Implications of New Ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh

Early on Tuesday, Armenia and Azerbaijan announced an agreement to halt the fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh in a deal brokered by Russia. 

On September 27, fighting once again erupted in Nagorno-Karabakh, leading to six weeks of the worst bloodshed since the 1994 ceasefire. During the course of the renewed fighting, ceasefires were negotiated first by Russia, then France, and then the United States, and each of those ceasefires were violated almost immediately. 

On Sunday November 8, Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev claimed that his forces had captured the key city of Shusha/Shushi, effectively cutting off Armenian access to the region’s capital city and crippling the ethnic Armenian forces in the Region. On Monday November 9, Azerbaijan apologized for the downing of a Russian military helicopter over Armenia. The crash killed two Russian crew members and injured one.

Early on Tuesday November 10, Armenia and Azerbaijan announced that they had agreed to a Russian-brokered ceasefire.

Terms of the ceasefire Agreement

The ceasefire agreement establishes the immediate cessation of hostilities.  It allows for each party to maintain the positions which they currently occupy in the region, though Armenia will return the Agdam district, the Kalbajar district, and the Lachin district to Azerbaijan.  Russian will deploy nearly 2,000 peacekeeping forces to Nagorno-Karabakh for at least five years along the conflict line and the Lachin corridor.  Russia will also establish a peacekeeping command post in the region.

The agreement also provides for the construction of a new route along the Lachin corridor to connect Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia.  Armenia must also guarantee safe passage in a transportation corridor which would connect Azerbaijan and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will oversee the return of internally displaced persons and refugees to Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions.  Armenia and Azerbaijan will exchange prisoners of war, hostages and other detainees, and the remains of casualties.

Armenian Protests and Azeri Celebrations

After the announcement of the ceasefire on Tuesday, thousands of people swarmed into the main square in the Armenian capital of Yerevan to protest the agreement. Protesters called for Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to resign and they stormed the parliament building. They damaged the building and beat the president of the Armenian Speaker of Parliament Ararat Mirzoyan to the point that he needed surgery.  Protests have continued in Yerevan since Tuesday and there is no sign that they will stop soon.

In Azerbaijan’s capital of Baku and other Azerbaijani cities celebrations broke out on the streets over the ceasefire agreement on Tuesday. People waved the Azeri national flag, honked car and bus horns, and lauded what they consider to be a victory.

International Implication

Although the international community has displayed grave concern over the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, its efforts have done little to resolve the current conflict.  Each of the Minsk group co-chair states of Russia, France, and the United States negotiated ceasefires which were violated almost as soon as they were signed.  Russia was finally able to negotiate a lasting ceasefire after Azerbaijan took Shusha/Shushi and the ethnic Armenian forces recognized their dire condition.  The ceasefire was a matter of necessity and not a triumph of diplomacy.

The international community has yet to forcefully repudiate Turkey for the role it played in stoking the flames of conflict.  The Russian-Turkish ceasefire monitoring center sets a troubling precedent of Turkish and Russian influence in the region.

Sources: AP, CNN, Reuters, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, NPR, BBC, Al Jazeera, The Kremlin, France 24, TASS, OHCHR report

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The Georgian 2020 Parliamentary Elections

The Georgian governing party claims victory and the opposition party calls for protests following the October 31 parliamentary elections.

November 3, 2020

Election Results

Tbilisi, Georgia – Georgian Dream, the governing party of Georgia, won the highly contested October 31 parliamentary election, according to preliminary results announced on Sunday. The opposition party, the United National Movement (UNM) party, claims that the results were manipulated and refuses to recognize them as valid.

According to the Central Election Commission of Georgia, Georgian Dream won 48.3% of the vote, the United National Movement won 27.16%, and several other parties met the 1% threshold to win seats in parliament. In accordance with a constitutional amendment passed earlier this year, Georgian Dream has surpassed the 40.54% threshold needed to form a government.

The UNM has demanded new elections and has called for their supporters to protest until the election results have been invalidated. Thousands of protesters have gathered outside the parliament building in Tbilisi in response to the election results announced on Sunday.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) election monitoring mission declared Georgia’s election “competitive” and “overall, fundamental freedoms were respected”, however they also said “pervasive allegations of pressure on voters and blurring of the line between the ruling party and the state” have diminished voters’ trust in the electoral process. The separatist states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia also cannot vote in Georgian elections.

Georgian Dream

The Georgian Dream party was established by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili and has been in power since 2012 when it unseated the United National Movement (UNM). Originally founded as an opposition party to UNM, the Georgian Dream lacks clear ideology, though it leans center-left. The party is made of a broad coalition of pro-market, pro-Western liberals and radical, xenophobic nationals. It has passed both progressive and conservative legislations.

UNM has accused Georgian Dream of pursuing pro-Russian policies while declaring itself pro-European. They have also accused Ivanishvili, who made his fortune in Russia, of controlling the government without holding elected office. In June 2019, about 10,000 protesters took to the streets after a Russian MP delivered a speech from the Georgian parliament’s speaker seat. The protesters argued that Russia was trying to occupy Georgia, and they were met by the government with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Since they won the 2012 election with 54.97% of the vote, Georgian Dream has been losing the public’s support. Opponents accuse it of mishandling the economy, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Georgian economy is expected to shrink by five percent this year and the currency is falling sharply.

United National Movement

The United National Movement party was founded in 2001 by Mikheil Saakashvili. UNM and the United Democrats together won 67% of the vote in the 2004 parliamentary election and formed a government. In the 2008 parliamentary election, they secured 59% of the vote. UNM lost the 2012 election to the Georgian Dream party. 

