Publication: Armed Conflict Survey 2016
05 May 2016
Throughout 2015, the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh was characterised by active but mostly ineffective diplomacy, conducted against a backdrop of escalating violence and belligerent rhetoric from both sides. Although the security situation in the conflict zone showed clear signs of deterioration, there was little change in the political positions of Armenia and Azerbaijan, or in the drivers and dynamics of their interaction. The countries began once again to accuse each other of spreading disinformation, making it difficult for outside observers to analyse the scope of violent incidents and their impact on civilians.
Moreover, two worrying trends emerged in the year: the sides increasingly relied on heavy weaponry, and incidents were reported in previously uncontested areas near the Armenia–Azerbaijan border.
The parties released in late March contradictory reports on several large-scale battles. The Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense claimed that up to 20 fighters from Nagorno-Karabakh had been killed after attacking Azerbaijani forces near the Line of Contact. Yet sources in the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army claimed that Azerbaijani troops had attacked its positions. According to the Nagorno-Karabakh authorities, three Nagorno-Karabakh soldiers had been killed and four others wounded, while between seven and 14 Azerbaijani soldiers had been killed. Shortly afterwards, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense claimed that its Armenian counterpart had covered up the deaths of five Nagorno-Karabakh fighters in a separate incident. In response, the spokesperson for the Armenian Ministry of Defence said that both it and the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army were fully transparent, and called on Armenian media outlets to refrain from repeating ‘anti-Armenian propaganda’.