A Deep Dive into Armenia’s Evolving Security Situation

Growing Closer

The relationship between France and Armenia has grown stronger yet again as within the past several days Armenia’s Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, has visited France for important talks with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Following these talks, the French defence minister, Sebastien Lecornu, arrived in Armenia to meet with Armenia’s own defence minister, Suren Papikyan. Lecornu’s visit coincided with the arrival of a weapon’s delivery that Armenia had ordered from defence contracts signed in October of 2023. Additionally, Lecornu was accompanied by representatives from several of France’s largest defence companies.

The two visits represent the quickly growing relationship between France and Armenia in more than diplomacy, but also defence.

Pashinyan in France

PM Pashinyan’s arrival in France held two purposes. Firstly, Pashinyan held a series of meetings with President Macron, with France’s new Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, the Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo, as well as several major French business leaders. Secondly, he was in Paris to witness the entombment of Missak Manouchian, an Armenian immigrant to France who became a key figure in the French Resistance against the Nazi German occupation during World War 2, in the French Pantheon.

During Pashinyan’s meetings with Macron, Macron reiterated several commitments France is making to Armenia, as well as “France’s support for Armenia, its independence, territorial integrity, democratic process and peaceful aspirations”.

President Macron and Prime Minister Pashinyan pictured in Paris, February 21st, 2024 (Photo from primeminister.am).

Macron commended Armenia’s recent formal entry into the International Criminal Court (ICC), a move that has been strongly condemned by Russia who referred to the action as an “unfriendly step”, particularly since it means that Armenia is now legally obligated to arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin if he ever steps foot in Armenia, due to an arrest warrant issued by the ICC against Putin in March of 2023.

Perhaps the most important part of Macron’s statements on Pashinyan’s visit was him standing by France’s commitment to delivering Armenia weapons. In October of 2023, France and Armenia signed a series of weapons contracts aimed at increasing the capability of the Armenian military.

The contracts signed were subject to staunch criticism by Azerbaijan, who claimed that the suppliance of weapons to Armenia “prepares the ground for the start of new wars in our region”, further accusing France of destabilizing the region.

Despite Azeri opposition, President Macron not only commended the increase in cooperation in defence, but also stated that the cooperation will continue into further arms deliveries. Notedly, both Macron and Pashinyan have claimed the arms deliveries are defensive in nature, and will not be used for hostile action.

“We will also continue to develop cooperation in the field of defense. France has given its consent for the delivery of defense military equipment. And in this area France will continue in the spirit of responsibility, not wanting any escalation” -President Macron

Security problems are a key issue for Armenia, who’s militaristic capabilities still have yet to recover from the 2020 44-Day war (also known as the Second Nagorno-Karabakh war).

Macron urged the commitments of both Armenia and Azerbaijan to the principles of a quadrilateral meeting between the EU, France, Armenia, and Azerbaijan in Prague in 2022. The meeting was key in establishing many important aspects of the western sought peace deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan, a peace deal that has yet to come to fruition.

Pashinyan, Aliyev, Charles Michel, and Macron in Prague on October 6th, 2022 (Photo from primeminister.am)

Additionally, he expressed “regret for the disproportionate retaliatory strike by Azerbaijan” in reference to an attack carried out by Azerbaijan against Armenian border positions on February 13th, which resulted in the deaths of four Armenian soldiers. The attack, referred to by Azerbaijan as a “revenge operation”, followed an attack on an Azeri border position the previous day, February 12th, which led to the wounding of one Azeri border guard.

Of particular note is the fact that President Macron claims that the February 12th attack “was also accepted by the Armenian leadership with full transparency”. Following the initial Azeri claims of an attack, the Armenian Ministry of Defence released a statement accusing Azerbaijan of “spreading disinformation”, adding that the Azeri claim “does not align with reality”.

Following the MoD’s initial denial of the incident, the Armenian government stated the incident would be investigated, and that if the incident was verified, punishment would be brought against those responsible.

