France and the US have called on AZE to withdraw. ARM has referred the matter to to the CSTO. As of today, latest reports are that Russian troops from the Gyumri base are on way to Syunik.
Read 11 tweets
7 Nov 20
Six weeks in, 2nd #Karabakh War is at a crucial moment as fighting rages for NK’s historical capital, Shusha (spelled Shushi in Armenian sources). Significance of this town cannot be under-estimated for either side (see thread by @Tom_deWaal)
Shusha is a natural fortress, protected by cliffs on its south side, and overlooks NK capital Stepanakert to the north - a local saying has it that "Whoever controls Shusha, controls Karabakh".
It was the principal Azerbaijani-majority town in NK prior to 1990s war (c. 85% in 1979), falling to Armenian forces in May 1992. For a narrative of those events see the joint documentary film Parts of a Circle: History of the Karabakh Conflict, at 37.08:
Read 14 tweets
31 Oct 20
ARM + AZ FMs met in Geneva with OSCE's Minsk Group today, but no new ceasefire agreed. Instead, sides agree to observe international humanitarian law by not targeting civilian populations or non-military objects. Crucial that sides are held to this. 1/7
Sides agreed also to implement exchange of bodies and submit lists of POWs within 1 week; and submit comments + questions relating to wider conditions (beyond humanitarian) for a ceasefire - item 2 of the 10/10 Moscow ceasefire document. 2/7
Geneva talks also attended by ICRC President and UN High Commissioner for Refugees – signal that the brutality of this war for civilians is registering? 3/7
Read 7 tweets
28 Oct 20
ARM + AZ foreign ministers meet in Geneva tomorrow, in the aftermath of a deadly cycle of civilian suffering: at least 25 Azerbaijani civilians killed yesterday + today, dozens injured, in Armenian strikes on the town of Barda; dead include an @AzRedCrescent volunteer. 1/6
AZ claims use of cluster munitions against its civilians - must be investigated by @amnesty and @hrw. AZ strikes on towns in NK killed one in Shusha, more injured; a hospital building in Stepanakert hit – must also be investigated – more strikes reported tonight. 2/6
Fighting continues on southern front (localised engagements) + northern front (artillery), incl. in Lachin district, close to ARM-NK corridor. Armenian media are discussing grim worst-case scenarios with implications of much wider escalation. 3/6
Read 6 tweets
25 Oct 20
Third ceasefire agreed, this time brokered by US (after previous, failed Russian- and French-led efforts), to begin from 0800 local time tomorrow. Follows meetings of ARM + AZ foreign ministers with US officials.
Many reasons to doubt it will hold. Three tests of ceasefire viability are: 1) have military goals been achieved? 2) has the cost of carrying on become prohibitive? 3) do 3rd parties have leverage to enforce?
None of these conditions appears to hold.
AZ goals seem aimed at full reincorporation of NK, or perhaps advantageous enough position to achieve this within months if winter forces a timeout.
Read 8 tweets
21 Oct 20
Armenian-Azerbaijani war at a critical conjuncture. AZ forces have extended advance along southern flank to recapture yesterday Zangilan. Now reportedly advancing northwards through Qubatly towards Lachin, the corridor connecting ARM + NK. 1/9
This corridor is one of the Basic Principles, but these and diplomacy in general not mentioned (unlike in interviews to intl media) in Ilham Aliyev’s address to the nation yesterday. Already supportive of military action, AZ public is being prepared for total victory. 2/9
ARM leadership today rejected a diplomatic solution, frames an existential struggle: “Without Artsakh, there is no Armenia”, says diplomatic solutions not possible if AZ insists on complete capitulation of NK. 3/9
Read 9 tweets

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