Unlike the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is at the heart of the headlines following the murderous terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel on 07.10 and whose end is not in sight, the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia is very close to ending or at least to “Hudna” as they say in our regions.
Azerbaijan and Armenia, two republics of the former Soviet Union, are at loggerheads over Nagorno-Karabakh. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, the Nagorno-Karabakh region became part of Azerbaijan. Therefore, according to international law, the land belongs to Azerbaijan. Despite this, the population of Nagorno-Karabakh is Armenian – which led to a complicated conflict between the two countries. Ethnic, religious, and cultural differences between the Azeris and the Armenians turned the conflict into a severe blood feud.
The conflict in the Caucasus is very reminiscent of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: different ethnic populations and different religions whose source of conflict is over territory. In addition, there is a similar parallel in the territorial route: Armenia cuts off Azerbaijan and prevents it from territorial continuity, with the Nakhchivan region remaining as an enclave. The situation is very similar to the territorial conflict between Israel and the Palestinians: Israel is in the range between the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority and the Gaza Strip.
So, how is the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia on the way to a peace agreement, or at least a long-term calm?
On September 19, 2023, Azerbaijan launched a surprise attack on the Nagorno-Karabakh region. An operation that was so successful that the Armenian leaders in the region surrendered after a day. Azerbaijan took advantage of the local patron’s lack of presence- Russia, which stuck up to its neck in the war in Ukraine- to embark on a successful military operation to conquer the region and resolve the conflict. Russia, being a Christian-Orthodox nation, is ethnically closer to Armenia than to Muslim-Shia Azerbaijan- couldn’t do anything about it.
Surprisingly, about two months after the successful occupation and mass flight of the Armenian residents and even the accusation of “ethnic cleansing” of the region – the two started peace talks. Thinking about “the day after” Azerbaijan takes advantage of its tactical achievements in the field and uses them to fulfill the strategic goal – a peace agreement with the bitter enemy that will lead to regional calm.
Although on 07.10, Israel was surprised by Hamas, the military initiative is currently in its hands. An initiative without thinking about “the day after” will not help Israel. When the tactical achievements on the ground, for example, the demilitarization of the Strip and the dismantling of the military arm of Hamas, Israel can sink into the “Gaza swamp” just like it sank into the “Lebanese swamp” about 40 years ago. The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia is parallel in many terms to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Azerbaijan’s success in channeling the achievements in the field to achieve a strategic goal is a clear example for Israel to go in a similar direction. Azerbaijan’s use of its local patron, Russia, to move toward a strategic goal only reinforces the perception that Israel needs to use its local patron, the United States, to achieve its strategic goals in the war.
So, it’s true that no one imagines peace talks will open two months after the war’s end, which is not in sight, but thinking about the day after while integrating the regional powers to achieve the goal is necessary.