Also of note of Macron’s statement is the urging of Azerbaijan to adhere to an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling on November 17th, 2023, that demands Azerbaijan facilitate the safe, unhindered, and fast return of any Armenians who had evacuated from the former self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh following September 19th, 2023. Over 99% of Artsakh’s 120,000 Armenians made an exodus from Artsakh to Armenia following the launching of Azeri military operations against the Artsakh Defence Army (ADA) on the 19th, which ended only a few days later with the surrendering of the ADA, and eventual dissolution of the Republic. Artsakh was internationally recognized as a part of Azerbaijan, but had been de-facto independent since 1991.

He also pushed for the adherence of Armenia and Azerbaijan to the 1991 Alma-Ata declaration, which in part established the internationally recognize borders of the two nations. Macron stated he thinks “it is more than necessary for Azerbaijan to dispel any ambiguity regarding the territorial integrity of Armenia, as far as maps are concerned”.

Pashinyan himself reiterated Armenia’s commitment to the principles established in the Prague 2022 meeting, restated that Armenia’s arms acquisitions are purely defensive and that Armenia “recognizes the territorial integrity of all its neighbors”, thanked France for its support, alongside the EU, for pushing for democratic reforms within Armenia, as well as extended an invitation for Macron to visit Armenia. Separately, PM Attal was also extended an invitation to visit Armenia, which he accepted.

Azeri Comments

Several aspects of Pashinyan and Macron’s meetings and statements were subject to criticism from Azerbaijan, who again accused France’s “insidious policy of creating new tension in the region”.

Specifically mentioned in the Azeri criticism of Macron’s words were the President’s reference to the ICJ order, the adherence to the Alma-Ata declaration, as well as the referral of Azerbaijan’s response to the February 12th attack as “disproportionate”.

Following Azerbaijan’s seizure of Artsakh, as mentioned, virtually all of the region’s Armenian population evacuated to Armenia. Armenian and French political leadership have both referred to the exodus as an “ethnic cleansing” carried out by Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan, in contrast, claims that the exodus was “their own will”, and took place “without any violence”.

In regards to the Alma-Ata declaration, Azerbaijan pointed out that France neglected to point out what they claim is the Armenian occupation of eight different Azeri villages when speaking of adherence to the declaration. The villages they refer to are several different Azeri enclaves that are within Armenia. Prior to the fall of the Soviet Union, and the independence of both Armenia and Azerbaijan, the Azeri SSR was in control of these exclaves, and thus they were recognized as Azeri territory following independence. However, given the declarations of independence of Armenia and Azerbaijan while the two were at war with each other, these enclaves were occupied by Armenia, and remain as such.

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev pictured with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Vienna, in 2019 (Photo from president.az).

While the Azeri criticism points out Armenia remains an occupier in these areas, it notedly does not speak of several Armenian exclaves which Azerbaijan has since occupied, exclaves that are larger than those which Armenia occupies, as well as around 215km2 of internationally recognized territory of the Armenian mainland, which was seized through a series of short attacks over the past several years.

Armenia has suggested a mutual withdrawal from territories in order to properly demarcate borders between the two nations, but has accused Azerbaijan of attempting to demarcate the borders including the presently occupied territories. Meaning, Pashinyan is claiming that Azerbaijan is attempting to incorporate the territories they presently occupy into their finalized borders. Pashinyan claims Azerbaijan presently occupies 31 different Armenian villages. Azerbaijan claims Armenia presently occupies eight Azeri villages.

Finally, Azerbaijan accused France of “refraining from criticizing Armenia” about the February 12th attack. Notedly, the Azeri-Armenian border had largely gone without violent incident for several months, a streak which the February 12th attack ended.

PM Pashinyan, separate from President Macron, held an interview with French media company France24. Similar to the meetings between Macron and Pashinyan, Azerbaijan released a statement on the interview, condemning its contents. Within the Azeri condemnation of Pashinyan’s claims that Azerbaijan is preparing for a “full scale war” against Armenia, was again the use of the term “Western Azerbaijan”. The term “Western Azerbaijan” has been used frequently as of late as a means of justification for territorial claims against Armenia, which Azeri President Ilham Aliyev has referred to as “Western Azerbaijan”.

