Escalating front-line clashes, a spiraling arms race, vitriolic rhetoric and a virtual breakdown in peace talks increase the chance Armenia and Azerbaijan will go back to war over Nagorno-Karabakh, with devastating regional consequences, the International Crisis Group, or ICG, warned Tuesday.
The Brussels-based group’s report, “Armenia and Azerbaijan: Preventing War,” highlights the deterioration of the situation in the past year. “Increased military capabilities on both sides would make a new armed conflict in the South Caucasus far more deadly than the 1992-1994 one that ended with a shaky truce,” the ICG warned.
“Neither side would be likely to win easily or quickly,” the report said. Even if neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan is planning an immediate all-out offensive, “skirmishes could easily spiral out of control,” it warned.
A serious outbreak of fighting could threaten oil and gas pipelines which pass close to Karabakh, taking Caspian Sea energy from Azerbaijan to European markets. It could also drag in neighboring powers like Turkey, which supports Azerbaijan over Karabakh, and Russia, which has troops based in Armenia, the ICG's report said.
Nagorno-Karabakh is a constituent part of Azerbaijan that has been occupied by Armenia since 1994. While internationally recognized as Azerbaijani territory, the enclave has declared itself an independent republic but is administered as a de facto part of Armenia.
The past 12 months have seen more ceasefire violations across wider areas, employing more sophisticated tactics and weapons. At least 25 persons were killed in 2010 and three soldiers have already been shot dead in 2011, according to ICG.
The think tank urged both sides to take steps to decrease tensions and to sign a document endorsing basic principles for resolving the dispute peacefully. It also urged the international community to intensify efforts to discourage the arms race in the region.
Source : International Crisis Group