Caucasus, the new borders of Karabakh

The new map of Caucasus after Armenia-Azerbaijan agreement on Karabakh

The agreement completely redraws the map of South Caucasus and supposes a “de facto” capitulation of Armenia to Azerbaijan.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan was forced to sign a “painful” peace agreement late Monday that completely redraws the map of the South Caucasus and cedes most of the occupied territories in Karabakh to Azerbaijan: a “de facto” capitulation that sparked violent protests early Tuesday in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, where the parliament building was stormed and its president lynched by the crowd.

“I have signed a text together with the presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan to end the Karabakh war,” declared in a statement published through his Facebook page Pashinyan, which remained unaccounted for hours after the signing, acknowledging that the decision is “horribly painful for me personally and for our people.”

“I have made this decision as a result of an in-depth analysis of the military situation,” said the Armenian prime minister, who in recent weeks had consistently denied that Armenia was losing the war and giving ground despite the obvious advances of the Azerbaijani army, that on Sunday took Shusha, the second most important city in Karabakh and key to controlling the entire region.

“We need to analyse our years of independence to plan our future and not repeat the mistakes of the past,” the Armenian leader added in the statement, assuring that he would address the country “in the coming days.” Various reports suggested that Pashinyan was pressured to sign in the face of imminent defeat, with Azerbaijani forces only a few kilometres from the capital of the self-proclaimed Artsakh Republic, Stepanakert.

Aliyev: “It is the beginning of a new era”

Hours later, the Kremlin issued a statement explaining that both parties had signed an agreement for a “total halt” of the fighting in Karabakh, which would take effect at 00:00 on Tuesday, November 10, Moscow time. For his part, the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, addressed the nation on television, calling the agreement a complete victory for his country.

“Our country has ended the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, and I believe that this agreement will usher us into a new era,” he said. According to Aliyev, Pashinyan was forced to sign thanks to Baku’s “iron fist” and not of his own free will, to the point that he underlines that the Armenian prime minister was a “coward” and did not want to sign the agreement before him and Putin (via videoconference) out of shame, and signed it hours later without cameras.

Essentially, it is a capitulation. That is why I signed it myself and Russian President Vladimir Putin,” Aliyev said, recalling that the Azeri army had managed to liberate 300 Karabakh towns from Armenian occupation since late September.

As Aliyev explained, the agreement stipulates that Azerbaijan will not only retain the territories it already controls in addition to those captured during the conflict – including Shusha – but also that Armenia will cede the occupied districts of Kalbajar on November 15, Agdam on November 20, and Lachin on December 1, considerably reducing the territory of Artsakh, a puppet state of Armenia without international recognition.

Caucasus, the new map of Karabakh

The agreement also provides for the creation of a corridor – a highway controlled by Russian peacekeepers – between Artsakh’s capital, Stepanakert (Xankəndi, in Azerbaijani), and Armenia; but Aliyev also succeeded in getting Armenia to agree to the creation of another corridor that will link Azerbaijan with the autonomous republic of Nakhchivan. In practice, Artsakh is reduced to a territory even smaller than the historical Karabakh before the war of the 1990s. Ankara and Moscow negotiate on Azerbaijan’s proposal on the participation of Turkey in the peacekeeping force.

Celebrations in the streets of Azerbaijan

Aliyev congratulated the people of Azerbaijan on the victory in Karabakh, stressing that it will allow hundreds of thousands of Azeri refugees who were forced to flee the region in the 1990s to return to their homes. “They have told me they want to return to their homeland, and now they can do so safely,” he said. “Azerbaijan is recovering its territorial integrity, what greater happiness can there be for a nation?” he asked.

Indeed, the Azeri population took to the streets of the country’s main cities on Tuesday to celebrate the end of a conflict that has lasted almost three decades, allowing them to recover the territories occupied by Armenia in the 90s, which accounted for 20% of the internationally recognised territory of Azerbaijan.

In Baku there were scenes similar to the celebrations on Sunday after the liberation of Shusha, with thousands of people waving flags of Azerbaijan and also Turkey, many of them dancing and singing in the streets, even crying with happiness. In Ganja, one of the cities hardest hit by Armenian attacks during the war and the second largest city in the country, people also came out to celebrate with joy.

We are going to return to our lands after 28 years,” said a resident of Ganja. “Azerbaijan and Turkey are one nation, with two states,” he added. “Turkey and Azerbaijan are sisters. We have won together,” said another woman, who explained that her brother is a soldier in the army.

Protests and resignation in Armenia

In Armenia, the scenes were very different, and when the news spread that Pashinyan had signed an agreement that meant in practice an almost unconditional surrender of Armenia, thousands of nationalists took to the streets of Yerevan and staged violent protests, storming several government buildings and the parliament, whose president was lynched and remained in hospital today.

Shouting “Nikol has betrayed us“, the protesters demanded the resignation of the prime minister, as did the opposition when the news of the agreement with Azerbaijan was known. However, Pashinyan – who did not appear publicly on Tuesday – defended himself via Facebook stating that there was no choice but to reach an agreement because Armenia had not been able to mobilise enough forces to continue the war.

For his part, the leader of the self-proclaimed Artsakh Republic, Araik Harutyunyan, also confirmed the agreement early Tuesday morning and supported the decision of the Armenian prime minister, recognising that on November 7 “we completely lost control of Shusha” and that in in the last hours “the fighting was taking place 2 or 3 kilometres from Stepanakert (the capital). If it wasn’t for this decision, we would have lost all of Nagorno-Karabakh, we would have suffered many more losses,” he underlined.

After the signing of the agreement, about 2,000 Russian soldiers went to Karabakh early Tuesday to be deployed as a peacekeeping force; according to the agreement, this force will remain in Karabakh initially for 5 years, with an automatic continuity for successive periods of 5 years until the parties deem it appropriate.

Congratulations from Turkey

From Turkey, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu congratulated Azerbaijan on the agreement. “Our sister Azerbaijan has managed to achieve important victories on the battlefield and at the negotiating table. I congratulate it sincerely,” wrote Çavuşoğlu on Twitter, adding that “we will continue to be one nation, one spirit with our Azeri brothers.”

Hours later, during a joint press conference with his Kyrgyz counterpart, the Turkish foreign minister once again congratulated Azerbaijan on the peace agreement in the Caucasus that involves the almost complete handover of Karabakh by Armenia. “Armenia was the one that started the war. Now, it has had to give in. Turkey will continue its support for Azerbaijan,” he concluded.