However, this issue has had its controversial views over the Post-Soviet period. In the Post-Soviet phase, Armenia and Azerbaijan emerged from the shadows of the Soviet empire as independent states on the international stage for the first time in more than seven decades. According to Walker, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, there were no longer any barriers to pent-up ethnic tensions; the dispute over Karabakh started a new phase. The Soviet Union abandoned significant amounts of military equipment in the region, which were used by both sides in the escalating conflict. The surrounding countries- Russia, Iran and Turkey were deeply concerned by the new military activity and by the potential destabilizing effect on the region. (Walker, p 121)
Russia as with the former USSR has a desire to maintain influence in the region, both as a buffer to Western influence as much as to benefit from the potential trade and energy, (both oil and gas) that can be exploited. The energy resources of Azerbaijan are considerable. These resources have played an important role throughout this conflict. It is important to note that up until the dissolution of the USSR had always sided with Azerbaijan, when it became apparent that Azerbaijan was looking to develop these resources with a consortium of primarily Western companies, Russia began to support Armenia with arms and funds, which had a significant impact on the outcome of the war. In addition to this, Russia attempted to block the validity of this contract stating, “… Azerbaijan had not legal right to exploit the oilfields on the Caspian shelf without consulting other legal states” (Herzig, Edmund. p.116)
On another hand, Iran also has desires to increase its influence in the Caucuses, while also fearing of the reemergence of Turkey as a power broker. Iran sought to become the hub of energy resources in the region and threatened by the optional energy routes, which could be developed. In addition, Iran has traditionally sided with Russia as seen with their support of Russia in the attempt to dissolve the energy contract fearing the impact of additional western influence in the region.
However, Turkey has had, and continues to this day to have strong ties to Azerbaijan. Turkey has close ethnic ties with the primarily Turkic population of Azerbaijan and supports the Azeri position of territorial integrity. With the breakup of the USSR Turkey saw this as an opportunity to increase its political presence in the region. In addition, Turkey is fearful of the impact of instability in the regions and the potential impact that this could pose both with its trading partners and with ethnically diverse regions within Turkey itself.
Consequently, one might conclude that Karabakh land and its issue have awakened “appetites” for something bigger than just a land; watching closely the development of this conflict and having a “standby” position is likely for mentioned countries and each has their still unrevealed ambitions beyond their interested on Karabakh.
Directions of the Conflict
It is interesting that almost all civil wars or ethnic disputes have somehow attached to the “oil” issue. Therefore, this conflict seems like circling around Azerbaijan’s oil reserves. Nevertheless, what do ordinary citizen would know about true ambitions of war and its compromises? Reading history and watching TV news cannot be enough to discover the truth. When things come to the Karabakh issue, oil factors mostly are hidden behind “forbidden” signs of Azerbaijan authorities and its supporters. The only information one can collect, is by general knowledge of some scholars, economics, experts, etc. Nevertheless, how much of truth do they know? Even in this essay, it is almost impossible to cover facts and reality, as it still general, even cited or quoted from scholars. One has to “deep” himself into this issue from very beginning of the dispute more than 100 years ago, so every fact and told story will be based on history. Who says that history is always true and right?
As for Azerbaijan and Armenia’s Karabakh “game”, the oil factor is the part of history and present day .Azerbaijan’s oil revenues and steady economic growth have reduced any inclination for compromise with Armenia. Azerbaijan has exponentially increased its military spending, to which Armenia has responded with its own build-up. Let not forget that the people of both countries were in economic crisis and millions were living on “salt and bread” rules. Perhaps the fact that human nature needs constant competition brought US and Russia, Azerbaijan under one umbrella. However, US-Russian competition over the flow of Caspian oil is a contributing factor to the possible resolution of Karabakh conflict. Consequently, in 1990’s, Azerbaijan was not able to have direct relationship with US, as Russia always stood between the two.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan rejected Russian new policy over Caucasus region; therefore, Russia favored the Armenian position. In 1992-1993, the new Armenian army utilized its superior training and organization to drive the Azerbaijanis out of Karabakh, as well as capturing large territories to the south and west of the Karabakh. A massive Azeri counter offensive was initiated in the winter 1993, but with marginal territorial gains. Several international scholars believe that the President of Azerbaijan H.Aliyev made explicit use of the promising and untapped oil fields on Azerbaijani territory to acquire advantage in the Nagorno-Karabakh war. The underlying principle was straightforward: if Azerbaijan could get powerful countries to invest in its oil sector, the support of the same countries could be utilized for securing a favorable diplomatic victory in Nagorno-Karabakh. Unfortunately, the victory escaped Azerbaijan, leaving its territories occupied.
