While the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan for the Nagorno-Karabakh region continues, Turkey is slowly, but progressively, expanding its geopolitical importance.
It seems like peace is still far for the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Although Moscow has been trying to establish a cease-fire and peace negotiations, Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev has condemned Armenia for an alledged military strike which was carried out last week.
According to Los Angeles Times, the ballistic missile stroke the residential area of the city of Gyanga causing at least 13 deaths and over 50 wounded civilians. The armenian authorities deny such alledged attack and seem not to take Aliyev’s warnings of possible ripercussions into consideration.
The Nagorno-Karabakh region is internationally recognised under Azerbaijan government, but it is hugely controlled by Armenian ethnic groups. On Septemeber the 27th tensions escalated between the two governments with the deployment of heavy artillery, drones, missiles and over 90.000 civilians who fled to Armenia from the disputed region.
This military dispute is the child of the unfinished and unsettled military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan between the 1980s and 1990s. Even though the Nagorno-Karabakh population voted to become a recognised and official part of the Armenian country, the dismantling Soviet Union (which used to control the Caucasus) gave that territory to Azerbaijan, causing the 1980s-1990s conflict which is still unsolved.
As far as geography is concerned, the Nagorno-Karabakh territory is surrounded by armenian ethnic groups backed-up by the armenian government and it is fisically detached from Azerbaijan. Cultural and religious beliefs also play an important role in the conflict, as Azerbaijan is mostly a muslim country and Armenia a christian country.
This religious difference is also mirrored in the other international actors involved in the conflict: Turkey, a muslim country, is supporting the Baku (the capital of Azerbaijan) whereas Russia, a christian country, is supporting Yerevan (the capital of Armenia).
There are other international actors involved in this conflict, as the caucasus region is geographically a very active political region. Iran is getting closer to Armenia as the iranian government fears a potential excessive rise of power of the azerbaijani (or Azeri) population within its territory (according to the libanese journalist Anthony Samrani, Iran hosts 15 million Azeri), but on the other hand Israel might stop providing weapons to the azerbaijans if turkey’s influence over the Caucasus will increase.
According to the latest political research at ISPI, the real leading actor behind the conflict is Ankara, which is looking at the rising conflict as a way to place a foot in the Caucasus which has traditionally ties with Moscow only.
During the last five of years, Erdogan’s international policies have been surging across different geopolitical areas and with different strategies: on the european front, Turkey’s been threatening the EU with millions of sirian refugees blocked at its borders, by using them as a weapon to gain financial support from the EU; on the mediterranean front, Ankara has set its policy in the conflict in Lybia between Al-Sarraj (backed by Erdogan) and Haftar (backed by Putin) and now in the Caucasus, Ankara is clashing again with Putin in a possible attempt to emerge as prominent actor in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
This conflict is not just about political, cultural and humanitarian crisis: after the alledged armenian bombing, Aliyev has accused Yerevan of attempting to gain control over the azerbaijani gas and oil pipelines. According to the Strategic Culture Foundation, the possible construction of the Trans-Caspain oil pipeline will join the existing central European gas pipelines to fuel gas from Turkmenistan and Kazakhistan via Armenia and Azerbaijan.
If this pipeline was to be built, it will be a direct competitor to the russian pipeline which is currently the biggest gas supplier to Europe. The Trans-Caspian pipeline could therefore undermine Moscow’s economic power both in the Caucasus and in Europe. But if Armenia was to gain control over the existing Azerbaijani pipelines, this plan could be hindered and Moscow could still retain its economic relevance in both geopolitical arenas.
Although the conflict has reached its 22nd day of tensions, there is still nothing clear about the real political and economic intentions of all the actors involved and not involved, as the EU and the USA are not actively taking sides. The EU is too concerned with the surging on the second wave of Covid pandemic, whereas the USA are getting closer to the Election Day. For now, the disputing parts and the people of Nagorno-Karbakh are awaiting a new peace proposal from Moscow or from Ankara.