Nagorno-Karabakh: obstacles to the resolution of the frozen conflict


The enduring deadlock in peace negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh has created a special, “frozen” phase in the conflict cycle. Several cases of skirmishes, escalating in 2016 during the Four-Day War, demonstrate the security threat the conflict represents. Simultaneously, ongoing unsuccessful peace talks and escalations and de-escalations of violence at the line of contact indicate the failure to transform the conflict in either a peaceful or a violent way. This paper seeks to identify conditions contributing to the stalemate of the conflict. The key actors contributing to the conflict’s “frozenness” are the political leadership of Armenia and Azerbaijan and third parties represented by the Minsk Group. The failure to achieve a peaceful transformation is given by political hostilities carried out through negative labelling, uncompromising statements and the self-victimisation of the belligerents. Such activities deepen the grievances within the Azerbaijani and Armenian populaces, which in response to such behaviour does not support any concessions in negotiations. At the same time, the Minsk Group does not provide any concrete model for a peaceful settlement nor does it apply pressure on the belligerents to grant concessions. A violent transformation of the conflict is not possible due to the presence of third parties in the region which deter the belligerents from full-scale war. These findings indicate that in order to avoid the future failure of negotiations and violent escalations at the line of contact, the political leaderships of Armenia and Azerbaijan need to withdraw from mutual hostilities, the negotiation agenda and framework need to be changed and the third parties involved have to actively participate in the peace process.

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  1. 1.

    Interview with Anna Aleksanian (Yerevan, 26 June 2017)

  2. 2.

    Interview with an anonymous representative of an Armenian NGO (Goris, 18 June 2017)

  3. 3.

    Interview with an anonymous Azerbaijani senior diplomat (Baku, 21 September 2016)

  4. 4.

    Interview with an anonymous senior security analyst (Baku, 21 September 2016)

  5. 5.

    Interview with Richard Giragosian (Yerevan, 26 June 2017)

  6. 6.

    Interview with Richard Giragosian (Yerevan, 26 June 2017)


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I would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers and my colleagues Jan Ludvik and Michal Smetana for their helpful and constructive comments and recommendations.


This study received funding from the Charles University Research Centre programme UNCE/HUM/028 (Peace Research Center Prague/Faculty of Social Sciences) and the Ministry of the Interior of the Czech Republic, grant project VI20152019011.

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Bláhová, P. Nagorno-Karabakh: obstacles to the resolution of the frozen conflict. Asia Eur J 17, 69–85 (2019).

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