Despite tremendous losses in human lives and materiel, morale continues to be high among Karabakh warriors. It is not hyperbole when Armenian soldiers claim that they are fighting for a historic piece of homeland, while Azerbaijanis are fighting to grab territory that does not belong to them.
While war has been raging since September 27, there have been three attempts for humanitarian ceasefires. The first was initiated by President Vladimir Putin of Russia on October 10; the next by President Emmanuel Macron of France on October 17 and the third by the United States on October 25.
The three co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group have failed to achieve a ceasefire. After the third attempt, President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan announced that the fighting will continue until all Armenian forces withdraw from Karabakh — an ultimatum for capitulation for the Armenian side. And still, the Minsk Group issues vague statements blaming both sides.
Aliyev himself has lost all control of his government and army and therefore is unable to defy the OSCE co-chairs and the international community on his own; his arrogance is borrowed from Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The latter last week attended a funeral in an Armenian church in Istanbul, to pay his respects to the only Armenian member of his AK Party, Markar Yessayan. During the funeral service, Patriarch Sahag Mashalyan managed to sneak into his eulogy the topic of the war in Karabakh. At the end of the service, before leaving the church, Erdogan made a significant statement: “Turkey has the same right for a voice in the Karabakh conflict as Russia does.”
This statement provides the key to the puzzle. At each attempt for a ceasefire, Turkey has tried to impose itself, first as a mediator and then as a candidate to provide its military as a potential peacekeeping force, and finally it has become a player on the battlefield as a spoiler. It will continue to remain in that role until it achieves its goal, but so far it has managed to create a stalemate, blocking Russia from having a totally free hand in the Caucasus.