The likelihood that Armenians and Azerbaijanis will clash over Nagorno-Karabakh in the next twelve months is high. The situation remains tense following fierce fighting in April 2016 that marked the worst bloodshed since the 1994 cease-fire that established the current territorial division.
Nagorno-Karabakh, an autonomous region in Azerbaijan populated mostly by Armenians, sought to break away from central government control in 1988. When Armenia and Azerbaijan gained their independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the region also declared independence. This triggered a full-scale war in which Nagorno-Karabakh forces, with support from Armenia, gained control over most of the autonomous region plus seven additional provinces, totaling 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s geographic area. Tensions have built up steadily over the past six years, as energy-rich Azerbaijan enlarged its military capability, public opposition by Armenians and Azerbaijanis to a compromise settlement grew, and cease-fire violations became commonplace.
During the April 2016 military clashes, there were roughly three hundred and fifty casualties, with more than one hundred military personnel and civilians killed. Azerbaijan deployed tanks, helicopters, and assault drones to recapture two small slices of territory controlled by Nagorno-Karabakh forces. The United States, Russia, and France—co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group responsible for mediating the conflict—used diplomacy to halt the violence. They have been unable, however, to revitalize the peace process.