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Armenia and Azerbaijan on the brink of war as Nagorno-Karabakh anniversary stirs up old wounds

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On September 2, 2023, Armenia celebrated the 32nd anniversary of the declaration of independence of Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed region that is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but has been controlled by ethnic Armenians since the early 1990s. The celebration was met with anger and condemnation by Azerbaijan, which considers the region as its integral territory and accuses Armenia of violating the peace deal that ended the 44-day war in 2020. The war, which broke out in September 2020, resulted in more than 6,000 deaths and thousands of displaced people. It also changed the balance of power in the region, as Azerbaijan, backed by Turkey, managed to recapture large swathes of land that had been occupied by Armenian forces since the 1990s. The war ended with a trilateral agreement brokered by Russia on November 9, 2020, which stipulated that Armenia would withdraw from some areas surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh, while Azerbaijan would halt its military offensive and allow Russian peacekeepers to be deployed in the region. The agreement also envisaged the opening of a corridor between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, as well as between Azerbaijan and its exclave of Nakhchivan.  However, the implementation of the agreement has faced many challenges and obstacles, as both sides have accused each other of violating its terms and conditions. Armenia has claimed that Azerbaijan has continued to advance its troops into Armenian territory and has refused to provide maps of landmines planted in the areas it regained during the war. Azerbaijan has alleged that Armenia has failed to withdraw its forces from some regions and has supported the separatist regime in Nagorno-Karabakh, which declared itself as the Republic of Artsakh and vowed to continue its struggle for recognition and security.  The tension between the two countries escalated on November 16, 2021, when a clash erupted on the eastern border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Armenia said that some of its troops had been killed and captured by Azerbaijani forces, while Azerbaijan said that two of its soldiers were injured. Both sides blamed each other for initiating the attack and violating the ceasefire. The situation was defused after a Russian-brokered truce was agreed later that day.  The international community has expressed its concern over the rising tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan and has called for dialogue and cooperation to achieve a lasting peace in the region.

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