Russia completes deployment of its peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh and coordinates with Turkey on monitoring activities

Reparation for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is in the hands of Russia

AFP/ALEXANDER NEMENOV - Russian peacekeepers (R and 3rd R) stop a car at their checkpoint outside the town of Stepanakert on 13 November 2020

The ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan already has a strong international observer in place. Russia has deployed 1 960 troops to Nagorno-Karabakh, which will be responsible for securing peace under the agreement signed on 10 November between Armenians and Azerbaijanis after a month and a half of bloody fighting.

"The Russian peace contingent carried out the assigned missions," reported Sergei Shoigou, the Russian defence minister, at a telematic meeting with the president, Vladimir Putin.

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict erupted on 26 September after almost 26 years of talks without any kind of agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The 1987 war for control of the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh was brought to a standstill at a critical point for Azerbaijan, which saw 20 percent of its national territory invaded.

Now the Azerbaijani army has recovered positions and, owing to the cruelty of the clashes, Armenia has accepted a ceasefire and conditions similar to those discussed in 2009 during the Madrid Agreements: to remove Armenian troops from Azerbaijani territory and create a humanitarian corridor linking Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia.

To this end, Russia and Turkey have offered to act as peace intermediaries in this process. The Russian defence ministry has also transported 552 military equipment, including armoured vehicles, cars and others, to the territory, which will circulate among the 23 observation posts set up to monitor the ceasefire. Turkey, for its part, has set up in Azeri territory at various border observation posts.

Russian troops have been stationed in two areas: the north (Terterks, Agdam and Mardakert) and the south (Stepanakert and Lachin). In this connection, Shoigu informed Putin that the Lachin corridor, which will link Stepanakert, the Karabakh capital, with Armenia, has already been cleared, enabling thousands of displaced persons to return by road.

The minister also stressed that the command system installed in Stepanakert will allow "operational reaction" to any unforeseen event. He also stressed that Russia and Turkey are finalising the details of the operation of the joint observation centre on Azeri territory in accordance with the memorandum signed on 11 November, which will remotely collect information on any violations of the cessation of hostilities.

Rusos en Azerbaiyán
The population of Nagorno-Karabakh needs humanitarian aid

Putin said that the priority now was for the population that had suffered during the military actions to receive humanitarian aid and stressed that the conditions for the safe work of international humanitarian organisations had been created.

"We stand in solidarity with all those who have fallen from grace. Winter is coming. The area is mountainous. It is cold," he said, recalling that the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Mauer, travelled to Moscow this week.

As for the refugees, the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, put the figure at 135,000, including some 90,000 Armenians who left Nagorno-Karabakh and some 45,000 Azerbaijanis who fled the surrounding areas.

In this connection, the Russian minister for emergency situations, Yevgeny Zinichev, warned that over 30,000 refugees intend to return to Karabakh soon, when the infrastructure can only accommodate fewer than 5,000 people.

Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have committed themselves to the ceasefire and the peace process. The Russian military contingent will stay for five years, with an automatic extension for a further five years if neither side objects.

Nikol Pashinián y Vladimir Putin
Armenia is angry with its government

Armenian opposition groups see the agreement as a step backwards in all respects. Several dozen demonstrators were arrested in protest actions in Yerevan, the capital of the Armenian country, at the end of this week, and are demanding the sudden resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.

On the day the ceasefire and the package of measures were announced, Armenian demonstrators invaded the parliament and even reached the office of Pashinian, who declared that this agreement "was very painful but necessary".

Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani president, Ilham Aliev, stated that resorting to force to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was "an international law" of Baku, although he considered the conflict "behind us"; he claimed victory on the battlefield and in the political arena, and expressed his willingness to establish "normal" relations with the neighbouring country.

The flurry of resignations within the Armenian government does not stop, although Pashinián is still reluctant to leave his post. On Friday the Armenian president, Armen Sarkisian, appointed Vagarshak Arutiunian as the country's new defence minister to replace David Tonoian, who was relieved in the midst of the political crisis in Armenia.

This week the foreign and emergency ministers of Armenia also left their posts. Pashinian, branded a "traitor" by the opposition, insists that in the conditions created they were the only option to stop the advance of Azerbaijani troops on Stepanaker and thus retain control over much of the enclave.

During a recent speech in Parliament, Mr Pashinián also advanced the reshuffle of the government which, according to the local press, could affect 80% of its workforce.

The conflict is again at a standstill and the Russian presence will control any outbreak of armed violence. Now Armenia will have to rebuild its government and convince its population that the decisions taken were the result of an Azeri offensive that is impossible to control.