Azeri govt., Armenian govt., Turkish govt., Iranian govt., French govt.
President of Azerbaijan Aliyev stated in a press conference that now that the ‘Karabakh problem’ is solved, the next priority of the Azeri government is reclaiming ‘West-Azerbaijan.’ ‘West-Azerbaijan’ covers all of Armenia, as well as a small part of Iran.
After its swift victory in the Nagorno-Karabakh region and its victory over Armenia in 2020, Azerbaijan now seems emboldened to seek further expansion through conquest. This mainly concerns Armenia, but it may also affect Iran. Azerbaijan’s expansionism directly impacts Iran’s territory, as well as its trade routes with Russia.
Turkish president Erdogan in recent talks with Aliyev expressed interest in opening the so-called ‘Zangezur’ corridor, “by force if necessary”. This is a stretch of land in Southern Armenia, which would connect Azerbaijan to its exclave Nikchivan. The corridor could be the first step of Azerbaijan to apply pressure on Armenia. Iran is opposed to this corridor.
On 03/10/2023 France decided to deliver weapons to Armenia, to support the nation’s capability to defend itself. In response, President Aliyev abstained from joining EU brokered talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Aliyev stated that “there was an anti-Azerbaijan setting” at the talks.
The former president of Artsakh (aka Nagorno-Karabakh) was arrested by Azeri forces on 03/10/2023. Azeri allegations against him include committing war crimes.
With France selling weapons to Armenia it is demonstrating to Azerbaijan that Armenia has international support. On the other hand, France and Turkey, who are staunch supporters of Azerbaijan, are both members of NATO and close partners within the European Union sphere of influence. Any armed conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia will also put France and Turkey in diplomatic hot water.
Diplomatic relations between Azerbaijan and Iran are tense. Azerbaijan has developed close security relations with Iran’s regional competitor, Israel. Azerbaijan has bought Israeli air-defense systems and Israeli and Azeri secret services work together closely. Iran has blamed Israel and Azerbaijan for setting up electronic listening posts on Iran’s border. Azerbaijan and Turkey held joint military exercises near the border with Iran and Iran responded with military drills. Azerbaijan claims that Iran has delivered weapons to Armenia and accuses it of supporting terrorist groups like Hezbollah. Iran has responded by accusing Azerbaijan of harboring ISIS/L terrorists. If a conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia erupts, there is a chance that Iran will support Armenia, but in what capacity is unknown.
Now that Azerbaijan has gained full control over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, this could create a false sense of security in the Caucasus, now that tensions have settled. However, Azerbaijan appears particularly confident and seems to have no interest in a peaceful resolution with Armenia. Now that both Turkey and Iran are getting more actively involved in the region’s issues, tensions are as high as ever.
For aviation overflying the area, it is advised to avoid overflying the border region between Armenia and Azerbaijan until Azeri’s intentions are clearer. It is advised to use Georgia for crossing the Southern Caucasus. Waypoints ADEKI and DISKA are preferred, as BARAD skims the border of the two squabbling nations.
Conclusion: The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia is far from over. With Azeri president Aliyev calling for actions concerning “West-Azerbaijan,” he is openly challenging Armenia’s integrity. With France, Iran, Israel, Russia and Turkey heavily involved in the internal politics of Azerbaijan and Armenia, any conflict can lead to strained diplomatic relations on the geopolitical stage. There is also little doubt as to how a conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia will end with Azerbaijan having military capabilities that by far outweigh Armenia’s. It is unknown if the EU, the US, NATO, Russia and/or other countries will be able to quell Azerbaijan’s hostility toward Armenia now that it easily annexed Nagorno-Karabakh.