Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict; Credibility of International Organizations

by: Zeeshan Nawaz Bajwa

The ongoing conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh has taken the world by surprise, highlighted the many disputes and conflicts which have been delayed for decades and has also questioned the relevance of international organizations regarding their solutions towards conflicts. However, a question may arise, what is the Armenia and Azerbaijan conflict? And why are two former Soviet states at a brink of another full scale war?

To understand this one must know the history of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Interestingly, Armenia and Azerbaijan were part of one country by the name of Transcaucasian Federation; however, following the First World War, they broke into three federally independent states of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan before being integrated into the Soviet Union. Within Azerbaijan, USSR created an autonomous region by the name of Nagorno-Karabakh for the Armenian population of Azerbaijan. In 1988 Nagorno-Karabakh held a resolution to separate itself from Azerbaijan but it was rejected latter. This resulted in a six year civil war from 1988 to 1994. Following the collapse of USSR, Azerbaijan declared independence in 1991, however, war continued with both sides accusing each other of war crimes including ethnic cleansing and mutilation. By 1994, Armenia took control of Nagorno-Karabakh along with neighboring regions, shrinking Azerbaijan by almost 20%.

In terms of the role of international organizations, four resolutions have been passed by United Nations, all of which confirms the occupation of Azerbaijan territories by Armenian armed forces. The international order as the world knows by is based upon two main internationally legally binding documents of United Nations by the name of U.N. Charter and Security Council resolutions. According to which, the state’s territorial integrity is more important than the people’s right to self-determination. Same goes in case of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Azerbaijan’s right over it. Furthermore, in 1994, within the framework of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Minsk Group was established all in the hopes of encouraging a peaceful negotiable resolution for the conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

The Minsk Group consists of 17 members including Turkey, however only France, USA and Russia hold the co-chair positions, which has not done much seriously to end the conflict. Armenia holds a favorable position, and Azerbaijan is not happy about it. As a result, Azerbaijan has tried to change the status-quo by taking the case to multiple international organizations including the European Parliamentary Assembly, Council of Europe, the OIC, the Turkish Council and the Non-Aligned Movement. Both the OIC and the Non-Aligned Movement has adopted multiple resolution to end the conflict which includes the respect of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, sovereignty, alongside acknowledging Armenia as an aggressor; discussing what should be done in regards to financial and economic assistance to the victims of the conflict done by Armenia, respecting the internationally recognized borders of Azerbaijan and condemning the destruction of Islamic sites.

The conflict is also in the list of regional organizations such as the CSTO and the Eurasian Economic Union, interestingly, Armenia is a member of it but Azerbaijan is not. However, Armenia’s own allies have refrained from supporting it, weakening her position even more. CSTO still has not elected appoint a secretary general, as mandated by the rotation mechanism enshrined in the organization’s charter. Armenia was to be the new secretary general; however, Kazakhstan and Belarus opposed Armenia’s position due to ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The ongoing escalation between Azerbaijan and Armenia despite the fact the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has gone to multiple regional and international organizations raises questions in the credibility of international system. The United Nations was introduced in the maintenance of international peace and security, and to avoid any future wars. The international system has already failed in finding resolutions to decades long disputes such as that of Kashmir and Palestine issues, and especially after the dreadful event of 9/11, it has failed to overcome the issue of terrorism alongside the massive introduction of transnational crimes. The ongoing civil war in Syria should be a lesson for world powers to keep in consideration while handling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

In the north of Azerbaijan lies the Islamist insurgency influenced North Caucasus region of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia. If the war is not curtailed in an early date, soon this would be a tourist hub for the Jihadists. The propaganda war has already initiated between the two rivalries where both parties are accusing the other for bringing foreign fighters. Cases of volunteers and rental force coming from Syria, Lebanon and Russia are circulating across the social media to fight against Azerbaijan. Furthermore, Armenia has titled the ongoing conflict as a ‘Holy War’ to win Christian sympathy worldwide.

Interestingly, despite Iran being a Shiite majority state and known for influencing proxy war for Shiite non-state actors, Iran has rather taken side for Armenia in this war along with Russia. Where the Iran’s stance against Azerbaijan could be argued because of its strategic alliance with Russia. Turkey, Pakistan and Israel are supporting Azerbaijan in this conflict. Where Turkey already has historical disputes with Armenia, Pakistan on the other hand, due to its sensitive stance towards Kashmir, has denied the recognition of Armenia as a state due to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Israel has the justification of controlling Iranian influence in the region.

To sum it up, insistence should be given on peaceful resolution as a priority, as a prolonged war just get things from bad to worse. The ongoing Syrian civil war should be an example; the world should refrain from playing with fire, this will only escalate a lawless battleground in another geographical region. Such a war can easily penetrate into other states. Russia has already fought a two decade war against the Islamist insurgency in North Caucasus; this war can only reactivate their network. In the question arises, where is the international organization to overcome this conflict and will Nagorno-Karabakh conflict be another rumble of power between states?

The writer is strategic studie student at National Defense University (NDU) Islamabad, he can be reached at

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