It was in this interview that Pashinyan announced Armenia was freezing its cooperation with the CSTO military alliance.

The Entombment of Missak Manouchian

The entombment of Missak Manouchian in the Paris Pantheon has been celebrated in both France and Armenia. Manouchian was an Armenian born in modern day Adiyaman/Semsur in Turkey. Following his survival of the Armenian genocide (in which his parents were killed), he moved to Lebanon, which was at the time a French protectorate, and then eventually France.

Manouchian went on to become involved in French communist groups and labour organizations.

After the German invasion of France in WW2, Manouchian became a key leader in the French resistance against the Nazi occupation, heading one of the largest groups. However, after a wave of crackdowns by the Germans in November of 1943, Manouchian was captured. He was eventually executed by firing squad on February 21st, 1944.

His entombment in the Pantheon, alongside his wife, makes him the first non-French resistance fighter to be entombed there. It also makes him the first communist resistance fighter to be entombed in the Pantheon.

A photo of the entombment ceremony for Missak Manouchian and his wife in the Paris Pantheon (Photo from primeminister.am).

The Paris Pantheon is a large mausoleum which holds within it the remains of a large number of historical French figures that have been key to the nations’ development, culture, and history. Manouchian joins figures such as Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Marie Curie, and many more within its walls.

The entombment ceremony was attended by President Macron and his wife, PM Pashinyan and his wife, French PM Attal, former French President Francois Hollande, and several other French and Armenian government figures.

French Arms in Armenia

On February 22nd, Armenia reportedly received a batch of French weapons it had ordered from contracts in October of 2023. The delivery of weapons coincided with a visit from the French Minister of Defence Sebastien Lecornu, accompanied by representatives from many of France’s largest arms manufacturers, who met with the Armenian minister of defence, Suren Papikyan. Representatives from Thales, MBDA, Arquus, Nexter, Lecorni, PGM, and Safran accompanied Lecornu.

While not publicly stated, the delivery is reported to have been of three GM200 radar systems from France’s Thales Group, as well as some night vision equipment from Safran.

The French and Armenian Defence Ministers, Sebastien Lecornu and Suren Papikyan, amidst talks in Armenia on February 23rd, 2024 (Photo from AFP/Karen Minasyan).

Lecornu, like Macron, highlighted the intent for the weapons deliveries was defensive in nature. In an interview with RTL Radio, Lecornu specifically named threats from Azerbaijan as the primary reason for the deliveries.

“Armenia is facing serious security challenges related to the threats of Azerbaijan. Our duty is to increase Armenia’s defence potential” -Sebastien Lecornu

The Defence Minister’s visit marked the very first time a French Defence Minister has visited Armenia. During Lecornu’s visit, Armenia and France signed further defence contracts. The two nations signed a “letter of intent” in order to facilitate the future delivery of French Mistral short range surface-to-air missile systems, as well as precision rifles from PGM.

In addition to weapons acquisitions, Armenia received a number of training commitments from France. Later in 2024, France is to hold three different mountainous combat training exercises with Armenia, train 5 Armenian soldiers at the esteemed Saint Cyr military academy in France, assist in training Armenian NCO’s, and also deploy a special military advisor to Armenia who specializes in ground-based air defence systems in order to assist against “possible strikes by potential aggressors” against civilian targets in Armenia.

A Souring Relationship

The strengthened defence relationship has of course angered Azerbaijan, but is likely to also anger Russia.

Over the past several years, particularly since the end of the 2020 44-Day war (which ended with a Russian brokered ceasefire), the relationship between Russia and Armenia has declined significantly. In Armenia’s eyes, Russia has proven itself unable, or even unwilling, to assist the country in the face of Azeri aggression. This outlook comes from both actions by Russia, and the CSTO military alliance, which is largely headed by Russia.