In 2003, Mikheil Saakashvili led the bloodless “Rose Revolution” against President Eduard Shevardnadze and won the presidency after Shevardnadze’s resignation in 2004. Saakashvili served as president from 2004 to 2013. Saakashvili oversaw the 2008 Russo-Georgian war, which caused Georgia to lose control over the separatist states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. During his second term as president, opposition parties protested his presidency until he admitted defeat in 2012. After his defeat, he fled Georgia to Ukraine. His stay in Ukraine was tumultuous as he was facing prosecution in Georgia for various criminal charges, and Ukraine briefly revoked his Ukrainian citizenship. Saakashvili has led UNM during the 2020 parliamentary elections.

UNM started out as a center-left party but shifted to center-right after the Rose Revolution. They favor restoring Tbilisi’s control over Abkhazia and South Ossetia. UNM also advocates for stronger ties with NATO and the European Union.

Foreign Policy Implications

There is very little difference between Georgian Dream and UNM’s stated foreign policy goals. Both parties have claimed to be pro-Western and hope to eventually join NATO and the European Union. UNM has accused Georgian Dream of enacting pro-Russian policies. Both parties are generally centrist. 

Despite the fact that the international community has agreed that the October 31 election was free and fair, UNM refuses to accept the results and has brought thousands of people to protest outside of parliament. The following weeks will show how the Georgian government and people will respond to the October 31 parliamentary election. 

Sources: Associated PressDeutsche WelleAljazeeraAtlantic CouncilWashington PostOSCECentral Election Commission of Georgia,

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UN Response to the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia reignited on September 27 after being frozen for decades.

War in the 1990s

Nagorno-Karabakh is a region located within Azerbaijan’s sovereign borders with a majority ethnic Armenian population.The Soviet Union established Nagorno-Karabakh as an autonomous oblast within Azerbaijan in the 1920s. Tensions in the region simmered under Soviet rule and in 1988, the Nagorno-Karabakh legislature passed a resolution to join Armenia. During the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the region formally declared its independence from Azerbaijan. Armenia supported the separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh, and war broke out between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the region. The war left nearly 30,000 casualties and hundreds of thousands of Azeri and Armenian refugees.

The international community responded to the conflict by creating the Minsk Group, an institution within the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. It is co-chaired by the United States, France, and Russia. The Minsk Group is responsible for negotiations toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

United Nations Response to War

From April to November 1993, the UN Security Council passed four resolutions in response to the conflict: Resolution 822, 853, 874, and 884. Each resolution expressed concern about the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and called for the immediate cessation of fighting. The UN-supported the Minsk Group’s ongoing efforts to negotiate a cease-fire. The UN condemned the Armenian seizure of the Kelbadjar district, the Agdam district, the Zangelan district, and the city of Goradiz in Azerbaijan.

The resolutions urge Armenia and Azerbaijan to allow humanitarian efforts to help displaced peoples to securely return to their homes. The UN confirmed their support for Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and urged all actors to refrain from supplying weapons, which might inflame the conflict. The UN Security Council also expressed a hope that a cease-fire negotiated by Russia, per the will of the Minsk Group, would hold and become permanent.

Cease-Fire

In 1994, Russia brokered a cease-fire, and afterward fighting largely ceased and the region stabilized into a frozen conflict. Armenia and ethnic Armenians still control Nagorno-Karabakh and much of the surrounding area, resulting in the internal displacement of hundreds of thousands of Azeris. Minor shelling and skirmishes between the Armenian and Azerbaijani militaries resulted in hundreds of deaths since the cease-fire. In April 2016, intense fighting flared up, and over four days, an estimated 50 people died until both sides agreed upon a new cease-fire. Since 2016 there have been several violations of the cease-fire and tensions have remained high.

Current Crisis

On September 27, 2020, fighting once again erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. Since the fighting started, there have been several cease-fires negotiated by Minsk Group co-chair countries. However, almost as soon as they are agreed upon, Armenia and Azerbaijan have accused each other of violating the cease-fire, and the fighting has started anew.

United Nations Response to Current Crisis

The UN Secretary-General has issued several statements about the continued conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. He has expressed his concern over the situation and has called for the immediate end to the fighting in the region. On October 18, he condemned the Armenian strike on Azerbaijan’s second-largest city, Ganja.

“The Secretary-General condemns all attacks on populated areas impacted by the conflict. The tragic loss of civilian lives, including children, from the latest reported strike on 16 October on the city of Ganja is totally unacceptable, as are indiscriminate attacks on populated areas anywhere, including in Stepanakert/Khankendi and other localities in and around the immediate Nagorno-Karabakh zone of conflict.”  

He called on both Armenia and Azerbaijan to honor a humanitarian truce negotiated on October 18 and to resume negotiations with the Minsk Group.

A “frozen” conflict?

The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh has long been considered a “frozen” conflict, meaning there has never been a suitable resolution negotiated between Armenia and Azerbaijan, though they agreed upon a cease-fire. Without a resolution, there is little hope of lasting peace in Nagorno-Karabakh. From the 1994 cease-fire to the four-day conflict in 2016, hundreds of casualties were reported from minor shelling and skirmishes. These are significant numbers of casualties and do not represent stable peace in the region.

This conflict has been far from frozen, it has simply been contained enough to avoid the condemnation of the international community. To realize a lasting peace, the UN and Minsk Group must do more than implement a cease-fire, they must help negotiate a legitimate resolution to the conflict.

Sources: CFR, UNSC Resolutions 822, 853, 874, 884, Vox, BBC, UN Statements by Secretary- General, AP News

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