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    Azeri-Armenian Border Clashes – A Six Month Outlook

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    Armenia and Azerbaijan are in a state of hostilities over Nagorno-Karabakh. The region is internationally recognized as a part of Azerbaijan but hosts a seperatist Armenian ethnic majority. The most recent spate of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh left over 100 troops dead. Despite being a localized war, Russia, Iran and Turkey play an important role in the wider arena of the Caucuses. Moreover, the war in Ukraine introduced the dimension of energy security to the conflict. 

    KJ-1: It is highly likely that Azerbaijan will launch additional military operations against Armenia in the next 6 months.

    • Armenian forces deployed artillery in Kalbajar on 14 September, reinforced by 82-mm mortars the same day near the Lachin corridor [source].
    • Armenian troops stationed in Nagorno-Karabakh are withdrawing this month, potentially leaving a vacuum in their stead [source]. 
    • Azerbaijan destroyed an S-300 anti-aircraft system with an IAI Harop loitering drone [source]. Troop positions and logistical depots were struck with a TB2 Bayraktar [source].
    • Prior to the 2020 conflict, military positions were separated by hundreds of meters. Recent hostilities decreased that space to less than 30 meters in some areas [source]. 
    • Armenian troops fired on Azeri positions on 5 and 11 September in Yellijia, Zivel, and Kalbajar [source], [source].
    • Armenia’s mission to the UN claimed that Azerbaijan is moving towards another offensive in the coming weeks [source].
    • Prime Minister Pashinyan reassured the Armenian public that a peace deal was not under consideration after large anti-government protests took place in Yerevan  [source].
    • Azerbaijan may be attempting to establish a corridor between Zangilan and the Nakhichevan enclave [source]. The “Zangezur Corridor” would link Nakhichevan and Azerbaijan proper.
    • Iran opposes any such outcome as it would cut off Iran’s only land border with Armenia [source]. Iran and Armenia signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance trade last year [source]. 
    • Iran stands accused of arming Armenia since 1994, most recently in 2020 [source], [source]. Accordingly, Baku tacitly supports Azeri separatist movements in Iran [source].

    KJ-2: It is unlikely that violence in Nagorno-Karabakh will adversely impact the flow of energy in Caucuses in the next 6 months.

    • Azerbaijan already supplied 7.3 billion cubic meters of gas to the EU in the last 8 months. In July, a deal came into effect to increase exports by 30% [source].
    • After Russia suspended pipeline operation from Kazakhstan that same month, President Tokayev indicated that Kazakhstan would seek alternative routes through the Caspian Sea [source]. 
    • British Petroleum announced a temporary closure of the BTS pipeline in July, citing fears for the safety of oil tankers in the Black Sea due to the war in Ukraine [source].
    • However, the oil was diverted through the BTC pipeline along the Turkish coast [source]. 
    • In 2020, Armenian missiles landed dangerously close to the BTC pipeline. No damage was reported and Azerbaijan demonstrated the ability to intercept missile attacks [source].
    • The BTC pipeline itself is heavily guarded and shielded by anti-air systems [source].
    • Armenia does not have the offensive air capabilities to strike offshore facilities in the Caspian Sea [source]. 
    • There is at least one pipeline along the Lachin corridor, now under control by Azeri troops [source].
    • Iran constructed 3 power transmission lines into Armenia in 2018 [source]. A new 90 km transmission line came online in August as well [source].

    KJ-3: It is likely that Russo-Armenian relations will deteriorate in the next 6 months. 

    • Russian peacekeepers were unable to prevent the advance of Azeri troops along the Lachin corridor [source]. 
    • A senior Russian diplomat in Yerevan stated in August that Russian troops would stay at their posts [source]. However, Russian peacekeepers left the Lachin corridor in July [source].
    • Russia refused to intervene militarily in Armenia in 2020 given the fact that the majority of the violence was in the Azeri side of Nagorno-Karabakh [source].
    • Due in part to the disastrous campaign in Ukraine, Russia refused to intervene militarily following the most recent bout of Azeri-Armenia border clashes [source]. 
    • Protests erupted in Yerevan demanding the government withdraw from the Russian-backed CSTO [source].
    • Nancy Pelosi visited Yerevan on 18 September to offer support to Armenia, representing a departure from Armenia’s traditional reliance on Russia [source].
    • Prime Minister Pashinyan appeared to criticize the Russian performance in Nagorno-Karabakh [source].

    Intelligence Cut-Off Date: 23 September 2022

    Alec Smith
    Alec Smith
    Alec Smith is a graduate of the MSC International Relations program of the University of Aberdeen and holds an LLB in Global Law from Tilburg University.

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