Armenia throws in the towel! After 43 days of fighting, the 2020 Armenia-Azerbaijan War has come to a conclusion. The 28 years old conflict was reignited by an Azeri offensive on the 27th of September 2020. While the frontline had remained static since 1994, Turkish and Israeli drones in Azeri service, direct Turkish military help (drone “pilots”, military supplies, Turkish officers on the ground “advising” their Azeri counterparts and Turkish paid Syrian mercenaries) ensured that this time around, the balance of power between Yerevan and Baku tilted in Azerbaijan’s favour.
This Azeri offensive seems to have been spurred on by Turkey: Toward end of July/early August, Armenia decided to make the Sevres Treaty a cornerstone of its Foreign Policy. This was taken as an insult, a quasi-declaration of war by Erdogan. By mid-August, Turkish and Azeri officers had met on a couple of occasions, seemingly planning for a war. It did not take long, and on the 27th of September, Azerbaijan threw its armed forces against Armenian controlled Nagorno-Karabakh.
The war’s outcome seemed uncertain at first, with the Azeri army taking in grevious losses and failing to penetrate successive Armenian defensive lines arrayed in depth in the North of the Nagorno-Karabakh region. By the end of the first week, the Armenian army had counterattacked in the North and regained some of the lost ground, but at a high cost to its armour: The Drone War had started. Day six was also marred by an Azeri cluster-bombs strike on civilian dwellings in Stepanakert, closely followed by an Armenian missile strike on civilian infrastructure in Ganja.
The second week saw an Azeri shift in the South of the province. Progress was slow, but Israeli Harop suicide drones and Turkish TB-2 drones firing MAM and L-UMTAS ammunition started wittling down Armenian SAM sites and armour as well as interdicting supply lines in the Armenian rear.
On the 9th of October (Day 12), a Russian brokered cease-fire came into play and was almost immediately violated by both parties. Azeri troops finally broke through the Armenian last fixed line of defence and the conflict took a more fluid look, with Azerbaijan advancing and Armenian troops slowly yielding ground. On the 21st of October, Russian troops from the 102nd Russian Army base of Gyumri were seen taking position along the Armenia-Karabakh border.
By the 22nd of October (Day 25), Azerbaijan had secured its border with Iran and started advancing toward the Lachin corridor: A vital road linking Armenia proper to the city of Shusha and the Nagorno-Karabakh capital Stepanakert. Armenia rushed its best troops to the South and temporarily managed to halt the Azeri advance. The Lachin Corridor was however within range of Azeri artillery. Both sides switched to small units guerilla warfare for a while, with Azeri troops probing and infiltrating Armenian defences and Armenian troops ambushing Azeri supply lines. By the 25th of October, Iranian troops started securing the Azeri-Iranian border.
On the 26th of October (Day 29), an American brokered cease-fire came into effect and was immediately violated by both sides. On the 30th of October, Azeri forces resorted to using White Phosphorus in the forested part of Southern Karabakh to try and flush out Armenian troops.
On the 31st of October, Armenia invoked Article 2 of the Bilateral Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance 1997 Treaty, basically asking Russia for help. Too little, too late…
On November the 8th (Day 42), Azeri troops took control of Shusha after 4 days of intense combat that apparently included hand to hand fighting. With Shusha, (so-called Republic of) Artsakh’s second largest city in the hands of Azerbaijan, Stepanakert was in danger of falling, and with it, the whole of Nagorno-Karabakh. Stepanakert is situated a mere 15 kilometres from Shusha. There were few options for Armenia to be able to anchor a solid line of defence in front of the city. And its supply lines were seriously disrupted.
On the 9th of November, on the verge of total defeat, Armenia agreed to a Russian brokered peace plan to save what could be saved. Some sources cite Armenian ammunition stores down by 80%, with remaining surviving hardware and platforms showing signs of fatigue and needing maintenance and soldiers completely exhausted after 6 weeks of constant fighting. It seems Covid-19 took its toll on Armenian troops. There are even rumours of cases of dysentry.
Here is a statement issued by the Azeri, Armenian and Russian authorities.
“We, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan I. G. Aliyev, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia N. V. Pashinyan and the President of the Russian Federation V. V. Putin, declared the following:
1. A complete ceasefire and all hostilities in the zone of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict are announced from 00:00 hours Moscow time on November 10, 2020. The Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia, hereinafter referred to as the Parties, stop at their positions.
2. The Aghdam region and the territories held by the Armenian Party in the Gazakh region of the Republic of Azerbaijan shall be returned to the Azerbaijan Party until November 20, 2020.
3. Along the contact line in Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Lachin corridor, a peacekeeping contingent of the Russian Federation is deployed in the amount of 1,960 military personnel with small arms, 90 armored personnel carriers, 380 units of automobile and special equipment.
4. The peacekeeping contingent of the Russian Federation is being deployed in parallel with the withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces. The duration of the stay of the peacekeeping contingent of the Russian Federation is 5 years with automatic extension for the next 5-year periods, if none of the Parties declares 6 months before the expiration of the period of intention to terminate the application of this provision.
5. In order to increase the effectiveness of control over the implementation of the agreements by the Parties to the conflict, a peacekeeping center is being deployed to control the ceasefire.
6. The Republic of Armenia will return the Kelbajar region to the Republic of Azerbaijan by November 15, 2020, and the Lachin region by December 1, 2020, leaving behind the Lachin corridor (5 km wide), which will ensure the connection of Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia and at the same time not will affect the city of Shusha.By agreement of the Parties, in the next three years, a plan for the construction of a new traffic route along the Lachin corridor will be determined, providing communication between Stepanakert and Armenia, with the subsequent redeployment of the Russian peacekeeping contingent to protect this route.The Republic of Azerbaijan guarantees the safety of traffic along the Lachin corridor of citizens, vehicles and goods in both directions.
7. Internally displaced persons and refugees are returning to the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent areas under the control of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
8. The exchange of prisoners of war and other detained persons and bodies of the dead is carried out.
9. All economic and transport links in the region are unblocked. The Republic of Armenia provides transport links between the western regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic in order to organize the unimpeded movement of citizens, vehicles and goods in both directions. Transport control is exercised by the bodies of the Border Guard Service of the FSB of Russia.By agreement of the Parties, construction of new transport communications linking the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic with the western regions of Azerbaijan will be provided. “
What does this mean? Well, it means that Armenia will hand over the three last Azeri districts it still controls back to Azerbaijan: Kelbajar, Gazakh and Aghdam. Those districts were captured by Armenia during the 1992-1994 war.
It seems the frontline will be frozen at midnight Moscow time (09/11/2020-3am GMT). What is left of Nagorno-Karabakh (so called Artsakh) remains in a status-quo and Azerbaijan will allow roads to link Armenia proper to Stepanakert. Baku will also allow the Lachin corridor to remain open to Armenian civilian traffic.
It looks like Azerbaijan will keep control over the portion of Nagorno Karabakh it has reconquered. This means Shusha will now remain under Azeri control.
Armenia agreed to have roads linking the Azeri enclave of Nakhichevan to Azerbaijan proper (therefore spanning across Armenian territory).
The Russian army will deploy troops along the frontline and ensure the cease-fire and the implementation of the above agreement.
More info will be released by all three parties in the next few days, including potentially about the future (status) of Artsakh.