Azerbaijan’s major new offensive in the Artsakh region is fueling a fire that is rapidly spreading to Armenia, Turkey, Russia and Iran and that could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe and a new refugee crisis. Until now, the world has only stood by.
At 7:10 am on Sunday, September 27th, 2020, Azerbaijan launched a major offensive along the entire length of the Line of Contact with Artsakh. This large-scale breach of the cease-fire had been planned well in advance. Artsakh’s army positions and population alike have faced aggression from the outset. For days now, its capital city Stepanakert and most regional centers have come under increasingly intense bombardment and rocket fire. Even in villages, suicide drones are causing fear and horror.
What is happening now is more than a flare-up of the thirty-year Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, like those of the 2016 April War or last July. A violent war is raging, and it is escalating every day. While Artsakh and Armenia are largely isolated from the world, Azerbaijan enjoys Turkey’s full support. A humanitarian disaster, a conflagration and a new refugee crisis are looming. The world and the international community of states are watching: A new chapter on the history of genocide against the Armenian people might be about to be written.
An International Law Dilemma
Since the 1994 ceasefire signed by Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan and Armenia, a frozen conflict has reigned, with regular skirmishes at the line of contact. The roughly 300 km long front line winds its way over the ridges and hills of the Lesser Caucasus, from the Sotk Pass in the north to the Arax River in the south. Every week has seen breaches of the cease-fire, shootings and the use of snipers. Before the current escalation, Azerbaijan had carried out major military operations on two occasions. The wholly unexpected 2016 April…