2020 Nagorno-Karabakh Ceasefire Agreement

Nearly five months have passed since the Ceasefire of 9 November 2020, which ended the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War. The conflict erupted as the culmination of tensions that have been rising for years and had already led to two smaller outbreaks (one in April 2016 and one in July 2020). The war wreaked havoc on the lives of Azerbaijani and Armenian civilians, as well as on the lives of more than 5,000 fighters, and resulted in the displacement of about 70,000 Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh. The agreement ended the 44 days of fighting that preceded it – the longest wave of violence the region has seen since the early 1990s. Tensions in the region have always been high, but after a four-day war in April 2016, the situation remained relatively peaceful. Nevertheless, fighting broke out across the border with Armenia for several days in July 2020, reviving the conflict and triggering the latest escalation. The fighting appears to have been deliberate and supported by Turkey. The process of identifying the bodies is still ongoing, but Armenia has so far estimated its official death toll at 2,425 soldiers and 50 civilians. Another 122 civilians were injured.

Azerbaijan has not yet revealed its military casualties, as it examines this secret information, but has estimated its civilian casualties at 92, with more than 400 wounded. According to UNICEF, more than 130,000 civilians have been displaced since the fighting began. On November 10, 2020, a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement ended a forty-four-day Armenian-Azerbaijani war on the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, confirming a decisive Azerbaijani military victory. The OSCE Co-Chairs revisited the region in December 2020. In Baku, despite Aliyev`s public disguise, they learned that their work would continue. In Yerevan, they were welcomed more warmly. But their future agenda is still in the air. Despite an earlier tradition of visiting Karabakh itself, the co-chairs did not visit the region in December after Baku and Yerevan insisted that they enter the region on their own and refused to compromise. It is not clear who will negotiate with whom. Aliyev said the conflict is now “resolved,” and some Azerbaijanis are now saying that the dispute with the Armenians in Karabakh is a matter of domestic politics on which Yerevan should have no say. However, Baku has no obvious interlocutors among the Armenians of Karabakh, as they have accused most of its leaders of criminal activities. 5.

In order to monitor more effectively the parties` compliance with the agreements, a peacekeeping centre is being established to monitor the ceasefire. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia have signed an agreement to end the military conflict over the controversial Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. But is the agreement enough to build a bridge to lasting peace, or will its weaknesses revive the fighting? The agreement provided for the immediate cessation of armed hostilities along the current line of contact. This prevented the complete destruction of the surviving Armenian armed forces, whose losses were staggering. The ceasefire ordered the rapid return to Azerbaijan of the three Armenian-occupied districts around Nagorno-Karabakh that had not yet been captured by Azerbaijani forces during the war. At the same time, about 70 percent of the territory of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) was to remain under Armenian control, with the rest having already been retaken by the Azerbaijani army on November 9. The mediated surrender of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan marks the official end of the current fighting, but not the end of the conflict, as it is not a peace agreement. While all sides had previously agreed on the framework for non-violent conflict resolution created by the Minsk process, Aliyev recently made clear his objections to a peaceful solution in an interview with Vice News.

But by changing the status quo on the ground, Aliyev has not changed the role agreed upon by the international community by the Minsk Group in organizing a lasting peace agreement. The group envisions an international process in which all parties have agreed to negotiate a peace plan. Under the terms of the ceasefire agreement, the Armenian armed forces were forced to leave Nagorno-Karabakh and were replaced by a Russian peacekeeping contingent. The first units of Russian peacekeepers arrived in Armenia by airlift over Georgia in early November (the first such operation since the 2008 war), so they could already begin entering Azerbaijan on November 10. Since then, it has been learned that Russia has planned to send peacekeepers from the beginning of the fighting, and the issue was already on the agenda during the negotiations on the first unsuccessful ceasefire from October 9 to 10, 2020. Eventually, Russia managed to carry out the operation in the third ceasefire. In Azerbaijan, Aliyev, 59, is likely to see his domestic political stance increasingly unassailable as he seeks to keep the presidency in his family for decades to come. His position will only become uncertain when he completely resolves the conflict and has no more hardened security arguments for keeping him in an authoritarian regime. If the conflict with Armenia becomes less central to domestic politics in future crises, Aliyev could again face opposition protests against his difficult civil rights record and kleptocratic regime, such as the protests he suppressed in 2011. Pro-war protests in Baku, which occupied parliament in July 2020, likely encouraged its approval of the war.

The November agreement could open up the possibility of reinventing the South Caucasus, with new transport links and economic cooperation possible for the first time since Soviet times. It is planned to restore the road and rail link between Nakhchivan and the rest of Azerbaijan via Armenia. Armenians may also be able to travel from Yerevan to southern Armenia and Iran via Nakhchivan, a much easier route than Armenia`s highland roads. However, all this will be difficult without political rapprochement. On the evening of 9 November 2020, a ceasefire agreement(3) was signed in Moscow, supported by the Russian Federation, but also kept Turkey informed. .