For a long time, Russia has been Armenia’s primary arms provider. Following defeat in the 44-Day war in November of 2020, Armenia signed a series of defence contracts with Russia, valued at approximately 400 million USD, aiming to rebuild its militaristic capabilities, which had been significantly damaged over the course of the war.

PM Pashinyan and President Putin pictured at their first ever meeting in 2018 (Photo from kremlin.ru).

The contracts were paid in full prior to any deliveries. However, said deliveries did not take place until several years later, with the very first of these arms deliveries from Russia only taking place in early January of 2024. Notably, the deliveries that took place were not the full range of weapons that Armenia ordered, and thus more weapons deliveries are still expected.

The primary reason for the delays in Russia’s arms deliveries, while theorized about for awhile, was finally acknowledged by Russia to be supply issues incurred by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“Yes, they purchased weapons from us, but because of the special operation in Ukraine, we are delaying its delivery” -State Duma Deputy Konstantin Zatulin, in an interview with ‘Moscow Speaks’

Armenia, in the face of its deteriorating security relationship with Russia, has began to seek other partners in its defence. France has asserted itself as one such partner, and has spared no effort to make sure it is known by Russia. When questioned by journalists about the deteriorating security relationship between Russia and Armenia, Lecornu stated that Armenia “is turning to partners who really provide security”.

Following the Azeri seizure of Artsakh in September of 2023, which was carried out without intervention from Russian peacekeepers stationed in the region, France deployed a military attache to Armenia, and announced it would be opening a consulate in Armenia’s Syunik province. During these announcements, France’s at the time Foreign Minister, Catherine Colonna, accused Russia of having “abandoned” Armenia.

“The fact that Russia has abandoned Armenia and is complicit in Azerbaijan’s military operations makes international diplomatic actions even more necessary. Next to France, I hope we will see Europe, it should take note of this reality, work with us to respect the territorial integrity of Armenia and preserve the right to live of Karabakh Armenians. This is what we do” -Former Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna

Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna visits an Armenian genocide memorial in Yerevan, Armenia (Photo by Hayk Baghdasaryan).

France holds within it a significant Armenian diaspora, a diaspora which has resulted in France and Armenia historically holding rather close relations. However, given the extreme reliance on Russia by Armenia for security needs, the defence relationship has been lacking. This difference was acknowledged by Lecornu, who stated that “France and Armenia have a historic relationship of friendship, but the defence relationship has not been at the level of the intensity of the bilateral relationship”.

France appears to be attempting to lessen this difference between the diplomatic and defence relationship.

In addition to France, Armenia has also made several arms purchases from India.

Also in September was joint military exercises between the US and Armenia that were hosted in Armenia. The military exercises, involving a historic rival of Russia’s hosted by a historic ally of Russia’s, were subject to severe condemnation from Russia, who prior to the exercises beginning on September 11th stated they caused “concern”, and that Russia would “deeply analyse this news and monitor the situation”. The exercises ended on September 20th, amidst the Azeri military operation against Artsakh.

“Serious Security Challenges”

The events that have taken place since the end of the 44-Day war, particularly in the last two years, have highlighted a number of different issues for Armenia. While there are a myriad of different events, big and small, that have contributed to the present issues facing Armenia, there are four major events which stick out.

Namely, the May 2021 Armenia-Azerbaijan border breach, the September 2022 Armenia-Azerbaijan border clashes, the blockade of Artsakh by Azerbaijan, and the eventual seizure of Artsakh by Azerbaijan.

The 2021 border breach, which took place on May 12th, marked a major escalation between Armenia and Azerbaijan, who had been at war with each other just a few months prior. On the 12th of May several hundred Azeri troops took positions well within Armenian territory, largely without violent incident. The advance was eventually halted by Armenian troops, but not before Azerbaijan had occupied several kilometres worth of Armenian territory. This event marked the first major incident of Azerbaijan occupying internationally recognized land of mainland Armenia since the end of the 44-Day war.

