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Will a Russian-Brokered Deal End the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict?

The peace deal greatly favors Azerbaijan, and puts Russia in the driver’s seat.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
Armenians protest against the country's agreement to end fighting with Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region outside the parliament in Yerevan on November 10, 2020.
Armenians protest against the country's agreement to end fighting with Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region outside the parliament in Yerevan on November 10, 2020. Karen Minasyan / AFP

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Armenia and Azerbaijan agree to a Russian-brokered deal to end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the NLD claims a major victory in Myanmar’s election, and Peru’s president is impeached.

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Armenia and Azerbaijan agree to a Russian-brokered deal to end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the NLD claims a major victory in Myanmar’s election, and Peru’s president is impeached.

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Under Pressure, Armenia Gives Up the Fight in Nagorno-Karabakh

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced early Tuesday morning that he had signed a deal with Azerbaijan and Russia to end the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.

In a social media post, Pashinyan said he made the decision based on “an in-depth analysis of the military situation” and that it was “unspeakably painful for me personally and for our people.” Pashinyan’s not-quite-surrender was not enough to placate the thousands of protesters who took to the streets of Armenia’s capital Yerevan in shock at his capitulation. Angry citizens stormed government buildings, some looking for Pashinyan himself, as his nameplate was ripped from his office door.

The move comes after Azerbaijani forces captured the strategic town of Shusha, also known as Shushi, over the weekend, making the de facto Nagorno-Karabkah capital, Stepanakert, extremely vulnerable. Arayik Harutyunyan, leader of the Nagorno-Karabkah region said he had accepted Pashinyan’s decision “to end the war as soon as possible.”

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev confirmed the news while meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Aliyev, who has belittled peace efforts in recent weeks, said the deal was due to Baku’s “iron fist.”

What’s in the deal. As part of the trilateral agreement, both sides agree to halt their advances, which, considering Azerbaijan’s gains over recent weeks, effectively hands Azerbaijan back much of the land lost in its conflict with Armenia over two decades ago. Armenia’s military has been ordered to withdraw from the region, with Russian peacekeepers taking their place for a period of five years. The United Nations will oversee the return to the region of those Azerbaijanis displaced in the 1990s, and Armenia must open a route within the country to allow Azerbaijan access to its Nakhchivan exclave.

Although Turkey—a firm backer of Azerbaijan—is not party to the agreement, it is set to agree today to run a joint monitoring center alongside Russia to oversee the cease-fire, according to Russian news agency Interfax.

Open wounds. While this round of conflict only lasted six weeks, the wounds are permanent. On Nov. 2, U.N. Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet expressed her concern that war crimes and other crimes against humanity were taking place, citing videos posted on social media and reports of military targeting of civilians. As neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan are parties to the International Criminal Court, any crimes committed in this brief war are likely to go unpunished. In FP, Joshua Kucera reports from Yerevan on renewed fears of ethnic cleansing in the region.

What We’re Following Today

Esper out. The U.S. Department of Defense has a new leader today after U.S. President Donald Trump fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper by tweet on Monday. There were already rumors of Esper’s dismissal last week, when news broke that he had already prepared a letter of resignation prior to the presidential election. Esper is succeeded by Christopher Miller, who is the sixth man to lead the Pentagon under Trump, and the fourth to do so in an acting capacity. FP’s Jack Detsch and Robbie Gramer report that Esper may not be the last high-profile name on the chopping block; CIA Director Gina Haspel may be next.

NLD claim big win in Myanmar. Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy has declared a resounding victory in Myanmar’s general election, with the party on track to outstrip the 390 upper and lower house seats it won in 2015. NLD’s claims come from internal party figures, as the country’s electoral commission has yet to publish official results. The European Union has congratulated Myanmar on its election while also criticizing the disenfranchisement of up to a million voters, including its Rohingya and Rakhine minorities.

Vizcarra impeached in Peru. Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra is to leave office after the country’s congress successfully impeached him on charges of corruption. Vizcarra was accused of accepting bribes for public works contracts during his time as a governor. Although he denies the allegations, he said on Monday that he would “leave the presidential palace today.” Manuel Merino, the head of the minority party Popular Action, will assume the presidency until a new one is chosen in April 2021.

Keep an Eye On

No to Joe. Joe Biden’s victory in the U.S. presidential election is already reverberating in Eastern Europe where Estonian Interior Minister Mart Helme has been forced to resign from his post after making comments critical of Biden and his son, Hunter. In a radio interview on Sunday, Helme said that Biden and his son were corrupt. Helme’s son, Martin, is a member of parliament and had also been under fire for criticism of Biden and claiming that last Tuesday’s election was rigged. The younger Helme survived a no-confidence vote in parliament on Monday. Writing in FP, Amy Mackinnon and Augusta Saraiva run down the list of world leaders who have yet to acknowledge a Biden victory.

Macron wants tougher line on migrants. A draft declaration from the European Union would call on migrants to learn the local language and support “the integration of one’s children” in their home countries. The declaration has been drafted by France, Austria, and Germany and is expected to be made at a meeting of EU home affairs ministers on Friday. The declaration also calls for putting EU funds toward religious education in Muslim communities. Other EU governments have expressed apprehension at the proposed statement.

Odds and Ends

Yutaka Umeda, the mayor of Yamato in Japan’s Kumamoto prefecture, has become an overnight celebrity in Japan after it was pointed out that the characters in his name can be pronounced to sound like “Jo Baiden.” Umeda’s name features the Kanji Chinese characters relating to “plum” and “rice field,” usually pronounced as “ume” and “da,” but can also pronounced as “bai” and “den.” The single character for Yutaka is commonly pronounced as “jo.”

“It feels as though I’ve also won the election,” Umeda said on Sunday. Umeda’s newfound fame resembles the notoriety enjoyed by the city of Obama, in Fukui prefecture, which received a boost in interest following the election of its namesake in 2008.

That’s it for today.

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Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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