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    The Third Nagorno-Karabakh War: A 6 month outlook

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    Background

    Nagorno-Karabakh is a landlocked mountainous region in the southern Caucasus that has been subject to a lengthy territorial dispute between Azerbaijan and neighbouring Armenia. While it is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, it was governed by the unrecognised Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, also referred to as the Republic of Artsakh. Nagorno-Karabakh consists of a large ethnic Armenian majority.

    On September 19th, Azerjabaijani forces overwhelmed the defenders of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, whose government believes it will cease to exist by January 2024. The conflict has caused a humanitarian crisis and mass exodus of ethnic Armenians from the territory. Azerbaijan has rejected accusations of ethnic-cleansing in the region. 

    Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister, Jeyhun Bayramov, expressed that the military operation has created “genuine prospects for a prompt peace treaty between Azerbaijan and Armenia. On October 26th, a potential agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan was brokered. The “Crossroads of Peace” agreement would reopen roads and railways with Armenia’s neighbours, including Azerbaijan, that have been closed for decades.

    Key Judgement 1. Western nations will likely confine their opposition to Azerbaijan’s intervention to diplomatic protest and humanitarian support in the next 6 months.  

    Key Judgement 2. In the next 6 months, Iran will likely play a key role in mitigating Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiations. 

    Key Judgement 3. In the next 6 months, Turkey will likely continue to maintain its military support for Azerbaijan despite the numerous humanitarian concerns in Karabakh.

    KJ-1. Western nations will likely confine their opposition to Azerbaijan’s intervention to diplomatic protest and humanitarian support in the next 6 months. 

    a. Armenia asked the EU for humanitarian aid, including medical supplies and temporary shelters after the outbreak of the conflict in September. The office of Italian PM Giorgia Meloni said in a statement that Rome is working to promote stabilisation in the region [source]

    b. While France promises to boost Armenia air defence with anti-air missiles, it is the only Western nation to do so. However, this escalation will not likely to renew any kind of military conflict. [source]

    c. On October 3rd, the German government  called for a ‘permanent presence’ in Nagorno-Karabakh, calling for the need for ‘transparency’ and ‘trust’ in Azerbaijan to protect the rights of its residents. [source]

    d. In September, Armenia asked the ICJ to order Azerbaijan to withdraw all its troops from civilian establishments in Nagorno-Karabakh and to give the UN access. However it is now unlikely that the ICJ will intervene. [source]

    KJ-2.  In the next 6 months, Iran will likely play a key role in mitigating Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiations.

    a. On October 23rd, Iran hosted talks between Turkey, Russia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan regarding this conflict. Following these talks, both sides agreed that Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to Azerbaijan. [source]

    b. Iran is carefully navigating negotiations between both Armenia and Azerbaijan. Since the initial breakout of the conflict, Iran has been calling for resolution through dialogue. [source]

    c. From 2016 to 2020, Iran supplies Azerbaijan with an estimated 70 percent of its arms. [source]

    d.  Iranian General Mohammad Baqeri said Azerbaijan was restoring its ‘territorial integrity” in its operation in Karabakh in September. [source]

    KJ-3. In the next 6 months, Turkey will likely continue to maintain its military support for Azerbaijan despite the numerous humanitarian concerns in Karabakh.

    a. In the week of October 22nd, Turkey and Azerbaijan participated in a joint military simulation on rural settlement combat. The exercise allegedly took place in Nagorno-Karabakh. [source]

    b. The construction of the Nakhchivan gas pipeline will likely be completed in 2024, connecting through the Turkey, Azerbaijan border. On September 25th, Edrohan and Aliyev attended a ceremony to launch its construction. [source]

    c. A long-time ally of Azerbaijan, Turkey has pledged its support for the military intervention in Nagorno-Karabakh. [source]

    d. Erdohan has mentioned that Iran is warming up to a joint Turkish-Azeri transport corridor that would connect Turkey to Azerbaijan through Armenia. [source]

    Analytical Summary

    We are confident in our assessment that Nagorno-Karabakh will continue being a humanitarian crisis to the greater Caucasus region. This is based on our judgement of local and international press reports as well as NGO and Think Tank reporting. We assume that the “Crossroads of Peace” agreement will go through as planned.

    Should this assumption be incorrect, we would expect to see a drawn out negotiation process. We considered the alternative that French military aid to Armenia will escalate the conflict, but judged it unlikely due to the ongoing communication efforts between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Should this happen, we will reconsult with our sources and adjust our assessment accordingly.

    Intelligence Cut-off Date: 20 November 2023

    Julia Day
    Julia Day
    Julia is an intelligence analyst pursuing a BA in International Affairs and Italian Studies at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy. Her main areas of interest include security in the Mediterranean Sea, European affairs and naval studies.

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