Azerbaijan forces resumed strategic territories south of the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave on Tuesday, igniting a warning for separatists of Armenian origin, who now need to review their defense strategy if they do not want to lose control of the Lachi Corridor, their main land link with Armenia. A month has passed since the historic conflict over Azerbaijan territory has turned into an open war again, the Azerbaijani Army appears, for the first time, to be really moving forward.
– Azerbaijan’s strategy is clear: he gave up control of Nagorno-Karabakh to suffocate the region – Heitor Loureiro, professor of International Relations at the United Metropolitan Colleges, told GLOBE. – In the 1990s, it was indeed a territorial issue. Now, with the use of military drones by the Azerbaijanis, the situation is completely different.
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According to Loureiro, Azerbaijan no longer needs to have actual military control over Nagorno-Karabakh. It is enough to control the surrounding territories and send drones and missiles to isolate the population, who would be left without receiving military aid and inputs from Armenia, which supports them in the conflict.
– Azerbaijan is playing hard, because the criticism has also started to weigh on President Ilham Aliyev, who spent a lot to advance little in almost a month of war – said James Onnig, professor of International Relations at Campinas Colleges. – But Aliyev’s strategy is clear: depopulate Karabakh, investing against civilians and destroying local infrastructure, which would force the population to withdraw.
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No prospect of agreement
According to Onnig, the Azeri people, who mostly support the war to retake the territory controlled by the separatists since 1994, expected a quick offensive, given Azerbaijan’s military superiority and Turkey’s support. But Azerbaijani forces were slowed down mainly by geographical reasons.
– The first important Armenian cities in that region start at an altitude of 800 meters, while the plain where the Azeris are located is 250 meters high – explains Onnig. – The capital, Stepanakert, is 850 meters above sea level.
The ongoing conflict over the past month has prompted Baku and Yerevan to radicalize their speeches, says Loureiro. While Armenia says the solution is to recognize the independence of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan says it accepts no less than the recovery of sovereignty over the territory.
“I’m very skeptical about a lasting peace deal,” he says. – Unless something changes in the geopolitics of the region, Russia increases intervention or Turkey changes support for Azerbaijan, for example, the trend is that in months or years the confrontation will break out again, as it has been for years nineteen ninety.
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For Loureiro, Nagorno-Karabakh “has always been a non-negotiable issue”, but before there was an international context favorable to the pressure for peace in the region. Currently, he notes, the countries that mediated the conflict through the Minsk Group – Russia, France and the USA – are “stuck in their own internal and geopolitical dynamics”.
The war, on the contrary, caused a new political actor to join the conflict. Located on the southern border of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Iran announced this week that it had drawn up “a plan with the approval of the country’s top officials for a permanent solution to the Karabakh conflict”, which will be discussed with the parties in the coming days, said the foreign minister, Javad Zarif.
Iran’s vice chancellor, Abbas Araghchi, also announced that he will visit Baku, Yerevan, Moscow and Ankara in the coming days to promote the Iranian conflict resolution initiative, drawing on the numerous Azeri and Armenian communities in his country.
Last Friday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that Azerbaijan has used cluster bombs in residential areas of Nagorno-Karabakh. Neither Baku nor Yerevan signed the 2008 treaty that prohibits this type of ammunition, which is banned due to its widespread and indiscriminate effect and the long-term danger to civilians.
Azerbaijan has also systematically destroyed Armenian tanks and other equipment of the separatists, using modern, silent and deadly “suicide drones”, supplied by Turkey and Israel.
Despite diplomatic contacts and the three announced ceasefire agreements, with Russian, French and American mediation, hostilities have already caused about 5,000 deaths, as revealed by Russian President Vladimir Putin last week.
If the 1994 war led some 800,000 Azeris to flee Nagorno-Karabakh, the current war causes thousands of Armenians to flee from the enclave to Armenia and other countries.
Specialized organizations speak of a humanitarian emergency, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
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