The new Karabakh war lasted just over a day: the unrecognized republic agreed to lay down its arms and disband its armed units. On September 21, representatives of Azerbaijan and Karabakh Armenians will discuss their now joint future. The main question they have to solve is what will happen next to the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Azerbaijan has been waiting for this day for a long time and has been bringing it closer in every possible way. The Second Karabakh War of 2020 ended with the victory of Azerbaijan - the country regained part of the territories in Nagorno-Karabakh itself and the adjacent areas. Then, in order to end the war, the heads of Armenia and Azerbaijan, through the mediation of Russia, signed a joint statement, and Russian peacekeepers entered Karabakh, who were supposed to monitor how the ceasefire was observed.
This regime was poorly observed: reports of local shootings and incidents appeared regularly and became especially frequent in recent months. Although Azerbaijan achieved victory in the war, it was not complete: a peace treaty with Armenia was never signed because the countries could not agree on the fate of more than 100 thousand residents of Karabakh who are ethnic Armenians.
Azerbaijan was not satisfied with such delays. Almost a year ago he took active action. The situation seemed favorable to Baku: Russia is busy with the war against Ukraine, so it has neither the strength nor the time for the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. Since December last year, the Azerbaijanis have blocked the only road connecting Stepanakert (Khankendi), the capital of the unrecognized republic, with Armenia. The Armenians of Karabakh called it the “road of life”: food and medicine were delivered along it, people went for treatment and returned home. With the route cut off, all supplies from Armenia stopped and Karabakh plunged into a humanitarian crisis.
Azerbaijan demanded complete control over transportation and offered other routes, but the Armenians refused on principle. Many families have been undernourished in recent weeks.
What Azerbaijan considered illegal armed groups, and the Armenians considered a defense army, was armed with the remnants of old Soviet equipment, with several thousand fighters with light small arms and meager ammunition. In the very first hours of the operation, the Azerbaijani army took control of the airspace, suppressing the Armenian air defense systems.
Azerbaijan actually presented an ultimatum - the disbandment of government bodies, the complete disarmament of the Karabakh army and the withdrawal of Armenian troops. Armenia claims that there are no military personnel in Karabakh. The quick agreement of the Karabakh leadership to Baku’s conditions means nothing more than capitulation and speaks of the inability of local Armenian forces to resist.
On September 21, in the Azerbaijani city of Yevlakh, representatives of Karabakh and Azerbaijan will sit down at the negotiating table. But it’s a stretch to call it negotiations: one side has strength and complete freedom of action, the other has no trump cards. Under these conditions, Baku can simply dictate its terms and issue ultimatums. Residents of Nagorno-Karabakh also have a fear that people will be subjected to mass persecution and arrests.
Baku constantly promises that the Armenians of Karabakh will have the same rights as the citizens of Azerbaijan. These statements do nothing to reassure the Armenians and sound like a mockery, especially after a report appeared that the Azerbaijanis who wrote negative posts about military operations in Karabakh were “invited to a conversation” with the State Security Service.