Karabakh Risks Renewed Conflict, Says Intelligence Report

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The risk of renewed hostilities in the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict is on the rise, according to a recent report by the Janes Information Group, a private intelligence-gathering firm.
The analysis cites the current situations in Armenia and Azerbaijan as well as a number of other international developmen’s as possible signs that the South Caucasus is on the verge of renewed conflict.
"The internal situation in Armenia and Azerbaijan and current international developmen’s are having an affect on the frozen status of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and are increasing the risk of renewed military operations," the report said.
The positive assessment of the status quo as one of stability has resulted in the stagnation of the conflict settlement process instead of its progress, it said, pointing to fighting on March 3 between Armenian and Azerbaijani defense forces after Azerbaijani forces attacked an Armenian outpost in Martakert the same evening.
The report explains that the risk of renewed conflict is largely due to the semi-authoritarian structure of both governmen’s.
Referring to the post-election turmoil in Armenia on March 1, the Janes analysis noted that, although Armenia’s military was strong enough to put a stop to opposition protests, the political situation in Armenia will continue to be a challenge for President Serzh Sarkisian.
According to Janes, the authorities in both countries, in order to distract their citizens from internal problems , will heighten the rhetoric of nationalism and bring into focus external military threats posed by the other country.
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev is up for reelection this fall. He has been hightening his war rhetoric by threatening to renew war with Armenia and Karabakh. Last month he pledged to continue Azerbaijan’s military build-up, which he hopes will force the Armenia’s to give up control of Karabakh. Since the beginning of the year, Azerbaijan has raised its projected defense spending in by 53 percent to $2 billion. By comparison, Armenia’s 2008 defense budget is projected at $410 million.

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