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Satenik Baghdasaryan

Armenia – Azerbaijan: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

During the last several months, the tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan has been escalating. Repeated violations of the ceasefire, the assassinations of soldiers and expanding arms race have kept tension on a high level for a long time. The possible opening of the new airport at Stepanakert (the capital of the self-declared Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh) has only exacerbated the situation. Azerbaijan has threatened to shoot down any airplane attempting to land or fly from the newly constructed airport. 

Stepanakert airport, author: Alex alex, source: Wikimedia Commons

The peak was reached after the pardoning, promotion and praise of Ramil Safarov (the axe murderer who killed an Armenian military officer in his sleep during the NATO Partnership for Peace program’s English language course in Budapest).

Greeting the murderer as a hero, promoting him and rewarding with an 8-year salary and an apartment was criticized not only in Armenia and by Armenians but also by the US, EU, OSCE, CoE, and Russia, among others.

All these events have contributed to the dissemination of the hate speech and non-tolerance within both societies. The small steps of success and the remote hope of conflict resolution are fading even further away. It became apparent that the conflicting parties simply cannot come together, as, first of all, there is a lack of political will and also as neither society is ready yet.

The involvement of key international actors with their divergent interests and expectations only makes the conflict management process even more complicated. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict became a source of misinterpretation and manipulation by different international actors. The danger of a new war caused by misunderstanding and miscalculation has become a quite possible scenario.

There is a trend both in Armenia and Azerbaijan towards exploiting the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as the main source for getting dividends and providing political legitimacy within internal politics. The endeavors and efforts of the OSCE Minsk group (if any) are now considered as not proper and not enough. The expectations from the official meetings within the framework of the Minsk Group remain on a low level. The last meeting of the ministers of foreign affairs, which took place on 27 October 2012, proves this assumption. There were no tangible results from the meeting except for announcements by both parties.

What we have now is a lack of confidence and credibility, escalation of tension and unpredictability of the future. The main question now centers on what comes next.

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Satenik is a research analyst at Regional Studies Center, an independent think tank based in Yerevan, Armenia. She holds a bachelor degree in Political Science from Yerevan State University and Master’s degree in European studies from the same University. Her research topics are conflict resolution in the Wider Black Sea region and European Integration in this context.

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