By Paul Goble
Many people assume that the 44-day war in 2020 ended with a new ceasefire line that both Azerbaijan and Armenia were committed to observing, Grant Mikhaelyan says. But in reality, Baku has continued a low intensity conflict that has allowed it to take control of land along that line; and official Yerevan has not even denounced what is going on.
This pattern began almost immediately, the analyst at Yerevan’s Caucasus Institute says, when Azerbaijan began a unilateral demarcation of the borders on the basis of Soviet maps from the 1970s. Apparently fearful of even more forceful actions by Baku, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan did not react (kavkaz-uzel.eu/blogs/83781/posts/51255m).
In the months since, Mikayelyan says, this pattern has been repeated again and again with Azerbaijan imposing borders sometimes by using force and sometimes by exploiting Armenian withdrawal and with Pashinyan acting as if there is nothing to be concerned about or that Moscow will somehow intervene to help Yerevan.
Most of Azerbaijan’s advances at Armenia’s expense, the analyst says, were very small; but in May 2021, Baku’s forces occupied without a fight some 110 square kilometers to the north of Goris and to the northwest of Dilidzhan. Again, he continues, Pashinyan said nothing. And Azerbaijani forces have taken advantage of the situation.
Today, Mikayelyan says, the most serious of these advances concerns the M-2 highway which connects Armenia with Iran. Before December 2020, Armenia controlled all of it; but now, Azerbaijan controls 22 kilometers. That has led to talk in Yerevan about building another road further from the Azerbaijani border. But prospects for that are not good.
According to the Yerevan analyst, “for the last 15 years, Armenia hasn’t found the money needed for the construction” of this alternative route. And the estimated cost is “far beyond the limits of the Armenian border.”