Sovereignty Debate over Karabakh and Russia’s Increasing Support for Armenia

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On December 11, 2022, after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan gave a protest note to the Moscow administration regarding the activities of the Russian military unit temporarily stationed in Karabakh, on December 12, 2022, Azerbaijani activists on the Shusha-Lachin road, which connects Armenia to Karabakh and stands out with its strategic importance. organized a protest.

The note given by Azerbaijan resulted from a group of Azerbaijani geologists not allowing the Russian peacekeepers to monitor the environmental situation in Karabakh. Azerbaijani protesters state that the mineral deposits in Karabakh are being illegally exploited and covered up.

Armenia, on the other hand, claims that the closure of the highway led to the complete blockade of Karabakh. At the same time, Yerevan claims that the flow of natural gas to Karabakh has been stopped. Following the tension in Karabakh, Armenia’s National Security Council held an extraordinary meeting on December 13, 2022. It was announced that Armenian President Vahagn Khachaturyan, Speaker of the Parliament Alen Simonyan, Head of the Prime Minister’s Office Arayik Harutyunyan and Speaker of the Parliament Hayk Konjoryan attended the meeting as well as the members of the council.

In addition, in its statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia claimed that the sixth article of the trilateral agreement signed between Moscow, Baku and Yerevan in November 2020 was violated. It says that the parties guarantee traffic safety along the Lachin Corridor.

The Baku administration, on the other hand, announced that the allegations regarding the flow of natural gas to the region were not true. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan Spokesperson Ayhan Hacizade said, “The purpose of this protest is not to block the road.  Civilian vehicles can move freely in both directions on the road” and denied the allegations that the area was besieged.[1]

The Russian Ministry of Defense stated that it is in talks with Azerbaijan on reopening the highway to traffic.[2] “We call on the Azerbaijani authorities to restore free movement along the corridor,” said Ned Price, spokesperson for the United States (US) State Department.[3]

It is clear that Russia and the US do not want a new escalation in Karabakh. According to these actors, instability in the region will have a negative impact on the Armenia-Azerbaijan talks. This is why Washington and Moscow are trying to mediate a solution to the problem. At the same time, this shows that there is competition between the two actors.

The USA does not want either Baku or Yerevan to move away from it. At the same time, it is keen to improve its relations with Armenia. In fact, during Nikol Pashinyan’s prime ministership, relations between the two countries started to take on a different dimension. Russia, on the other hand, does not completely abandon Yerevan, although it has a problem with the Pashinyan Government. Therefore, Russia will be closely interested in a conflict that may occur in the region.

The second issue that concerns Moscow is the status of the peacekeeping force in Karabakh. Russia’s official mission is to ensure the security of the Armenian population in the region and to prevent conflicts between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Despite all this, the unresolved Karabakh conflict and the failure to sign a lasting peace agreement lead to debates over who owns the region. As the winner of the Second Karabakh War, Azerbaijan gained the right to re-establish its sovereignty in the region. However, Russia wanted this to spread over time and placed a temporary peacekeeping force in the region.

In this context, the Baku administration thinks that the sovereignty over Karabakh belongs to itself and therefore believes that the underground resources of the region should be operated by itself.  Moscow, on the other hand, sees Azerbaijan’s demand for sovereignty over Karabakh as an “ambiguous definition” and thinks that the region cannot come under Azerbaijan’s domination without a political solution. Armenia, on the other hand, is against Azerbaijan’s sovereignty in Karabakh.

Another issue that disturbs Azerbaijan is Armenia’s search for external support to balance Azerbaijan and Russia’s decision to develop a new form of relations with Armenia in this process. On December 9, 2022, Defense Minister of Russia Sergey Shoigu met with Defense Minister of Armenia Suren Papikyan at a meeting attended by Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Commonwealth of Independent States members. At the meeting, Shoigu said the following:[4]

“Armenia is our ally in the Collective Security Treaty Organization and a key strategic partner in Transcaucasia. We are very interested in maintaining stability in the region and we are making every effort to do so. We pay special attention to the development of bilateral cooperation and enhancing the potential of the Armenian Armed Forces.”

As a result, according to Azerbaijan, Russia is once again supporting Armenia and strengthening its army. This may make the resolution of the Karabakh conflict impossible. Because if Armenia gets stronger, it will start to claim rights over Karabakh again. It can be said that what happened in Karabakh is a reflection of Baku’s discomfort with the developments in the region.

[1] “В МИД Азербайджана заявили о готовности пропускать гражданские машины”, Krasnaya Vesna,, (Date of Accession: 15.12.2022).

[2] “МО заявило о диалоге с Баку по разблокировке дороги Степанакерт-Горис”, Ria Novosti,, (Date of Accession: 15.12.2022).

[3] @statedeptspox, “Closure of the Lachin Corridor has severe humanitarian implications and sets back the peace process. We call on the government of Azerbaijan to restore free movement through the corridor. The way forward is through negotiations.”, Twitter,, (Date of Accession: 15.12.2022).

[4]  “Шойгу заявил, что Армения является ключевым стратегическим партнером России в Закавказье”, Ria Novosti,, (Date of Accession: 15.12.2022).

Lisans öğrenimini Ankara Üniversitesi Siyasal Bilgiler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler bölümünde tamamlayan Dr. Sabir Askeroğlu, yüksek lisans derecesini Ankara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda almıştır. Doktora eğitimini İstanbul Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Siyaset Bilimi ve Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda tamamlayan Dr. Askeroğlu, çeşitli düşünce kuruluşlarında görev yapmıştır. Başlıca ilgi alanları, Avrasya çalışmaları ve Rus dış politikası olan Dr. Askeroğlu, iyi derecede Rusça ve İngilizce bilmektedir.