The risk is increasing that war will reignite between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh due to "escalating front-line clashes, a spiralling arms race, vitriolic rhetoric and a virtual breakdown in peace talks", warns the Intenational Crisis Group (ICG).
Armenia and Azerbaijan: Preventing War was released on February 8th. According to the ICG, it "highlights the deterioration of the situation in the past year. Increased military capabilities on both sides would make a new armed conflict in the South Caucasus far more deadly than the 1992-1994 one that ended with a shaky truce. Neither side would be likely to win easily or quickly. Even if neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan is planning an immediate all-out offensive, skirmishes could easily spiral out of control."
However, the report was critised in both countries. Eduard Sharmazanov, Secretary of the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) faction*, accused the ICG of bias. Whereas Azerbaijani Defence Ministry spokesman, Eldar Sabiroglu said the report failed to be objective.
"The document calls on Russia not to sell arms to the conflicting parties, without saying anything about supplies of arms to Azerbaijan from Turkey and Bosnia," he alleged.
For his part, Sabiroglu, criticized the report for not making sufficient distinction between the aggressor (in his view, Armenia) and the occupied country: "The time has come to name the guilty party and the aggressor. Only if such pressure is brought to bear can there be talk of reduction in the risk of war."
Sharmazanov may have taken particular exception to the ICG's assertion that "More has to be done to change a status quo that is deeply damaging to Azerbaijan, whose territory remains occupied and which accommodates large numbers of displaced persons."
A potential decline in oil production, which had been funding its military "increases Azerbaijan’s temptation to use force if diplomacy remains blocked", according to the Group.
Despite Sharmazanov's assertion, the report refers explicitly to arms that Azerbaijan has acquired from Ukraine, Bosnia and, reportedly, Russia, as well as Azerbaijan's development of "a domestic weapons industry to produce small arms and armoured vehicles, with help from Israeli, Turkish, Pakistani and South African companies."
The report highlights the pivotal roles of both Russia and Turkey and notes that "Russian-Turkish relations have greatly improved since 2002" and suggests that the interests of both, as well as EU and US energy interests would be severely undermined were the region to return to conflict.
“Lack of progress in the peace talks is increasing the likelihood of an accidental war at any time or an all-out offensive within the next few years”, says Sabine Freizer, Crisis Group’s Europe Program Director. “Russia, the U.S., Turkey and the European Union should make preventing this scenario a high priority”.
Crisis Group press contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels) +32 (0) 2 541 1635; Kimberly Abbott (Washington) +1 202 785 1602.
*The Republican Party of Armenia is headed by Armenian President, Serzh Azati Sargsyan.
Supported by the Simon Cumbers Media Fund, Photojournalist Lar Boland documented the solar technology training of 4 Grandmothers (pictured with mentor) at Rajasthan's Barefoot College and their return to Togo.
Puppetry is used for training at the Barefoot College as many of the women being trained are illiterate. Photo: Lar Boland.
An Indian instructor who herself trained at the Barefoot College demonstrates the working of electronic panels to the Togolese solar grandmothers. Photo: Lar Boland.
A trainee working on the installation of a mobile solar lamp. Photo: Lar Boland.
Togoalise is one of the four Solar Grandmothers from the remote village of Agome Sevah in Togo. Photo: Lar Boland.
Akouavi is one of the four Solar Grandmothers from the remote village of Agome Sevah in Togo. Photo: Lar Boland.
Hotitode is one of the four Solar Grandmothers from the remote village of Agome Sevah in Togo. Photo: Lar Boland.
Mialo Tassi is one of the four Solar Grandmothers from the remote village of Agome Sevah in Togo. Photo: Lar Boland.
On their return to Agome Sevah, the Solar Grandmothers are greeted by the Chief of the village. Photo: Lar Boland.
Having returned to Agome Sevah after a six month training period at the Barefoot College, the Solar Grandmothers set about training others at their workshop. Photo: Lar Boland.
A group of Solar Grandmothers and helpers on their way to erecting solar panels at a small village home in Agame Sevah, Togo. Photo: Lar Boland.
Mialo Tassi, a Solar Grandmother, on her way to erecting solar panels at a small village home in Agome Sevah. Photo: Lar Boland.
Akouavi, a Solar Grandmother from Agome Sevah erecting solar panels at a small village home. Photo: Lar Boland.
Solar Grandmothers outside a newly built clinic which they are about to solar electrify. Photo: Lar Boland.
Solar Grandmothers install solar panels on the roof of the newly built clinic in Agome Sevah. Photo: Lar Boland.
A family from the rural village of Agome Sevah have their daily wash in the Mono river which seperates Togo from Benin. Photo: Lar Boland.
The much used Mono river which divides Togo and Benin. Photo: Lar Boland.
The river Mono between Togo and Benin is regularily crossed by traders. Photo: Lar Boland.
Children fishing in the Mono River. Photo: Lar Boland.
Petrol bought at a reduced price in Benin, and smuggled across the Mono river, is later sold on the streets of Togo, such as the capital Lome. Photo: Lar Boland.
Everyday life in Agome Sevah. Photo: Lar Boland.
A Togo war veteran with his grandaughter. Photo: Lar Boland.
A man builds a small dwelling in Agome Sevah. Photo: Lar Boland.
Children can now study in the evening with the help of solar power. In Togo, near the equator, it gets dark at around 5:30. Photo: Lar Boland.