The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) called for an end to the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh on September 21, but took few concrete steps to bring the conflict to an end.
Use of force undermines the prospect for peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan, speakers in the Security Council warned at the meeting. Representatives of the United States, Turkey, Russia and France all united in their call for a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, which was attacked by Azerbaijan on September 19 in what it dubbed an “anti-terrorist operation.”
Towns and villages have been shelled causing thousands to flee the region in panic. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, have been killed, hundreds have been injured and at least 5,000 refugees from a population of 125,000 have fled the enclave in fear of their lives. Armenian separatists forces in the enclave quickly surrendered after 24 hours of fighting.
“The developments of the past few days should be seen in the context of the broader pattern of regular ceasefire violations. A genuine dialogue between the Government of Azerbaijan and representatives of the region… is the only sustainable way forward,” said Miroslav Jenča, Assistant Secretary-General for Europe, Central Asia and Americas, Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations at the UN, said in a report on the meeting.
In the ensuing discussion at the UN, representatives of Armenia and Azerbaijan traded accusations, while other speakers pressed the need to stop violence, defuse tensions and settle outstanding issues through negotiations.
Jeyhun Bayramov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, held up photos of heavy Armenian military equipment, which he claimed was on Nagorno-Karabakh territory, stressing that such equipment was not within Azerbaijan’s territory for peaceful purposes.
Annalena Baerbock, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, said: “Just at the moment when a glimpse of hope was emerging, when humanitarian supplies were allowed into Nagorno-Karabakh, Baku broke its repeated assurances to refrain from the use of force, causing tremendous suffering to a population already in dire straits.”
Despite the mounting scale of the humanitarian disaster, the western response has been muted. The EU in particular is compromised by a gas deal European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen signed with President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev last year, ignoring the republic's atrocious human rights record.
Turkey is a "brother" ally of Azerbaijan and has fully backed the “anti-terrorist” operation but says it played no active role in the onslaught. Iran is an ally of Armenia and warned Azerbaijan that if its forces come near the Iranian border it will mobilise its forces to protect its sovereignty.
At the same time, Russia, which is responsible for security in the region as the leader of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), has taken little action other than to house refugees in its peacekeepers camp.
Russia's Deputy Ambassador to the UN, Dmitry Polyansky, said that any ceasefire must come with reliable and transparent guarantees of security and the protection of human rights for the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh.
"Truce should be accompanied by reliable and clear guarantees of security and respect of human rights for the population of Nagorno-Karabakh,” he said. "We need to develop a gradual roadmap to integrate the population of Nagorno-Karabakh into the constitutional order of Azerbaijan, with clear guarantees of their rights and security."
Armenia's foreign minister appealed to the UN, saying that unless global powers intervene, Baku might resort to using force against civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh once more, Reuters reported. His Azerbaijani counterpart accused Yerevan of disseminating false information and insisted that Baku had conducted an anti-terrorism operation targeting Yerevan forces.
Armenia denies having any forces in the region and has not mobilised its army or sent any forces to the region, according to the Armenian government. According to social media reports, what military resistance there has been, has been by the Nagorno-Karabakh Self Defence forces, which are badly outnumbered and outgunned by the Azerbaijani forces.
At the UN, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said that the issue at hand was not the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan but rather the rights of the Armenian population in Nagorno-Karabakh to live in dignity and respect, as well as their personal safety.
"It is not the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan that is being called into question ... What is at stake is the possibility for the Armenian people in Nagorno-Karabakh to continue to be able to live in respect of their rights,” she said, as cited by Reuters.
US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, highlighted Azerbaijan's responsibility to ensure that its forces strictly adhere to international law. She also reminded Azerbaijan of its international obligations, emphasising the need to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all individuals across its territories. The US was conducting military exercises with Armenia in Yerevan last week, but went ahead and withdrew its soldiers the day after the conflict began, in line with the set schedule.
Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Burak Akcapar echoed the call for peaceful coexistence, emphasising the desire for all, including Armenians, to live harmoniously on Azerbaijani lands. Turkey expressed support for Azerbaijan's efforts to safeguard its territorial integrity.
Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but its ethnic-Armenian inhabitants have maintained de facto independence since the turbulent years following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Azerbaijan's offensive marks a renewed attempt by Baku to regain control over the region, but it risks escalating an enduring and deeply-rooted conflict. The offensive unfolded shortly after humanitarian aid reached the region, underscoring the complexities and deep-seated tensions surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh.
The EU has so far allocated $500,000 in humanitarian aid for the refugees.