Nagorno-Karabakh, context and call for peace

Sunday, 11 October 2020 - 9:15am to 9:30am
map of west asia

Armenia and Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

Broadcast 2020 10 11




[presenter signs on]


Today we're going to be talking about the most recent flare-up in the ethnically Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh. This is a de facto independent region within the borders of Azerbaijan. Large-scale military hostilities began on the 27th of September and continues with mounting civilian and military casualties and huge dangers of escalation loom.

History of the countries involved

The histories of these two countries are long and complicated. For the purposes of this show it is important to note that over the last few centuries or so they have been part of the Persian, Ottoman and Russian Empires.

The formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1922 begins the creation of the modern states of both Armenia and Azerbaijan (as SSRs of the USSR by 1936), more or less.

The region in question, Nagorno-Karabakh is situated inside Azerbaijan. Amidst some murky machinations I won't pretend to understand, the region was designated an Autonomous oblast, possibly because of its majority armenian population, but this demographic make-up is contested by some historians. Historian Robert Service and some others are happy to blame Stalin for everything and call it a day.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 both countries emerged with their current borders, Azerbaijan has an exclave which no one seems to be worried about, and Armenia supports the ethnically Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh and some bordering regions, the territories of the Republic of Artsakh. This area is de jure part of Azerbaijan. Its independence is not recognised internationally.

Guerilla fighting over this region began in 1988, and escalated as the USSR dissolved. Moving on,

A look at the economies of the countries


  • Energy mostly comes from Russia - gas, nuclear.
  • Domestic production of hydroelectricity.
  • 30% exports from minerals - gold, copper, molybdenum (used in some steels and other alloys)
  • top exports of Armenia are Copper Ore ($693M), Gold($344M), Rolled Tobacco ($266M), Ferroalloys ($196M), and H
  • ard Liquor ($195M).
  • top imports of Armenia are Petroleum Gas($340M), Refined Petroleum ($227M), Diamonds ($175M), Cars($174M), and Broadcasting Equipment ($140M)

Nuclear power plant.



  • Energy independent. Produces a huge amount of oil and gas.
  • top exports of Azerbaijan are Crude Petroleum ($16.1B), Petroleum Gas ($1.52B), Refined Petroleum ($524M), Tomatoes($177M), and Gold ($151M).
  • top imports of Azerbaijan are Gold($1.29B), Cars ($437M), Iron Pipes ($388M), Petroleum Gas ($313M), and Gas Turbines ($282M).
  • Pipelines from Azerbaijan through Georgia and into Turkey.
  • Huge oil and gas reserves offshore. 13 energy companies have signed deals with the state energy company to explore and exploit these resources.


The Republic of Artsakh carries out some mining of copper and gold but largely depends on the Armenian diaspora and Armenia government for funds. There seems to be some potential for a tourism market, serving mostly Armenian wants but war is no good for tourism.


History of the dispute

As noted earlier, the modern borders of this region have been imposed on historic areas which were part of larger empires and kingdoms.

Inter-ethnic tensions have been present for a long time. In the 20th Century conflict arose as the Ottoman Empire started to hit the rocks.

There was the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman Empire from 1914-1923. The widespread Armenian diaspora is a result of this genocide.

Ethnic cleansing never acknowledged by Turkey.

1923: Nagorno-Karabakh, in Azeri SSR territory assigned to Armenia SSR due to majority Armenian population and other alleged political considerations.

Under the USSR tensions were present but seemed to be under some kind of control.

From 1988-1994 guerilla warfare turns into open warfare as USSR dissolves. Inter-ethnic violence is a feature of this conflict.

Several pogroms are in the record, notably Sumgay'it in 1988, Baku pogrom in 1990, these targeting Armenia populations in the east of Azerbaijan.

Inside Nagorno-Karabakh itself in 1992 Azeris were massacred in the Khojaly [(g)ho-jaly] pogrom.

From 1994 this issue was largely shelved as a  "Frozen conflict" and ignored by what passes for the "international community."

Current status of dispute

In 2016 a flare up in the conflict killed 200. Shooting in July 2020 killed at least 16.

Early in the morning of 27th of Sept, depending on whose side you believe, one sides army began firing on the other. This quickly escalated, heavy weapons - tanks, conventional aircraft and drones - are being used, civilian casualties.

