During the final days of September 2020, media outlets reported on the escalation of a conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. It is a territory mostly governed by the Republic of Artsakh (formerly Nagorno-Karabakh Republic), a de facto independent state with an Armenian ethnic majority. Yet it is recognized by the U.N. as a part of Azerbaijan (although this resolution was supported by 39 states, 7 states voted against (Angola, Armenia, France, India, Russian Federation, United States, Vanuatu), with 100 states abstained).
In response to the alleged attacks, U.N. Security Council members “expressed concern over reports of large scale military actions along the Line of Contact in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone. They strongly condemn the use of force and regret the loss of life and the toll on the civilian population.” Further, they “voiced support for the call by the Secretary General on the sides to immediately stop fighting, de-escalate tensions and return to meaningful negotiations without delay.”
Similarly, Co-Chairs of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group (Igor Popov of the Russian Federation, Stéphane Visconti of France, and Andrew Schofer of the United States of America) released a statement condemning “the continued violence in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone as well as against targets in the territory of Armenia and Azerbaijan away from the Line of Contact, and express our alarm at reports of increasing civilian casualties. Targeting or threatening civilians is never acceptable under any circumstances. The Co-Chairs call on the sides to observe fully their international obligations to protect civilian populations. The Co-Chairs also stress that participation in the escalating violence by external parties undermines efforts to achieve lasting peace in the region.”
Neither statement appear to have had any effect the conflict (or help to clarity its nature). According to the Armenian National Committee of America, on September 27, 2020, Azerbaijan allegedly began a coordinated an invasion of Artsakh (also known as Nagorno-Karabakh). This is arguably becoming one the most significant violations of the ceasefire since its establishment in 1994. Allegedly, Azerbaijan has deliberately targeted civilian populations in Artsakh. At least 100 Armenian soldiers, most of whom are 19-21 in age, have been killed, in addition to at least 10 civilians. Hundreds are reported wounded. Azerbaijan has also targeted foreign journalists in Artsakh reporting on the conflict. In the weeks leading up to Azerbaijan’s attack on Artsakh, the Armenian National Committee of America reports having identified signs of coordination and escalation, including evidence of “Azerbaijan’s mobilization of reservists, the commandeering of civilian vehicles for military use, and Turkey’s transporting of Syrian mercenaries to Azerbaijan. Reports from the Republic of Artsakh’s government also indicate that Turkish F-16s are operational in Azerbaijan’s assault against Artsakh.”
As the conflict continued to escalate, Azerbaijan’s ambassador to the U.K., Tahir Taghizade, and Aram Araratyan of the Armenian Embassy in the U.K., took to the press to explain their respective country’s position. According to Tahir Taghizade, “Armenia bears full responsibility for the recent outbreak of hostilities, which it started and is a direct result of its decade-long policy of occupation and aggression.” Aram Araratyan stated, in response, that “Nagorno-Karabakh has never been a part of independent Azerbaijan, as its people voted for independence in full compliance with the norms of international law and existing domestic legislation and according to the same legal basis as Azerbaijan in 1991” and “on 27 September  Azerbaijan initiated another large-scale military aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh with the support of Turkey.”
While Azerbaijan denied any wrongdoing and pleads self-defence, some of the recent evidence sheds some doubt on this position. For example, on October 5, 2020, the Daily Telegraph reported that it saw evidence that Azerbaijan has been dropping cluster munitions in civilian areas. On October 8, 2020, Armenia accused Azerbaijan of deliberately targeting a historic cathedral in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Holy Saviour Cathedral in Shusha city. Furthermore, Turkey has allegedly played a role in supporting the Azerbaijani aggression, significantly affecting the nature of the conflict. It is also relevant that the recent clashes have displaced half of Nagorno-Karabakh’s population, ca. 70,000 people.
Because of the concerning news, British Parliamentarians tabled an early day motion expressing concern on “reports of the shelling of Shushi cathedral in Nagono-Karabakh by the Azerbaijan military; condemn[ing] this attack on a civilian site; further condemn[ing] the military targeting of a cultural heritage site, an act which constitutes a war crime under international law… and urg[ing] the Government to condemn those attacks and to make representations on them to the Government of Azerbaijan.”
Non-Governmental organisations, and even celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, have been raising awareness of the dire situation in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. As the conflict continues, we cannot neglect some of the concerning warning signs that have been reported on. Especially as a century ago, the Ottoman Empire attempted to eradicate the Armenians. As the conflict continues and the parties blame each other, our focus should be on those most vulnerable individuals affected by the conflict and provide them with assistance.