Red alert in the Nagorno-Karabakh region in the South Caucasus disputed by Armenia and Azerbaijan. In the night between 1 and 2 April tensions rose again and the number of casualties is growing by the hour. Hundreds have already died, unfortunately too many civilians. It ‘s the most violent escalation since, in 1994, the armistice signed by the Armenian and Azerbaijani governments had officially ended the hostilities that claimed the death of 30 thousand people. But peace talks on the status of the enclave have not resulted in any concrete steps, and since then the stability in the region has been marked by extreme fragility.
Tensions are easily re-ignited, as each camp has accused the other of having brokered the ceasefire and of having launched the first attack.
The international community views the outbreak of the clashes with deep concern while the Italian Foreign Minister has called upon “all the involved parties to immediate compliance with the ceasefire and to refrain from further acts of hostility.”
The Armenian Church mourns the dead. Also the Catholic community has been severely hit.
In the village of Thalisch a family consisting of a couple and grandmother was slaughtered. After killing them – said Monsignor Raphael Minassian, Ordinary for Armenian Catholics of Eastern Europe – even their ears were cut off.” Catholics also mourn the death of a 12-year-old boy killed in the school courtyard, and two other seriously injured children. His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians in the world, has launched an “appeal to the international community, especially to countries called upon to resolve the conflict, to intervene to stop the ongoing, unjustified actions of Azerbaijan against Nagorno-Karabakh.”
“For over twenty years the situation in the region has been unstable”, remarked Aldo Ferrari, professor of geopolitics and researcher at the Institute of International Policy Studies (ISPI) in Milan. Moreover, the present instability is due to the fact that “20 years ago was not achieved a true peace but only an armistice.”
“There have been many clashes in the past, but the present one appears to be the most serious of them all.”
Why now? Because – the Professor replied – Azerbaijan may have wanted to give “a display of its power to bring the region occupied by the Armenians under its sovereignty. Or the attack may have been launched to divert the attention of the Azerbaijani population from domestic problems (the economic crisis due to the drop in oil prices) and direct it on foreign policy, with the purpose of reunifying it.” “But in this case – Ferrari pointed out – Azerbaijan would be responsible for the attack. Of course, this possibility can’t be ruled out. However, it can neither be confirmed, since, as always happens in these circumstances, media distortion prevails among both involved parties, which makes it hard to understand what has actually happened.” However, one thing is sure:
Potentially, “it’s a highly dangerous situation”, Ferrari said. Relations between the involved Countries are marked by a very fragile equilibrium.
“Before a destabilized Middle East, a Russia backing Armenia with which it has a veritable alliance and Turkey which in turn supports Azerbaijan, the situation is potentially critical. At the same time, however – Ferrari continues – it is hoped that, as has happened in the past, precisely the gravity of the possible implications will stop the two contending parties.”
It seems absurd to envision an escalation of the conflict precisely in that area, although – Ferrari pointed out – “it cannot be excluded.” Let is suffice to consider what has happened in Syria, Libya, Iraq. Indeed, many otherwise unconceivable events did occur in the past years.” “Nonetheless I feel optimistic – the Professor added – since I assume that the involved Countries are not – and should not feel – sufficiently strong and independent to wage a war, considering also the implications of an armed conflict of such proportions.”
This is happening ahead of the Pope Francis’ visit to Armenia. “The Papal visit – underlined Prof. Ferrari – has a margin of risk if the conflict remains unsolved until the time of his departure. But I sincerely hope that the worsening of the situation is only temporary, and that reasonableness will prevail on both sides.” “The Pope – the expert said – has significant political influence wherever he goes. In Armenia his popularity is very high, and his trip is expected with great anticipation for the clarity with which he spoke of the Armenian genocide, that was widely covered by media outlets.”