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    Here’s what I think: War is over in Azerbaijan

    Up to last week, good news had been a long time coming, but like proverbial London buses, good news has been followed immediately by more and more good news this week. I wrote a few weeks back about what was a developing situation in Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region, but now the situation has developed and the conflict is over. A peace deal brokered by Russia has been agreed and signed by Azerbaijan and Armenia, and is now coming into force.

    Here's what I think: War is over in Azerbaijan 1
    Tom Cleaver

    The deal is seen as an emphatic victory for Azerbaijan. Twenty six years after the Armenian invasion of the region, Azerbaijan has regained near total control of Karabakh. The peace deal allows not only for Azerbaijan to keep hold of all of the land it recaptured during the war, but it will also retake the regions of Ağdam, Laçın, and Kelbecer. In addition to that, they will also gain access to a road through southern Armenia which will connect Karabakh with the Nahçıvan exclave of Azerbaijan which, importantly, borders Turkey. What is left of the Karabakh region will be patrolled by Russian peacekeepers.

    How did it come to this so quickly? In the last few days of the conflict, Azerbaijan made rapid gains from the south, and took the town of Şuşa. Şuşa is important symbolically and strategically – before 1992 it was a predominantly Azeri town, and was Azerbaijan’s most important stronghold in the region until its demise. On a practical front, Şuşa sits in the hills above the region’s capital Hankendi (Stepanakert in Armenian), and for that reason Azeri control of the city made the war unwinnable from Armenia’s point of view. At that point it became imperative for Armenia to sign whichever peace deal they could, in order to prevent further loss of life.

    Azerbaijan has simply retaken control of land within its own borders

    Azerbaijan has been celebrating ever since. The loss of Karabakh had been a particularly painful point in the nation’s history, and to right that wrong allowed for an eruption of euphoria in the country. The streets of Baku were filled with jubilant people waving flags and singing and dancing over the weekend. However, while the retaking of Karabakh may be the main cause for celebration right now, in the long run it may be the new road from Karabakh to Nahçıvan that plays the biggest role in Azerbaijan’s future. That road will allow for Azerbaijan’s mainland to be connected for the first time by road to Turkey, which could provide massive economic advantages for Azerbaijan.

    In Armenia, however, there was only anger. Armenians have taken to the streets and even stormed their parliament in order to protest against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and the peace deal he signed. Pashinyan is now seen by his people as a “traitor” for signing a “humiliating” deal. In truth, at that moment he had no choice but to sign the deal – defeat for Armenia at that point was inevitable, and prolonging the war would only have caused more bloodshed on his own side. I don’t really blame Pashinyan for much of this. He took power long after the Armenian invasion of Karabakh, and though he made no attempt to resolve the situation until it was far too late, neither did anyone else in Armenia.

    The international community must avoid being misled on this issue. As I wrote in a previous article, this is not Turkish or Azeri aggression. Nor is it, as I saw written somewhere this week, a “genocide”. Calling it such is, to be frank, an insult to those who lived through and died in actual genocides. As I said before, Armenia were the aggressors in this war – Armenia invaded Azerbaijan, not the other way around. Azerbaijan, in winning this war, has simply retaken control of land within its own borders. No one wants to see bloodshed, but given that this war began, this was the right outcome. Karabakh is Azerbaijan, and unless Azerbaijan says otherwise, so it must stay.


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