In a first for international politics, the president of Azerbaijan appears to have declared through Twitter the resumption of what had been a dormant conflict with its neighbor Armenia over a plot of territory that both claim as their own.
At stake is the land known as Nagorno-Karabakh, a strip of land located entirely within Azerbaijan’s current borders. The territory, however, boasts a large ethnic Armenian population, a legacy of Josef Stalin’s ‘divide and conquer’ tactics in the Soviet Union. When the USSR collapsed in the early 1990s, the two countries fought a full-fledged war over the land, one that ended in a ceasefire rather than a lasting peace deal. Since then, Nagorono-Karabakkh has been held by Armenian troops and local ethnic Armenian fighters.
In recent days, the long-simmering tensions in the region have begun to boil over again. Over the weekend, clashes between Azeris and Armenians left at least 15 soldiers dead and the ceasefire that has lasted for twenty years at risk. The upswing in violence led to a number of concerned statements from both Russia and the United States, who together are co-chairs of the Minsk Group that has mediated the conflict. “We are seriously concerned about the recent upsurge in violence along the line of contact,” U.S. co-chair James Warlick said in a tweet. “The ceasefire needs to be respected.”
On Thursday, however, Azeri president Ilham Aliyev took to Twitter to declare firmly that in any conflict, it would be Azerbaijan who prevailed. In a lengthy rant, which at times referred to Armenia solely as “the enemy,” repeatedly hit on the patriotism of the Azeri people and the willingness of the Azerbaijan army to take on Armenia in any renewed conflict. “The whole world recognizes Nagorno-Karabakh as an integral part of Azerbaijan and will never recognize the self-styled Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent entity,” he declared. “The Azerbaijani state will never tolerate a second Armenian state on its territory.”
“Azerbaijani citizens are not pleased with the activity of mediators because the main mission of mediators is to settle the conflict, not to keep it in a frozen state and conduct confidence building measures,” he continued, in a dig at the Minsk Group’s lack of progress to date. “The biggest confidence building measure would be the withdrawal of occupying forces from our lands.” The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which houses the Minsk Group, declined to comment on Aliyev’s statement, as it is “not in the position to comment on statements of the heads of our individual participating States.” Instead, ThinkProgress was pointed to the latest statement from the co-chairs, who “expressed their deep concern” over the escalation and urged a resumption of negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
View selected excerpts from President Alivev’s rant below: