Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

An outbreak of military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh

Recent Developments

Nagorno-Karabakh—the disputed border region between Armenia and Azerbaijan—faces an increasing risk of renewed hostilities due to the failure of mediation efforts, escalating militarization, and frequent cease-fire violations. Over the past several years, artillery shelling and minor skirmishes between Azerbaijani and Armenian troops have killed dozens. Azerbaijani forces shot down an Armenian helicopter in November 2014, and cease-fire violations continued at a steady rate throughout 2015. 

Background

Although 95 percent of the Nagorno-Karabakh population is ethnically Armenian, the territory is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. When the two countries were incorporated into the Soviet Union, tensions over the territory remained muted. However, as Soviet control over its satellite states weakened in the 1980s, hostilities flared once again. A six-year war erupted after Nagorno-Karabakh tried first to formally join Armenia and then declared independence in 1991. After a cease-fire was brokered by Russia in 1994, the territory was largely left to govern itself autonomously. 

After remaining a frozen conflict for more than a decade, tensions again rose as both sides accused each other of repeated cease-fire violations. Negotiation and mediation efforts, primarily led by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, have failed to produce a permanent solution to the conflict. Russian-mediated peace talks have also not resulted in any concrete steps toward de-escalation.

Concerns

Without successful mediation efforts, cease-fire violations and renewed tensions threaten to reignite a military conflict between the countries and destabilize the South Caucasus region. This could also disrupt oil and gas exports from the region, since Azerbaijan is a significant oil and gas exporter to Europe and Central Asia that produces more than 850,000 barrels of oil per day. U.S. economic interests may then be harmed and a spike in the global oil market could arise.

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