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Armenia Lost Karabakh War, While Azerbaijan Claimed Military and Political Victory: Analysts

By Mushvig Mehdiyev November 14, 2020

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An Azerbaijani soldier fires a cannon during the latest fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan from September 27-November 9, 2020 / Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan

The recent tripartite ceasefire statement signed by Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia that halted military operations in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan prompted mixed reactions from analysts who were closely monitoring the developments since the outbreak of clashes in September.

The trilateral agreement signed on November 9 sealed major territorial regains for Azerbaijan while obligated Armenia to pull back its forces from the Nagorno-Karabakh region and surrounding areas which are internationally recognized territories of Azerbaijan.

Thomas de Waal, the British journalist and senior associate at the Carnegie Europe said the deal followed the collapse and defeat of Armenia's military against the Azerbaijani forces.

“It is a big defeat for Armenians who are now relying on Russian peacekeepers for their own security,” De Waal told Ahval News adding the liberation of Shusha was enough for Azerbaijan to claim victory.

Azerbaijani forces regained control over the strategic Shusha city in the Nagorno-Karabakh region on November 8. The city was occupied by Armenia's forces on May 8 in 1992. The recapture of Shusha had a big impact on Armenia's signing the ceasefire pact and activating the withdrawal of its forces from the occupied Azerbaijani lands.

The tripartite agreement signed with Armenia and Russia allows Azerbaijan to retain the areas it has liberated until the ceasefire, including its cities of Shusha, Fuzuli, Jabrayil, Gubadli and Zangilan, as well as hundreds of villages and settlements in its Nagorno-Karabakh region and surrounding districts. According to the agreement, Armenia will return to Azerbaijan the occupied Kalbajar district by November 15, the occupied parts of Aghdam district by November 20, and the occupied Lachin district by December 1.

Tatul Hakobyan, an Armenian journalist who has covered the region for more than 30 years, said the military superiority of Azerbaijan in the battlefield led to mounting losses, which pressured Armenia into accepting Azerbaijan’s territorial gains.

“We [Armenians] lost the war, and this is the tragic reality which we should accept,” Hakobyan said in a telephone interview with the New York Times.

The post-fighting peacekeeping mission in the region will be fulfilled by a Russian contingent of 1,960 servicemen, 90 armored personnel carriers, and 380 units of an automobile and special equipment over the next 5 years under the agreement. The peacekeepers are being dispatched to the Nagorno-Karabakh region since November 10. Control over the ceasefire will be exercised from a Turkish-Russian peacekeeping center.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Wednesday that Ankara and Moscow signed a Memorandum of Understanding for creating the Turkish-Russian monitoring center.

"Turkey will join the peacekeeping forces in the [Karabakh] region to monitor the implementation of the deal with Russia. All measures in preventing violations of the cease-fire in Nagorno-Karabakh will be taken by this center," he said in a parliamentary group meeting in Ankara.

Foreign Minister of Turkey, Mevlut Cavushoglu said the center will be deployed in the liberated lands of Azerbaijan and Ankara will propose locations for it, however, Baku will have the final say on the matter.

"The dialogue is now developing along the lines of Baku-Ankara, Ankara-Moscow. This format turned out to be very successful and constructive," Baku-based political analyst Ilgar Valizade wrote on his Facebook page. "Recently, the President of the Russian Federation called Erdogan a partner with whom one can deal," he said referring to Vladimir Putin's remarks about Erdogan in the Valdai Discussion Club in October.

Zachary Witlin, a senior analyst at the Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy, says one of the major political gains of Azerbaijan in the wake of war is related to the status of the Nagorno-Karabakh region on which Armenia insisted firmly.

"The deal requires Armenia to make major territorial capitulations and drop from the deal determination of special status, let alone, recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh," Financial Tribune quoted Witlin as saying.

The tripartite agreement does not include a clause about the status of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. Armenia has long been insisting on the recognition of the right of Nagorno-Karabakh's Armenian community to self-determination and ultimately the recognition of the illegal separatist regime in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. Baku had repeatedly offered autonomy to Armenians in the Nagorno-Karabakh region within Azerbaijan during the years of negotiations which was rejected by Armenia. 

"We offered them [Armenians] autonomy inside Azerbaijan. We offered them cultural autonomy. We said that there are good examples in the world, in Europe, in Scandinavia this Aland Islands, in Italy this South Tyrol district, in many others. But they rejected everything," President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev said in one of his interviews he gave during the military operations in the Karabakh region.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a decades-old conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan but occupied by Armenia. Following the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991, Armenia launched a military campaign against Azerbaijan that lasted until a ceasefire deal was reached in 1994. Armenia occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territories including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts. Over 30,000 ethnic Azerbaijanis were killed and one million were expelled from those lands in a brutal ethnic cleansing policy conducted by Armenia.

Although the United Nations Security Council adopted four resolutions demanding the immediate withdrawal of the occupying forces from the Azerbaijani lands and the return of internally displaced Azerbaijanis to their ancestral lands, Armenia failed to comply with all four legally binding documents.

The latest fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan began on September 27 after Armenian forces deployed in the occupied Azerbaijani lands began shelling the military positions and civilian settlements of Azerbaijan.