By Anna Barseghyan
Anna Barseghyan is a political analyst, focusing on the South Caucasus and the European Neighbourhood Policy. She holds master’s degrees from Yerevan State University and the College of Europe in Warsaw, Poland. Since her student years at Yerevan State University (2012), Anna has been working as a political analyst in various think tanks. Having completed a research internship at the European Parliament, she actively contributes to a number of publications on EU-Armenia relations.
The unresolved conflicts continue to hamper development in the Eastern Partnership region. This could be found in the EU’s “Eastern Partnership beyond 2020” strategy released in March 2020. However, back then it would be hard to imagine that in September 2020 the region will blast from the new devastating war provoked by Azerbaijan and Turkey.
On September 27 Azeri army launched a missile and aerial attack against Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) which at the moment is an unrecognized republic populated by ethnic Armenians. The war is unprecedented: the target of the Azeri missiles is also the capital Stepanakert which has never been attacked after the ceasefire in 1994. However, the biggest concerns are the direct involvement of Turkey and the Syrian mercenaries. Armenia has alarmed the world about the Turkish backed Sunni-affiliated extremists’ being introduced into the frontlines of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.
The President of France Emanuel Macron, has also confirmed that they have information which independently confirms that Syrian fighters have left the battle scenes of Northern Syria and have been transited through Gaziantep [in Turkey] to join the theatre of operations in Nagorno-Karabakh. This is creating a severe security deficit not only in the Caucuses but also in the wider region, including Europe. For the first time ever in the Eastern Partnership region near the borders of the EU, extremist groups have appeared. The elephant in the room appears to be that these militants are the same jihadists that were active in Libya and Syria, and it is obvious that their plan was developed and backed by Turkey.
Turkey chose not to play diplomacy this time and was explicitly involved in the war. Turkish Air Force F-16s were deployed against Armenia and shot down an Armenian military aircraft within the borders of Armenia, and not in the conflict zone of Artsakh.
To understand how this is both unprecedented and cynical, there is a need to refer to history. Turkey is a country which committed Genocide against the Armenians at
the beginning of the 20th century and killed more than 1.5 million Armenians in their historical homeland, which now is a part of modern Turkey.
Being unpunished by the international society today, Erdogan has led an impudent Turkey to have the appetite to restore the Ottoman empire. Turkish actions in Iraq,
Libya, Syria and even towards its hostile relations with its supposed NATO ally Greece show its aggressive stance in the region. One of the first Turkish attempts to capture lands of Syria
didn’t face any serious international response which made Turkey expand its bloody hands all over the territories former Ottoman empire.
Moreover, pan Turkism is also very urgent in Turkey’s foreign policy agenda. Armenia had and has a huge geopolitical obstacle to this pursuit. Just taking a glance on a map shows that Armenia is in the direct line being the only non-Turkic country which hampers Erdogan's plan for a pan Turkic dream. The mission of pan Turkism is to politically unite all Turkish-speaking peoples of the former Ottoman Empire, Russia, China, Iran, and Afghanistan.
Now it is a critical moment that international society should be decisive towards addressing. Armenia, a tiny country sandwiched between Turkey and Azerbaijan is fighting alone for the sake of its civilization. Armenia is fighting not only for its own security but for the wider region of stability everywhere from Europe to Central Asia, so as to not to turn the region into an extremist hub.
Armenia is fighting for democracy and human rights. The dictators of the region can’t stand Armenia’s outstanding performance as a democracy which can serve as a
bright example of how the nation can succeed when the political elites are not corrupted.
It’s time for the international society to be clear if they are an observer or the extremism and expansionism has no place in the wider region.
The conflict in Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) is over the self-determination rights of the ethnic Armenians. Nagorno Karabakh is a part of historical Armenia, and the Armenian populated autonomous region (89% of the population was Armenian during the Soviet time). By the will of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, Artsakh was forced to join the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) in 1920. Following Gorbachev’s reforms (Perestroika) which began in 1988, the people of Artsakh raised their voices, using their constitutional rights, to secede from Azerbaijani SSR. As a result, Azerbaijani SSR imposed a war which ended in 1994 with the victory of the Armenian forces. Since 1992, Nagorno Karabakh has proclaimed its independence but is currently an unrecognized republic. The main mediator of the ongoing negotiations is the OSCE Minsk Group; the Co-Chairs are from France, Russia, and the U.S.A.