Azerbaijan’s strategic goal appears more ambitious – analysis

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As fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan accelerates, Baku has focused on two districts, Fuzuli and Jabrayil, Eurasia Net reported on Wednesday, to take back Azerbaijani territory that was overtaken by Armenian forces during the conflict in the 1990s.

The two districts are “the two main priorities for this campaign,” Azerbaijani analyst Fuad Shahbaz told Eurasia Net. The districts are both part of historically Azerbaijani territory, and are easier to capture due to their non-mountainous landscape.

The Fuzuli and Jabrayil districts were home to more than 600,000 Azerbaijanis before the Armenian occupation, it said. Currently the region remains almost completely without settlements, as Yerevan “sought to leave itself the option of a peace deal that would return those areas to Baku’s control,” said a 2019 report by the International Crisis Group.

The need for land has increased over time, forcing settlement on the districts, and use of the land as farms.

The current conflict, however, appears to be more ambitious. “I believe this time it will be large scale operation,” head of Azerbaijani government-affiliated think tank Centre of Analysis of International Relations Farid Shafiyev told Eurasia Net. With Armenia abandoning the Madrid Principles framework for diplomatic talks, he continued, “there is not much prospect for negotiation.”

Outside of Fuzuli and Jabrail, the landscape is worse for Azerbaijan as Armenian forces hold higher ground. However, the geography you see “shows that neither side can get a core demand,” Carnegie Europe senior associate Thomas de Waal said in a tweet, “without a commitment to co-exist peacefully with the other side and an international peacekeeping or police force.”

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