Between 1988 and 1994, the conflict followed a pattern of interrupted escalation against continuous efforts to negotiate a cease-fire on the part of a range of mediators. However, in May 1994, the sides agreed to a cease-fire brokered by Russia, and in July of the same year Armenia and Azerbaijan committed to maintaining the cease-fire and seeking a negotiated settlement. When the ceasefire was finally agreed upon, in May 1994, the Armenian army effectively occupied 20% of Azerbaijan. (The Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Kingdom of Belgium. Facts)
Conclusion: Efforts, Prospects, Current Status
It is ironic that how much we are going back and forward to the history in order to find what we have missed in past and what was our mistake. This essay illustrated causes and effects of the Karabakh war, unfortunately leaving behind what called a “human sense”. It occurs, maybe because this war has nothing to do with millions of people; their lives, their struggle and their sorrows. This war was and still about a group of people trying to sell and buy the Karabakh lands not for its recourses, nor for its geographical location, but for Azerbaijan’s oil reserves. “Since its violent resurgence, the dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan has brought untold destruction and hardship to the region.” (Herzig, p.129) Both nations, displaced from their homes, have worsened the conflict and the drain on their economy. Indeed, the Karabakh conflict has amplified substantially, the negative effects of the Soviet breakup in both republics. More importantly, it has struck at the heart of both people’s sense of identity and state-hood.
Today, in Azerbaijan, most opposition parties advocate a tougher stance than that of President Ilham Aliyev; some are convinced that time and oil revenue are so clearly on Azerbaijan’s side ,that is better to wait for the balance to shift in order to secure a more favorable outcome or to exercise the military option. In addition, International peacekeepers have attempted to resolve this conflict. The OSCE is committed to providing a support once the sides have agreed on force separation and repatriation, but agreement has still not been reached, and its parties face each other at short range along the cease-fire line. (The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Permanent Council. NÂ°761) The United Nations and international community have supported the OSCE efforts.
Nevertheless, while Armenia and Azerbaijan have found it difficult to make meaningful compromises on the path to a peace settlement, perhaps it should not be regarded as impossibility that an agreement would be signed in the near future. The bloodshed that has stained the region for the past 22 years has blinded most Armenians and Azerbaijanis to the fact that, before being subjected to Russian rule and czarist policies aimed at prompting division among ethnic groups, their peoples lived together in peace for hundreds of years prior to the 20th century. Although collective memories of recent brutalities will not be “undone” easily, reunion should be regarded as an attainable goal.
Unfortunately, there is little indication of a change in attitudes in Azerbaijan or Armenia. Indeed, if there is anything on which the government and opposition in both countries agree, it is on where to draw the line vis-à-vis Karabakh. With so many unsolved problems and with so much enmity between the two nations, there might be no solution for this issue. This issue is as deep as black plague that perhaps would need a political and moral doctor in order to be cured.
As latest news points it out “Delays in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict create a dangerous situation and there is a risk that it could lead to great wars” (Mubariz Gurbanli, NAP News, 12 March 2010), people of Armenia and Azerbaijan have a long way to peace settlement. Every other day of this peace delay is path to a new war. Crossing fingers for peace in both countries.