Why Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh for decades

According to media reports, Armenia has imposed martial law and total military mobilisation.

According to media reports, Armenia has imposed martial law and total military mobilisation. Photo: AAP

The world is watching closely to see what happens next in the territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The former Soviet republics declared martial law after heavy fighting erupted over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Another 30 people had been confirmed dead by Tuesday morning, in what is the most serious escalation in a decades-old conflict between majority-Christian Armenia and mainly-Muslim Azerbaijan.

It’s now looking like the fight is already dragging in larger powers Russia and Turkey.

Two sources have told Reuters that Turkey is sending Syrian rebel fighters to support Azerbaijan.

And Armenia’s ambassador to Moscow said that Turkey had sent war experts, drones, warplanes, plus about 4000 fighters from northern Syria to Azerbaijan.

The international community is concerned the fight could be heading for an all-out war.

But what exactly are Armenia and Azerbaijan fighting over?

Here are 10 facts about the long-running border dispute

  1. Nagorno-Karabakh is a small, barren piece of land in Azerbaijan that has been occupied by neighbouring Armenia since 1992 after war over the territory broke out. It ended with a ceasefire in 1994, and Armenia pushing out Azerbaijan’s forces
  2. The conflict displaced about 700,000 Azeris and 235,000 Armenians
  3. The United Nations deems Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan, but the majority of its people are ethnic Armenians who reject Azerbaijani rule
  4. Nagorno-Karabakh declared its independence from Azerbaijan in 1992. The unrecognised country has since held several presidential and parliamentary elections. It approved its first-ever constitution in 2006, which recognised the country as a sovereign state
  5. Sunday’s clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan forces reignited fears of an all-out war. The territorial dispute dates back to 1918 when Azerbaijan and Armenia each declared independence following the collapse of the Russian Empire
  6. Nagorno-Karabakh is near pipelines that transport Caspian oil and natural gas from Azerbaijan to the world, which is why the decades-long territorial dispute has concerned the international community. Armenia also warned about security risks in the South Caucasus in July after Azerbaijan threatened to attack Armenia’s nuclear power plant in a possible retaliation
  7. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, much of the last remaining Azeris, who made up a significant minority of the population in Nagorno-Karabakh, were either killed or forced from their homes
  8. Though a ceasefire was agreed in 1994, after thousands of people were killed and many more displaced, Azerbaijan and Armenia frequently accuse each other of attacks around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the separate Azeri-Armenian frontier
  9. The most recent border clashes occurred in July, which lasted five days and resulted in at least 16 deaths
  10. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh have declared martial law. “Be ready to protect our holy homeland. Proud, winning people,” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan wrote on Facebook. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump said he is seeking an end to the violence. “We have a lot of good relationships in that area. We’ll see if we can stop it,” he told a news briefing.

-with AAP

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