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev tours Azerbaijan’s “War Park” in 2021. The helmets on display were taken from Armenian soldiers killed in the 2020 44-Day war (Photo from the Azerbaijan Presidential Office).

From the 12th to the 14th of September, 2022, Azerbaijan launched an extensive assault upon border positions of the Armenian mainland. Despite the clashes only lasting a few days, several hundred soldiers were killed across both sides. As the clashes went on, Azerbaijan again seized significant amounts of Armenian territory, advancing several more kilometres. During the course of these clashes, three separate videos emerged which depicted war crimes carried out by Azeri soldiers.

The first that emerged showed Azeri soldiers raping, torturing, and then killing a female Armenian soldier. Her legs and fingers were cut off, with one of said fingers then being put into her mouth, and rocks were put into her eye sockets. One of the other two videos depicted Azeri soldiers executing 7 Armenian POW’s, with the last depicting an Armenian soldier being tortured by Azeri soldiers.

The 2022 clashes spawned a political crisis within Armenia. When the clashes ended on September 14th, PM Pashinyan signalled he was prepared to sign a document which would recognize Artsakh, which was at the time independent, as Azeri territory. After significant protests erupted nationwide Pashinyan walked back on the claim, but has since again signalled Armenia’s intent to recognize Artsakh as Azerbaijan’s territory, as it had been already internationally.

In both the 2021 border breach and the 2022 border clashes, PM Pashinyan called upon the CSTO and Russia individually, requesting assistance in the face of both the Azeri occupation of territory, as well as Azeri military advances. Both times the CSTO refused Armenia’s request, leaving Armenia to, in essence, fend for themselves. While both harmed the relationships between Armenia and Russia/the CSTO, the 2022 clashes in particular did significant damage. Not only did the CSTO fail to come to Armenia’s defence in any meaningful manner, they equally so failed to even issue an official condemnation of Azerbaijan’s attacks upon Armenia.

The following year saw Armenia’s relationship with the CSTO become increasingly distant. Armenia withdrew from exercises, refused to sign certain CSTO documents, refused to host planned exercises, and citizenry held protests against both Russia and Armenia’s membership in the CSTO.

Only a couple of months after the end of the September 2022 border clashes was the beginning of the Azeri blockade of Artsakh. Although de-facto independent, the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh was economically dependent on Armenia due to its only other border being with Azerbaijan. Following the end of the 44-Day war only one road, the Lachin Corridor, connected Armenia and Artsakh. On December 12th, 2022, A significant amount of Azeri self-described “Eco-Activists” blocked the corridor with a protest, protesting what they said was an illegal mining project being carried out in the area. A number of said eco-activists were found to have connections to, or be members of, the Azeri military.

Azeri protestors confront Russian peacekeepers (Photo from Eurasianet).

The blockage of the corridor prevented travel in and out of Artsakh not only for personal matters, but also prevented the transportation of goods. No supplies were able to enter Artsakh for the vast majority of the blockade (and when they were allowed, the amount was minimal when compared to Artsakh’s needs), resulting in a widespread shortage of various foods, medical equipment, and other essential items. In addition on several occasions during the blockade Azerbaijan halted the gas flow into Artsakh, resulting in fuel shortages that affected not only internal travel, but also affected the ability of people to heat homes and power facilities. Due to the halting of gas, power outages happened with semi-frequency.

Pictured is a protest held in Stepanakert in October 2022 against any sort of Azeri takeover of the region, and in-favour of self-determination. This took place amidst talks of a peace deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan which would have had Armenia recognize Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan.

Eventually the mining project the protestors claimed to be against was halted, and yet the protestors remained. After some more time, the Azeri military, in violation of principles established in the 2020 ceasefire, established a military checkpoint on the corridor on April 23rd, 2023. Several days later on the 28th, the Azeri protestors ended their protest.

