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Baku’s goals in the Nagorno-Karabakh war

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Farzad Ramezani Bonesh

Senior Researcher and Analyst of International Affairs

Following several years of widespread conflict between Armenia and Republic of Azerbaijan, the ceasefire ended the conflicts in May 1994. At that time, Armenian forces took control of almost all of Nagorno-Karabakh and several areas around the region, which was about one-fifth of Azerbaijan’s land.

But in the last month, the war in Nagorno-Karabakh has resumed and Azerbaijan and Armenia started to attack each other again and continue to do so. The following article looks at Baku’s goals in the Nagorno-Karabakh war.

Military dimensions

Armenia is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). The country has been an ally of Russia since 1994. On the other hand, Azerbaijan has been able to get more power by relying more on oil revenues, military purchases and advisory support. So that the balance of military forces and the purchase of weapons between Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan is in Baku’s interest.

In addition, Baku has a desire for military occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh based on its right to self-defense. Under these circumstances, the expansion of military relations, military training, joint exercises, the purchase of military weapons, and a strategic cooperation agreement with Turkey have been put on its agenda. In this situation, Azerbaijan fully enjoys from supports of the Turkish army .

In addition, Turkey has had a good experience in proxy wars in Syria and Libya in recent years. In fact, Turkey can put more pressure on Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh by using Syrian militant and jihadist groups. In the meantime, it should be noted that Baku is well aware that military leverage is only a way to put Yerevan under pressure to give more privilege; otherwise it will not have a long-term usage.

Economy and Geo-economy

Baku exports about 6 billion cubic meters of gas through Turkey. Political and economic relations between Turkey and the Republic of Azerbaijan are in favorable strategic condition, and the increase in trade volume between the two countries is set at $ 15 billion by 2023.

In addition, Turkish natural gas imports from Azerbaijan in the first four months of 2020 for the first time exceeded Turkish gas imports from Russia.

Baku now seems to fear that the Armenians, by dominating the country’s communication and energy transmission route, will cut off one of the most important economic arteries of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Turkish energy artery, and eventually aims to weaken Turkey and Baku. This has drawn Baku’s attention to a more military and immediate solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis.

Geopolitical and political dimensions

On the one hand, Baku wants to improve its relations with the United States and use NATO support in any crisis against Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh.

On the other hand, Baku does not find the activities of the Minsk Group and the Council of European Cooperation very useful. Since 1995, the Minsk Group, with the participation of France, Russia, the United States and other countries, has tried to resolve the conflict peacefully, but various efforts have failed to reach to a certain result.

In Baku’s point of view, the international community is too tolerant to Armenia’s policy in Nagorno-Karabakh, and four UN resolutions calling for Armenia’s immediate withdrawal from the occupied territories have not been implemented. Therefore, Turkey’s presence in the upcoming talks between Baku and Yerevan and the Minsk Group is definitely needed.

From this point of view, Turkey is not part of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but it supports Azerbaijan in the carrier of retaking its territories.

Moreover, Armenia’s proposals for the participation of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in the negotiations presented by Armenia, are unacceptable for the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan also does not want to consider a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, unless it leads to the implementation of resolutions that require Armenia (to implement the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan).

In another dimension, Baku tries to present the Nagorno-Karabakh issue as an Islamic matter, like the issues of Palestine and Kashmir. This carries out the meaning that as much as Nagorno-Karabakh is a problem of the Republic of Azerbaijan, it is also a problem of the Islamic world. In this approach, an attempt is made to attract more support from important Islamic countries.

This becomes all the more important when we consider that Baku fears that possible Russian reactions and the widespread display of power by the Armenian lobby in the United States, France, and the European Union will lead to a massive wave of serious challenges to Baku.

Also, Baku wants the international community to put pressure on  Armenia to end its continued occupation of part of the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Therefore, it seems that Baku considers the current process inefficient. From this point of view, European and American institutions must also resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis within the framework of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity.

Gaining national sovereignty and preventing the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh (Republic of Artsakh)

The Republic of Azerbaijan believes that all the goals of the Azerbaijani army are legitimate goals. Therefore, it wants to preserve Nagorno-Karabakh within its borders.

Also, the legal argument of the Republic of Azerbaijan is based on the principle of ‘national sovereignty’. Therefore, within the framework of national sovereignty, Nagorno-Karabakh should remain part of the territory of Azerbaijan, but it can receive the highest level of autonomy.

In the meantime, a referendum to determine the fate of Nagorno-Karabakh must be held when the displaced people of Nagorno-Karabakh return to their region and the Armenians who immigrated to the region, leave it. Therefore, it is too early to talk about a referendum in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

In another dimension, by emphasizing on the inviolability of the Soviet-era borders, Baku seeks to make Nagorno-Karabakh part of the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

So, Baku rejected the legal principle of ‘determination of the right to self-determination’ to prevent broad international actors such as the European Union and the United States from recognizing the independence of the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh).

Vision

Managing a large-scale war is not Baku’s main medium-term goal. But Baku is trying to put pressure on the Armenians with new conquests. However, although a military solution is not a viable option and will not lead to peace. But peace also requires military supremacy on the ground.