2020 Nagorno-Karabakh Ceasefire Agreement Text21 Jan 2022
On September 27, 2020, new hostilities began between Azerbaijan and the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh, supported by Armenia. Azerbaijan made several territorial gains over the next six weeks, culminating in the capture of the strategically important city of Shusha, prompting the two sides to agree on a ceasefire agreement on November 9, 2020.  The mandate is structured as follows: the first section analyzes the weaknesses of the ceasefire agreement, while the next section examines the role and possible future outcomes of the Russian peacekeeping mission. The last part offers a forward-looking perspective on the post-war status quo(2). In pursuing these efforts, Russia should seek broader international support. It could look to the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which has overseen peace negotiations over the past three decades, to find a way forward for Nagorno-Karabakh itself. It could also work with other members of the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution endorsing the ceasefire, calling on the parties to avoid reprisals and protect civilians, and calling on them to negotiate a formal peace treaty. The UN, or perhaps the OSCE, which had previously led mediation efforts between Armenia and Azerbaijan, could also consider deploying an international civilian mission to oversee the treatment of civilians and the return of displaced persons and refugees. The armistice agreement of 9.
November 2020 put a lasting end to the armed phase of the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War. The devastating military defeat of Armenia, the return of most of the occupied territories to Azerbaijan and the deployment of a massive and well-armed Russian contingent in the areas of Nagorno-Karabakh still under Armenian control will most likely ensure that the security situation remains stable over the next five years. While there may still be small tactical incidents, they will have little potential to destabilize the strategic situation in and around the breakaway region. This constellation will most likely remain viable until the first expiry date of the mandate of Russian peacekeepers. Following the signing of the agreement and the deployment of Russian peacekeepers, the defense ministers of Russia and Turkey signed a memorandum on the establishment of a joint Russian-Turkish observation center in Azerbaijan.  However, Russia insisted that Turkey`s involvement would be limited to operating on Azerbaijani soil from the observation center and that Turkish peacekeepers would not travel to Nagorno-Karabakh.   Another weakness of the current structure created by the ceasefire agreement is that it gives Russia the de facto opportunity to maintain its military presence in Azerbaijan even after the agreement expires in 2025. As already mentioned, the mandate of the Russian peacekeeping mission is automatically extended after five years for a further five years, unless one of the signatory parties objects. Armenia is unlikely to ever oppose this, given that the presence of the Russian contingent remains the sole guarantor of the security of the parts of Nagorno-Karabakh still controlled by Armenia. In the meantime, Baku may well oppose the expansion of the Russian mission, as the withdrawal of the peace contingent would pave the way for the recapture of Azerbaijan throughout the territory. Therefore, Moscow is clearly a winner of the situation created by the ceasefire agreement, as its regional position is now much stronger than it was before the war.
Russia`s open disregard for numerical and arms-related restrictions on the deployment of a peace contingent, as well as the considerable autonomy with which Russian forces operate in Nagorno-Karabakh, already indicate that Moscow is convinced that it has the upper hand over Baku`s leadership. But what options would Azerbaijan have in the event that the Russian contingent stationed in Azerbaijan did not withdraw after five years, despite Baku`s request? Although assessing the likelihood of such a scenario is not one of the objectives of this report, there are several reasons why the possibility of such an outcome should at least be considered. First, historical experience in the post-Soviet region shows that once Russian peacekeepers are sent to a region after a conflict, they tend not to leave. They did not leave Moldova or leave the two separatist units in Georgia. Secondly, it is not clear whether the obligation to withdraw after five years prescribed in the ceasefire agreement applies not only to the official peace contingent, but also to other Russian units and formations stationed in Nagorno-Karabakh. Third, as noted above, Moscow is already violating the ceasefire agreement in terms of the size, composition and, in particular, armament of its armed forces. In fact, in the event of a new war, these forces would probably be able to hold the line against the Azerbaijani armed forces in the early hours of the conflict until reinforcements arrived; and are therefore basically able to replicate what Russian peacekeepers did in South Ossetia in August 2008. Fourth, the possibility of an “Abkhazization scenario” cannot be completely ruled out, namely that after the large-scale “passportization” of Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh, Moscow could affirm the need to protect Russian citizens in the region and thus keep its troops in place. (26) Another indicator of a possible Abkhaz scenario is the fact that the leaders of Nagorno-Karabakh are considering making Russian the second official language after Armenian. (27) The Agreement (“Statement by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia and the President of the Russian Federation”) indicates that there is an even greater question mark as to how Turkey will be able to exercise effective control over this centre.
The legal basis is unclear: Turkey is part of the ceasefire monitoring centre, but is not a signatory to the original ceasefire agreement. Therefore, it is questionable to what extent Turkey will be able to go beyond passive monitoring of the ceasefire and effectively ensure its implementation. .