“Given the partial achievement of our demands, as well as the repeated appeals of state representatives, we, eco-activists and young volunteers, decided to temporarily suspend the protest action from 18:00 on April 28, 2023” -Part of the Azeri protestors statement

The blockade continued up until the Azeri attacks on September 19th, 2023, which resulted in them seizing Artsakh. The beginning of the blockade was perhaps the greatest signal that Azerbaijan was eventually intending to seize Artsakh militarily, regardless of the ceasefire. The blockade succeeded in, in essence, starving out Artsakh, and significantly weakened the Artsakh Defence Army (ADA).

Throughout the course of the blockade, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) twice ordered Azerbaijan to remove the blockade from the Lachin corridor and ensure uninhibited and free access between Armenia and Artsakh, as was its obligation under the 2020 ceasefire agreement. The orders were ignored by Azerbaijan, who insisted that the blockade was not inhibiting travel.

Notably, the blockade, both in the form of the protestors and of the military checkpoint, was carried out under the watch of the Russian peacekeepers stationed in the area. The continued state of the blockade and lack of intervention from Russia was subject to criticism from Armenia.

Following 10 months of the blockade on September 19th, 2023, Azerbaijan launched an attack upon ADA positions throughout Artsakh, labelling it as an “anti-terrorist operation”. The operations did not last very long, the day after they began (and after the deaths of 200 people, of which 10 were civilians including five children) the beleaguered ADA announced their surrender to Azerbaijan. The ADA was to surrender, disarm, and disband.

Following meetings over the next days between Artsakh authorities and Azerbaijan, it was established that the government of Artsakh itself was to dissolve as well. Within negotiations between Artsakh and Azerbaijan was the negotiations of the future of the Artsakh Armenians within an Azerbaijani administration.

Photos of Azeri telegrams posting bounties for certain Armenian women and sometimes children within Artsakh, while Azeri military operations were ongoing. The people involved were missing in the chaos of the situation, and had been published online by Artsakhi civilians in an attempt to locate them. The faces of those posted have been blurred.

Outside of the meeting rooms however, were rumours that the majority of the populace would seek to leave Artsakh rather than live under Azeri administration. These rumours were quickly proven true as scores of civilians began lining the Lachin corridor, right up until the Azeri checkpoint, awaiting its opening. Azerbaijan finally opened the corridor, stating that those who wished to leave for Armenia could do so.

On September 24th the first refugee transfers took place. A week later, on October 1st, the UN carried out an assessment on Artsakh that determined that 99% of the population of 120,000 Armenians, had left.

Pictured is a photo of Stepanakert’s Renaissance Square, after the city had been abandoned in the first days of October, 2023. Prior to the Azeri military offensive, Stepanakert had a population of approximately 70,000.

The exodus of Armenian’s from the region was described as “ethnic cleansing” by Armenia and a number of different international entities, France included.

The status of Artsakh had been one of the greatest obstacles in the way of establishing a final peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan. With that obstacle, in one way or another removed, there were thoughts that a final peace treaty could finally be established. Hopes were particularly raised after Armenia stated it would be willing to recognize Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, including Artsakh within its borders. However, no such peace treaty has been established.

The Final Nails

The loss of Artsakh spawned yet another political crisis within Armenia, on top of the refugee crisis it was now facing. It also exacerbated tensions between Russia and Armenia.

Russian peacekeepers had been stationed within Artsakh. While they assisted with the evacuation of civilians in some areas of Artsakh, they did not take any action to intervene in Azeri military action.

Russian Peacekeepers assist in evacuation from the Artsakh town of Askeran (Photo from the Russian Defence Ministry).

The role of Russian peacekeepers, and their lack of action, was attacked by the Armenian government over the next weeks who accused Russia of failing the populations they were supposed to be assisting in protecting.

Over the next months more and more slights took place between Russia and Armenia. Armenia continued vocally claiming Russia had failed them and they would need to examine their security future with Russia. Meanwhile in Russia, several politicians, including Putin himself, blamed Armenia and Pashinyan for the loss of Artsakh.

