Continuous Violation Of 1994 Ceasefire In Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

Mridvika Sahajpal

Several Azeri news outlets in the days leading up to February 10 reported that military units of the armed forces of Armenia violated its ceasefire with Azerbaijan several times. On February 10 itself Azerbaijan’s Defence Ministry reported Armenian armed forces fired 30 times throughout the day, with the number reaching the hundreds when both January and February are taken into account. Meanwhile, Armenian news outlets and the country’s defence ministry reported the Azerbaijani armed forces violated the ceasefire along the Artsakh-Azerbaijan Line of Contact over 300 times in the past week, with over 2000 shots fired towards the Armenian defence positions from firearms of different calibers. The Artsakh Defence Ministry maintains in the period from January 13-19, the “adversary” fired around 1300 shots whilst their Defence Army’s frontline troops acted to control the situation and continue implementing their combat guard.

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims and occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan, including Nagorno-Karabakh itself and seven surrounding districts. The conflicting news reports released from their respective regions, however, reveal a conflict that is nuanced, unhinged, and involves numerous state and non-state stakeholders. It is a territorial and ethnic conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is de facto controlled by the self-declared Republic of Artsakh, but is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. The conflict is rooted in the Soviet period when Joseph Stalin made the region—historically Armenian—an autonomous oblast in Soviet Azerbaijan. From 1988, then, the Karabakh Armenians as boosted by Armenia demanded a transfer to the latter, initiating a decades-long war.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev wholly believes that Azerbaijan can prove on the international arena that “it is right” in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, aiming to strengthen the policy to isolate Yerevan until the country ceases its aggression at the fringes. Political analyst Elshad Mirbashiroglu stressed, “Azerbaijan’s position prevails even in those organizations where Armenia is a member while Azerbaijan is not a member. The situation has further aggravated Armenia’s position, which has already driven itself into a dead end.” Structural and nationalist incompatibilities further compound the countries’ differences.

The 1994 ceasefire agreement, which officially ended the war, was followed by peace negotiations. However, Armenia has not yet implemented the UN Security Council resolutions on withdrawal of its armed forces from the conflict region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The OSCE Minsk Group has been active since 1992 in monitoring the ceasefire at the contact line between the Azeri and Armenian troops, held in accordance with the mandate of Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office. The Personal Representative’s field assistants Michael Olaru and Simon Tiller carried out the monitoring on the Armenian-occupied and controlled territories. Although the most recent monitoring on January 15 ended with no incident, ceasefire breaches continue on both sides of the conflict to this day. Both countries see the Minsk Group as the best form of negotiations. Unfortunately, the Minsk process only deals with high-level representatives and has little contact with day-to-day displaced persons and civil society, thus raising the threshold to achieving a viable and long-term solution built on mutual trust, dialogue, and legitimacy. Until these obstacles can be overcome, the peace negotiations consistently hindered by military ceasefire breaches will continue to be defined as “frozen.”