By Tom Kingsbury | Political Editor
An historic conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh has reignited. Military clashes have continued despite a ceasefire agreed on Saturday October 10.
The region is internationally recognised as an Azeri territory, but its population is made up of and governed by a majority ethnically Armenian population.
In the late 1980s a bloody conflict took place between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, which was settled only when a ceasefire was agreed in 1994. Despite efforts by international organisations, a peace agreement has never been reached between the two states.
Since the truce, Nagorno-Karabakh has been governed by a separatist self-declared republic, which has been controlled by ethnic Armenians and is backed by the Armenian government.
Despite this, the region is internationally recognised as a territory of Azerbaijan, after being declared so by the Soviet Union in the 1920s. In the late 1980s, Nagorno-Karabakh voted to become part of Armenia, sparking the six-year conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
What has sparked the recent violence?
The reignition of the conflict was once again related to Nagorno-Karabakh. After fighting began anew nearly 500 people have reportedly been killed, more than 60 of which are civilians. Around 70,000 people have also been displaced by the conflict.
Both Azerbaijan and Armenia invoked martial law in some areas, as fighting spread beyond Nagorno-Karabakh. A missile reportedly struck a residential area in Azerbaijan’s second largest city Ganja. Armenia has denied responsibility for the attack.
On Saturday, a truce – brokered by Russia – was declared after 10 hours of negotiations.
But according to the Armenian defence ministry, Azeri forces launched an attack five minutes after the ceasefire was meant to be in effect, with ethnic Armenian forces responding.
Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said on the other hand that Armenia was “blatantly violating the ceasefire regime”.
The truce is seemingly crumbling, with the Armenian Foreign Minister calling it “extremely fragile”.
Concerns have been raised regarding the implications of the conflict not only for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan, and Armenia, but also the wider region and political relationships in the caucuses.
Azerbaijan has strong relations with Turkey, and Armenia with Russia, though Russia is taking a more neutral stance. Iran also borders both countries, and had offered to broker peace talks between the two.
Following the missile attack on Ganja, the two states agreed a ‘humanitarian ceasefire‘, again calling an end to the violence.
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