The continued lack of support for Armenia by Russia prompted Armenia to quickly begin seeking other security partners. While Armenia had been searching for more options in the last year, a significant Azeri military victory raised fears in Armenia itself of a potential Azeri invasion.

A Russian Peacekeeper patrolling the Lachin/Berdzor Corridor (Photo from Andrey Borodulin/AFP via Getty Images).

The continued rising tensions between Russia and Armenia has culminated in Armenia, according to PM Pashinyan, freezing its cooperation with the CSTO. The freezing of cooperation, while not an official withdrawal from the alliance, opens up the possibility of it. Particularly after in recent months Pashinyan had said Armenia’s membership in the alliance was “under review”.

The freezing of cooperation with the CSTO provides a particularly unique security situation in Armenia. While Armenia has made a number of bounds in finding new security partners, none of these partners have defence guarantees for Armenia like an alliance like the CSTO did. Although Armenia seemingly did not believe that the CSTO would actually come to their defence in the event of an invasion anyways.

Escalating Rhetoric

In the last months since the Azeri seizure of Artsakh, Azeri rhetoric towards Armenia itself has increased. For a long time, Azerbaijan has sought to open what is called the Zangezur Corridor, a land corridor between Azerbaijan and the Azeri exclave of Nakhchivan, that Azerbaijan would have full control over. Armenia has opposed the establishment of this corridor.

More recently, Azerbaijan has laid claim to a number of different territories within Armenia’s Syunik province. Syunik, in the southern portion of Armenia, is the province which the Zangezur corridor would go through.

In a TV interview with Azeri television, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev made a series of territorial claims against Armenia, which he referred to as “west Azerbaijan”. He laid claim to a number of regions within Armenia, used Azeri names for towns within Armenia, and even went as far to claim that Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, was an “ancient Azeri city” that was handed to Armenia by Stalin.

Civilian vehicles from Artsakh head towards Goris, Armenia (Photo from Christopher Cherry/The Guardian).

Typically before Azeri military action against Armenia has been accompanied by increased territorial claims, leading both Armenian and foreign entities warning about the possibility of renewed military action against Armenia.

Last week, PM Pashinyan spoke publicly about what he believes is Azeri preparations for a “full-scale war” against Armenia. Pashinyan accuses Azerbaijan of seeking to demarcate the borders with the occupied regions being within Azeri territory, which he says is “not a constructive position”.

Armenia is seeking to establish the two nations borders based on the 1991 Alma-Ata declaration, which established the borders of the two countries amidst the fall of the Soviet Union. PM Pashinyan stated that, pertaining to the demarcation process, “there are two options: first, we carry out demarcation along the entire border and proceed to its implementation. The second option is that we divide the border into pieces and proceed with the demarcation piece by piece. And, in fact, both options are acceptable to us”.

However, he accused Azerbaijan of avoiding these options, the latter of which (demarcation piece by piece) was suggested by Azerbaijan in the first place. He further adds that “our analysis shows that there may be one reason for this, and that reason may be, for example, the start of military operations in some parts of the border, with the prospect of turning the military escalation into a full-scale war against the Republic of Armenia”.

An Uncertain Future

The recent history of Armenia has been rocked by political, humanitarian, and military crises. These crises have culminated together to provide a particularly dire security situation in Armenia.

While Armenia continues to seek to establish new relationships with various nations around the world, some of said ventures have been successful, they all have failed to offer the same protections which Armenia would have received under the CSTO.

France is asserting itself as a significant partner in Armenia’s future security needs, however is likely only to offer diplomatic and economic consequences for any future Azeri military action. While said consequences are likely to have severe impacts on Azerbaijan’s economy, which has recently offered itself as an alternative to the EU for Russian gas, it is unclear if these consequences will deter any further military action by Azerbaijan.

Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray is a published journalist and historicist with over 5 years experience in writing. His primary focus is on East and West African affairs.


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