EXPLAINER: What’s behind the new Armenia-Azerbaijan fighting

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The border conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has killed nearly 100 soldiers from both sides in the biggest outbreak of fighting between long-standing adversaries in nearly two years, raising fears of even greater hostilities.

Here’s a look at the decades-long conflict and the latest clashes between the two neighbors.

Who is this all about?

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been facing each other in the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh for more than three decades.

The mountainous region is part of Azerbaijan, but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces supported by Armenia since the separatist war that ended in 1994.

The territory of the Southern Caucasus covers an area of ​​about 4,400 square kilometers (1,700 sq mi), which is about the size of the US state of Delaware.

During Soviet times, the region with a mostly Armenian population had an autonomous status within Azerbaijan. Long-running tensions between Christian Armenians and mostly Muslim Azeris, fueled by memories of the 1915 massacre of 1.5 million Armenians by Muslim Ottoman Turks, crept into the Soviet Union in its final years.

Fighting broke out in 1988 when the region made a bid to join Armenia, and after the Soviet collapse of 1991 hostilities turned into an all-out war, killing an estimated 30,000 people and displacing about 1 million.

When the war ended with a ceasefire in 1994, Armenian forces occupied not only Nagorno-Karabakh, but also extensive areas outside the region’s borders.

International mediation efforts in the following decades failed to achieve a diplomatic settlement.

war of 2020

On September 27, 2020, Azerbaijan launched an operation called “Iron Fist” to regain control of Nagorno-Karabakh.

NATO-member Turkey, which has close ethnic, cultural and historical ties with Azerbaijan, offered it strong support.

In six weeks of fighting involving heavy artillery, rockets and drones that killed more than 6,700 people, Azeri troops drove Armenian forces from controlled areas outside separatist territory and also seized extensive parts of Nagorno-Karabakh.

A Russia-brokered peace agreement on 10 November allowed Azerbaijan to gain control of territories occupied by Armenian forces outside Nagorno-Karabakh for nearly three decades, including the Lachin region, which passed from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. It is the main road. The Armenian army also agreed to surrender control over important sections of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Russia has deployed some 2,000 troops to the area to serve as peacekeepers under the agreement.

The agreement sparked years of protests in Armenia, where the opposition denounced it as a betrayal of the country’s interests and called for the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. Pashinians have faced pressure, defending the deal as the only way to prevent Azerbaijan from occupying Nagorno-Karabakh.

And new enmities?

Sporadic clashes between Azeri and Armenian forces have repeatedly erupted in the region, but the fighting that began on Tuesday was the most serious since the 2020 peace deal.

Both sides accused each other of initiating hostilities, with Armenia accusing Azerbaijan of an unprovoked attack, and Baku stating that it was responding to shelling by Armenian forces.

Armenia said at least 49 of its soldiers were killed, while Azerbaijan said it lost 50.

Russia moved quickly to help negotiate an end to hostilities, but the ceasefire it tried to broker failed to hold up and the conflict continued.

Late Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin presided over a call with leaders of countries belonging to the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Moscow-dominated grouping of several former Soviet countries that includes Armenia. The leaders agreed to send a fact-finding mission, including top officials from the group, to the conflict zone.

Credit: www.independent.co.uk /

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