Armenian-Azerbaijani war at a critical conjuncture. AZ forces have extended advance along southern flank to recapture yesterday Zangilan. Now reportedly advancing northwards through Qubatly towards Lachin, the corridor connecting ARM + NK. 1/9
This corridor is one of the Basic Principles, but these and diplomacy in general not mentioned (unlike in interviews to intl media) in Ilham Aliyev’s address to the nation yesterday. Already supportive of military action, AZ public is being prepared for total victory. 2/9
ARM leadership today rejected a diplomatic solution, frames an existential struggle: “Without Artsakh, there is no Armenia”, says diplomatic solutions not possible if AZ insists on complete capitulation of NK. 3/9
All or nothing stances reflect in part dramatic decline in applicability of Basic Principles + difficulties of framing a basis for return to talks. AZ overall has recaptured 3/7 occupied districts + pockets of former NK oblast. Encirclement of NK looks possible. 4/9
New context undermines long-held assumption (+presumed incentive for AZ) that 5 districts to be returned sooner, 2 (Lachin, Kelbajar) later (preserving corridor). That incentive structure assumed that status of NK was not primary for AZ (I questioned this in my book, p.291). 5/9
Security concerns paramount for Armenians, which implies necessary role for peacekeeping actor - but only Russia appears interested, which Baku doesn't want. Some Russian units now reportedly deployed along ARM/AZ border, but no obvious rules of engagement. 6/9
As fighting continues both sides will now confront issues of over-extension and securing supply lines. This war is as much about consolidating control as taking it. Battlespace now shifting to more mountainous terrain. 7/9
Human cost continues to rise: shelling of population points in Martuni, NK and in Terter also reported this am, displacement of many tens of thousands, rocketing Covid and winter. Risk of stranded civilians in NK if cut off: humanitarian corridors crucial. 8/9
Drivers for war (public pressure, achieving/repelling NK encirclement; for AZ, avoidance of new separation line enabling deployment of unwanted peacekeepers) stronger than motives to negotiate + define entry points to talks. More violence + human tragedy to come. 9/9
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