Is Karabakh Peace Deal in Danger?
The November 10th ceasefire agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan experienced the most significant test a few days ago. On December 12, Azerbaijani troops responded to a couple of instances of Armenian irregulars, who are still hiding in the liberated areas, firing on Azerbaijani troops killing four Azerbaijanis. According to Armenian side, 6 Armenian soldiers were wounded.
After this incident, on December 13 Russia extended the area of its peacekeeping mission to include new areas. It caused much uproar in Baku as apparently such expansion was done by Russia unilaterally. Various public figures expressed discontent at Russia’s arbitrary decisions to overstep its peacekeeping mandate.
Russia is apparently upset at the Azerbaijani victory march in Baku on Dec. 10, which included Turkish troops, Turkish leader Erdogan in attendance and a parade of captured Russian equipment Armenians left in the field of combat or destroyed by Azerbaijani army.
Russia has also banned Azerbaijani-grown tomatoes and apples from importation to Russia which borders Azerbaijan on the north. Tomatoes are Azerbaijan’s largest export after oil and natural gas, earning it around 200 million dollars a year. Why? Is it a message to Azerbaijan alongside the extension of the peacekeeping area? Russia has always been uncomfortable with Azerbaijan’s independent policies.
“Recently, certain shades have been visible in Russia’s attitude to Azerbaijan. Especially after the victory parade. The participation of Erdogan there, the demonstration of captured equipment clearly was not pleasing to the Russian establishment. After all, all this equipment is produced in Russia,” said Vahid Ahmadov, an MP of the Azerbaijani parliament.
“Last week, supplies of tomatoes and apples from Azerbaijan were banned. They allegedly found pests in them. This is all a lie. I think all this is temporary. Russia is a strategic partner of Azerbaijan. Such actions are unacceptable,” he said.
Will Russia send more troops to Nagorno-Karabakh? How about the rumor that Russia will offer Russian citizenship to Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh in order to claim in the future that they must protect Russian citizens. This is a modus operandi Russia has used in Crimea and in parts of the Republic of Georgia.
Another MP, Tahir Karimli, said: “If the Russian peacekeepers have turned a blind eye to the presence of militants and armed people in the region, this first of all strikes a blow at the image of Russia itself. Neither other countries, nor the Azerbaijani public agree to the presence of Russian peacekeeping forces in Karabakh. They must respect the sovereign rights of Azerbaijan,” Karimli said.
After this public outrage, Russia withdrew its peacekeeping forces from new areas.
Here is the map of the current Russian peacekeeping mission as of Dec. 20, 2020:
In any case, arbitrarily moving Russian forces around, especially taking over Azerbaijani-held areas whenever and whenever they want is a serious violation of the November 10 peace deal. Further similar violations can create an extremely unstable situation in Karabakh leading to another disastrous war. Armenia, whose army has been completely devastated during the war, would be the main side suffering under a new war. Also this would tremendously damage the prestige and influence of Russia in the region.