Fresh clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan over disputed territory
At least three soldiers have been killed in fresh clashes between Armenian and Azeri forces in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory, undermining the EU's plan to expand gas supplies from Azerbaijan to help eliminate Russian gas imports.
Both sides have accused each other of violating a 2020 Russia-brokered peace deal that ended more than six weeks of conflict over the enclave, internationally recognised as belonging to Azerbaijan but run by ethnic Armenians since 1994. That deal resulted in Armenia ceding territory.
The outbreak of fighting comes mere weeks after the European Commission reached a memorandum of understanding with Azerbaijan on tapping extra gas supply from the Caspian country over the coming years. The renewed conflict "underscores the failure of the EU's mediation efforts" between the two sides, Ophelia Coutts, Russia and FSU analyst at risk intelligence company Verisk Maplecroft said in a research note shared with NGW, noting that the ceasefire deal "looks in danger of unravelling."
"Moscow has been quick to point the finger at Baku as the aggressor. This looks like a deliberate strategy aimed at undermining the EU-Azerbaijan gas supply deal," Coutts said. The clashes are "highly embarrassing for the EU," she said, as "replacing Russian gas with a supply from a country also engaged in an inter-state conflict with its neighbour isn't a fail-proof plan."
A crisis in the Caucasus region would represent a geopolitical win for Russia, she said, as "the resumption of hostilities will distract attention away from Ukraine and provide an opportunity for Moscow to extend its influence in the region.