Predictably, the Azeris blame the Armenians and vice versa.

As the Armenians are benefitting from the status quo - that is, the Republic of Arstakh continues to exist inside the borders of another country.

There is not time to go through the ins and outs and the daily occurrences of the conflict, although I understand that this is a current niche hobby of people on the internet. This presenter does not possess the overarching military knowledge to draw out the complexities of this conflict into a cohesive whole. For that, I apologise.

Suffice it to say that the situation is very fluid, there already is about a million Azeris displaced in their own country by Nagorno-Karabakh.

As of Thursday about 75,000 ethnic Armenians have been displaced by the conflict.

Continued fighting will only produce more refugees and more bodies. This must stop.

International significance

Currently Russia is doing what it can to not get directly involved in this conflict. The stakes are very high. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova issued a diplomatic warning: “The downing of an Armenian SU-25 by a Turkish F-16, as claimed by the Ministry of Defense in Armenia, seems to complicate the situation, as Moscow, based on the Tashkent treaty, is obligated to offer military assistance to Armenia”.

This is a serious warning because if this would be grounds for Russia to invoke the Collective Security Treaty and, under the terms of the alliance then Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan & Tajikistan would get involved in the conflict, in addition to the current players.

This will provide impetus for Turkey and NATO to get more involved, more mercenaries will be employed, Iran will be dragged in and this could be the basis for World War Three.

International involvement

Turkey is openly supporting the conflict, deploying drones and aircraft and reportedly recruiting jihadis from the Syrian conflict to fight in Azerbaijan. Now, these jihadis are from a pool of Sunni extremists who have been fighting in Idlib against the Syrian government.

These anti-government militias have been offered 3- or 6-month contracts at 7k-10k Turkish lira per month ($1250 - 1800 aud/mo). Mercenaries offered jobkeeper money to defend oil and gas facilities in Azerbaijan. I thought these people were meant to be fighting for a Free Syria? Guess I was mistaken…

Please note that Turkish media is calling these reports "fake news".


Russia is supplying Armenia with weapons. Iran is facilitating this supply. (Russia cannot resupply Armenia directly since there is no land border so they'll be using the Iranian border as an access point.)


Israel is selling a lot of weapons to Azerbaijan. Russia sells weapons to both sides but only has a military alliance with Armenia.


Turkey's involvement is NOT HELPING peace efforts. they should be encouraging negotiations rather than escalating the problem.

Call for deescalation and peace



  • Immediate ceasefire - don't assigning blame: ceasefire
  • Engagement in peace talks (Minsk group, set up in 1992 by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe)
  • years of negotiation without result
  • help azerbaijan & armenia to resolve this issue and live in peace
  • Erdogan:  “Given that the USA, Russia and France have neglected this problem for nearly 30 years, it is unacceptable that they are involved in a search for a ceasefire,” Now, this statement is telling - it shows us that Turkey is sceptical that there can be a ceasefire negotiated by the Minsk group. This is fair enough in the 'scales of justice sense' but is unacceptable considering the risk of further escalation and the increasing body count.
  • UNSC?
  • problematic because the UN has passed four resolutions calling for the withdrawal of Armenian forces from Nagorno-Karabakh.
  • but we should not get distracted: what is needed, and needed right now is immediate ceasefire. Before blame is ascertained, before this or that report is confirmed or disproved the fighting needs to stop.
  • Turkish involvement must stop (drones, F-16 attacks on civilian areas)
  • welcome the news that Canada has stop drone sales
  • Jihadi mercenaries must not be used - we've seen what happens (Syria), there have been many reports of recruitment by Turkey of Jihadis from Syria. Although
  • Israel to stop selling weapons to Azerbaijan
  • we condemn reports of the use of cluster bombs.
  • Russian arms supplies to Armenia must stop.
  • In short, all parties who are enabling the continuation of this conflict must cease these activities and put their energies to a ceasefire followed by peace negotiations.


Enduring Peace:

  • Is there a possibility of ending conflict "once and for all"?
  • this could happen if the Republic of Artsakh agrees to dissolve.
  • it is clear that international law does not support its existence
  • it is correct that the Armenian ethnic majority have been in the region for millenia.
  • the issue here is that both sides are correct.
  • First, though, both sides have to come to the negotiating table in good faith and for real peace.



[Presenter signs off]