News You Really Need To See: “Clashes Intensify Between Armenia and Azerbaijan Over Coveted Land”

“Clashes Intensify Between Armenia and Azerbaijan Over Coveted Land”

The New York Times, February 1, 2015, p.A10

Overshadowed by the fighting in Ukraine, another armed conflict in the former Soviet Union — between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh — has escalated with deadly ferocity in recent months, killing dozens of soldiers on each side and pushing the countries perilously close to open war.  The month of January was heavily stained by blood, with repeated gun battles and volleys of artillery and rocket fire. … While the fighting here often seems to be an isolated dispute over a mountainous patch of land that no one else wants — roughly midway between the Armenian capital, Yerevan, and the Azerbaijani capital, Baku — the conflict poses an ever-present danger by threatening to draw in bigger powers, including Russia, Turkey and Iran. … The recent flare in fighting has been fueled by a quiet arms race, in which both countries — but especially oil-rich Azerbaijan — have built up arsenals of ever more powerful weapons.  Russia is the main supplier to each side, even as it claims a leadership role in international peace negotiations, known as the Minsk Group process, which it chairs with the United States and France. … In his speech, [President Ilham] Aliyev warned darkly that Azerbaijan, which has an economy seven times larger than Armenia’s, planned this year to spend more than double Armenia’s entire annual budget of $2.7 billion on strengthening its military. … Since fighting began in the late 1980s, it has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced more than a million, many of whom have been living as refugees for more than 20 years.”

Quickie Analysis:  One of the few things both sides share perhaps is a variation on the saying, “When water mixes with earth, this is mud.  When blood mixes with earth, this is motherland.”  When further mixed with arms, religion, ethnic cleansing, outside interference, centuries of perceived grievances, and few memories of peaceful co-existence, the issue is even less likely to be resolved peacefully.

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