Nagorno-Karabakh: a protracted conflict hampering development in Caucasus

Employment and Social Affairs

The once so called “frozen conflict” in Nagorno-Karabakh, in Caucasus, is turning into an active war at the borders of Europe. At least 150 people, including many civilians, have been killed in heavy clashes  – that included the use of armed drones, tanks, helicopters, and multiple-rocket systems – along the line of contact that separates the ethnic Armenian forces who control Nagorno-Karabakh from Azerbaijan’s troops.

At the moment it is not clear if it will be reached an agreement for a cease fire, to restart negotiations, but what is sure is that in Nagorno-Karabakh there is a “protracted conflict” dating back several years, namely since the last years of the Soviet Union, that should find a solution through international mediation.

The dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan stems both from present-day complications and from incompatible historical views. What could be highlighted is that in Nagorno-Karabakh, contrary to what usually happens in many world conflicts, there are no huge energetic resources or other big economic reasons for conflict but mainly historical and cultural ones. Emotional issues of land, identity, and honor have made it nearly impossible over the last 25 years for mediators to bring a compromise essential for any durable political settlement.

But apart from this, still this conflict is bringing isolation and poverty in the region while is damaging particularly Armenia that has not the same energetic resources as Azerbaijan does.
Nagorno-Karabakh is in any case rich in mineral resources such as gold and platinum and used to be a key strategic point of agricultural irrigation for Azerbaijani farmers. The occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh cut off 43 per cent of overall agricultural production in Azerbaijan which led to a food crisis during the first decade of the conflict.

At the same time, Armenia did not extract Nagorno-Karabakh’s natural resources because of its lack of infrastructure. The failure to extract the resources has created a big economic loss of opportunity for both countries.

The negative effects of the conflict have been reflected in the migration crisis the two countries faced. Due to the conflict, many local Azerbaijanis and Armenians in the region were forced to leave their homes in fear of being persecuted (some 30.000 people from both sides lost their lives between 1991 and 1994).

Moreover, this migration crisis has led to an increased urbanisation in the South Caucasus region. In the case of Azerbaijan, people started to migrate from the Nagorno-Karabakh region to other parts of Azerbaijan, especially Baku and other larger cities, creating a massive increase in urbanization.

As a result of state policies and individual assistance, the displaced peoples have been given IDPs (internally displaced persons) status. Consequently, they have received new homes and monthly stipends as well as refugee aid. While many of them contributed to the development of the cities as well as to the overall Gdp of both countries, the increasing population in larger cities has had a lasting effect on the rural landscape.

On this background, the geopolitical rivalries have had their role in the dispute, with Russia traditionally close to Armenian side and Turkey to Azerbaijan’s one.
“The loss of life and the toll on the civilian population are unacceptable. There can be no military solution to the conflict, nor any external interference”, the European Council said in a statement on October 2 following a summit in Brussels.

The Eu said it supported the co-chairs of the so-called Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (Osce), which has tried to mediate the conflict since the early 1990s. In their capacity as co-chairs of the Minsk Group – France, Russia, and the United States – called on October 1 for an immediate cessation of hostilities between forces fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh. “Caucasus could become another sort of what’s going on in Syria, unless the international community interferes with the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh”, Armen Sarkisyan, the Armenian President said so in an interview with “Cnbc”.

The head of the Armenian state also commented on Turkey’s actions in support of Azerbaijan. According to him, Ankara’s current actions cause problems in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, Libya and Iraq. “Azerbaijan will restore its territorial integrity”, said on the other side the President Ilham Aliyev, adding that the country had hoped to reach the result via negotiations, but they were useless. He also said that Baku will stop its offensive if the Armenian military leaves “occupied territories”, stressing that it is the one and only condition.

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