DOSSIER. Even though in official maps it is found within the borders of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh is a territory with Armenian majority which enjoys a de facto independence since 1994. The resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh status is of the utmost importance for the stability of the Caucasian region. In spite of being the chessboard of major powers −Turkey and Russia−, the people of this territory want to be the ones deciding their own future. To do so, negotiations with Armenia and Azerbaijan are indispensable.
Nagorno-Karabakh, located in the South Caucas, is independent since 1994, when a cease fire agreement put an end to a war that had brought into conflict Nagorno-Karabakh pro-independence supporters, backed by Armenia, and the Azerbaijan army. Since the Azerbaijani military defeat, no Azeri troops have been able to infiltrate into the territory with Armenian majority. As a result of the conflict, thousands of Azeri citizens who lived in Nagorno-Karabakh were persecuted ; most of them had to flee to Azerbaijan, but many were killed. Similarly, many Armenians living in Azerbaijan were driven out of the country and had to take refuge in Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.
When the war ended, Nagorno-Karabakh provided itself with an official Government representing an independent state. However, the country had not been internationally recognized, not even by Erevan. After the cease fire a low intensity conflict ensued, and the parties involved started a negotiation process assisted by the Minsk Group, a special OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) department led by the US, Russia and France.
The Nagorno-Karabakh question is an interesting conflict from the perspective of Caucasian regional geopolitics. Each party has the tacit support of the two non-Caucasian states bearing more influence in the region: Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh cause are backed by Russia, while Turkey supports Azerbaijan. Tension, though, has fallen lately due to the rapprochement between Armenia and Turkey -the latter had closed its borders and imposed an embargo on Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
But the most significant step towards the end of the conflict was taken last November, when Erevan and Baku signed an agreement sponsored by Moscow, according to which they committed themselves to seek a political solution towards peace and stability in the region. Up to now no further progress has been made over the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. However, commitment to the agreement has been firm, as the recent announcement by Turkey and Armenia shows: both countries may reopen their borders soon. Many obstacles will have to be overcome during the negotiations, such as the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh. Will it be independence or autonomy? Prior to that, each party will have to make clear which is their starting point of negotiations: Armenia holds that official talks should start as soon as Azerbaijan discards a violent solution to the conflict; Baku wants Armenia to withdraw from several territories it retains under occupation and the return of the Azeri refugees to Nagorno-Karabakh.
You can read more news on Nagorno-Karabakh at Nationalia. You can also get more information at Armenian online journals such as PanArmenian.net, AZG Armenian Daily and ArmeniaNow.com, and the Azeri journals Trend News and Today.az.