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Crisis Group: Armenia’s political fragility could contribute to escalation of conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh


“Armenia’s political fragility also could risk contributing to an escalation of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh,” the International Crisis Group has said in a commentary on the latest developments in Armenia.

 

The commentary says intractable negotiating positions and a regional arms race contributed to deadly clashes in 2016, noting that there are three specific dangers that could inflame the conflict.

 

“Worried about a possible Azerbaijani incursion, Nagorno-Karabakh commanders may feel compelled to mount a pre-emptive strike, something they have considered since 2016. Such an offensive could also occur if commanders felt it was their last chance to push for the return of the two slivers of land that Armenia lost to Azerbaijan in the 2016 fighting. A pre-emptive strike might also be part of a political strategy on the part of Yerevan elites who fear losing out from a transition to consolidate the divided nation.

 

Second, Azerbaijan itself may seek to take advantage of Armenia’s turmoil to attack in the conflict zone. That said, senior government officials have, in connection to the turmoil in Armenia, refrained from using belligerent rhetoric which is otherwise not unusual in the region. For now, this is a good sign.

 

Third, the risk remains of an incident spiralling out of control or a misreading of intentions. This danger is particularly acute at a time of heightened sensitivity and preparedness.”

 

The commentary emphasizes that all sides should avoid any escalatory moves and keep open political and diplomatic channels.

 

“The OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs – Russia, the United States and France – and the European Union (EU) should remind actors on all sides how lethal renewed fighting could be. Given the political crisis in Armenia, Minsk Group co-chairs should – in addition to their existing formal channels – also pursue a conversation about the risks of an escalation over Nagorno-Karabakh with Pashinyan.”

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