Containing the armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh


The armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory claimed by both Armenia and Azerbaijan, has been contained since 1994 by the ongoing diplomatic efforts of the Minsk Group, preventing the eruption of a much larger confrontation.

Nagorno-Karabakh is a region that has been a de jure part of Azerbaijan since the 1920s but retains a majority Armenian population. In February 1988, the provincial government of the region voted to join Armenia. In November 1989, as the Soviet Union began to collapse, the Armenian administration declared Nagorno-Karabakh to be part of a unified Armenia. When Armenia and Azerbaijan became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991, the administration in Nagorno-Karabakh proclaimed the establishment of the independent Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh.1 The dispute had become increasingly violent since 1990, with reports of intercommunal strife across the area. In the first months of 1992, the Government of Azerbaijan launched a large offensive to assert its control of the area. For the rest of the year, bitter fighting took place across the region between the Azerbaijani military and the forces of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, which received support from the Government of Armenia.2 Efforts to halt the fighting were first led by the Government of Iran, before the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) took over in June 1992 and formed the Minsk Group (France, Russia, and the USA) to mediate the resolution of the conflict.3 It was not, however, until 1994 when the fighting was finally ended by a ceasefire unilaterally mediated by the Government of Russia.4

The ceasefire established a 175km Line of Control to separate the belligerents while further talks were held, and although both parties agreed in principle to the creation of an international peacekeeping mission to patrol it, no such force was deployed.5 As a result, the only factors preventing further conflict (other than the restraint of each party) was the influence of the Government of Russia and the ongoing mediation of the Minsk Group. In a relatively unique example of long-term international cooperation, the Minsk Group has maintained an ongoing dialogue between the parties to the conflict for over 25 years.6 Through regular engagement, the Group successfully prevented the dispute from sparking a repeat of the early 1990s or a direct confrontation between Armenia and Azerbaijan.7 At the time of writing, the eruption of fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh in October 2020 has ended following another intervention by the Government of Russia. The armed conflict has again been contained, although this time the deployment of peacekeepers were required.

1 Lionel Beehner. “Nagorno-Karabakh: The Crisis in the Caucasus.” Council on Foreign Relations. (2005) Available at: (Accessed 09/12/2020)

2 UCDP. Azerbaijan: Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) (UCDP, 2020) Available at: (Accessed 09/12/2020)

3 OSCE. Minsk Group: What we do. (OSCE, 2020) Available at: (Accessed 09/12/2020)

4 Bishkek Protocol, 1994. Available at: (Accessed 09/12/2020)

5 Conciliation Resources. “Securing an Armenian-Azerbaijani agreement: the roles of international and local security providers.” Discussion Paper. (2015) p.5

6 For example: Joint Declaration between the Republic of Armenia, the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Russian Federation, 2008. Available at: (Accessed 09/12/2020)

7 Carey Cavanaugh. “OSCE and the Nagorno-Karabakh Peace Process.” Security and Human Rights, Vol. 27, No. 3. (2016)

Start Year


End Year




UN Regional Group

Eastern Europe

Type of Conflict

Interstate conflict

Type of Initiative


Main Implementing Organisation(s)

The Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe




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