RCDS Insights: The Armenia-Azerbaijan Peace Process Post-Ethnic Cleansing

RCDS Insights: The Armenia-Azerbaijan Peace Process Post-Ethnic Cleansing





Following the full-scale ethnic cleansing of Nagorno-Karabakh, the key stakeholders in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict are advocating for the signing of a peace treaty between the parties.




In spring 2022, Azerbaijan sought a peace treaty to translate its military victories in the 2020 war into diplomatic and political gains. Armenia responded with its own proposals, emphasizing the security and rights of the Armenian population in Nagorno-Karabakh. However, Azerbaijan firmly refused to discuss Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, asserting that the conflict was resolved and these matters were its domestic concern.

These differences stalled negotiations for several months. The situation changed when Azerbaijan attacked Armenia in September 2022, forcing Armenia to set aside the Nagorno-Karabakh issue in the broader normalization process with Azerbaijan. Western mediators, namely the U.S. and the EU, proposed a dialogue format between Baku and Stepanakert to address concerns related to Nagorno-Karabakh. Yet, significant differences remained, as Armenia insisted on an internationally mediated format between Baku and Stepanakert before signing any document, a notion Baku rejected.

As a result, while Nagorno-Karabakh was formally removed from the Armenia-Azerbaijan normalization track, issues related to Nagorno-Karabakh continued to be the main obstacle in advancing the peace treaty agenda.

What (Not) to Expect


Although the Western-mediated peace process led to the complete depopulation of Nagorno-Karabakh, the U.S. and the EU are still pushing for a peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan. While Nagorno-Karabakh’s removal as a point of contention is significant, several issues remain. Azerbaijan maintains a maximalist stance, particularly concerning border delimitation and demarcation, and refuses to accept a single map as the basis for the delimitation process. 


Azerbaijan is also pushing to exchange the two countries’ Soviet-era enclaves, raising concerns for local populations and the potential for Baku to gain further leverage over Armenia. It is also unlikely that Azerbaijan will withdraw its forces from the parts of the Republic of Armenia, which it occupied in 2021 and 2022.


Another issue is Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s efforts to distance himself from Western-mediated formats. For instance, Azerbaijan declined to participate in previously planned multilateral talks in Granada, Spain. Subsequently, on October 8, in Tbilisi, Aliyev proposed initiating bi- or trilateral talks in Georgia. This move is evidently aimed at reducing Western involvement in the negotiation process.

On October 12, Aliyev attended a session of the Council of Heads of Security Bodies and Special Services of CIS member states in Bishkek. During this session, he criticized the Granada talks as “unclear” and expressed disapproval of Armenia's rejection of the Russian-proposed meeting between the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Bishkek. Aliyev questioned Armenia's readiness for peace.


Considering the weak international reaction to the ethnic cleansing of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, Aliyev may perceive an opportunity to pursue further concessions from Armenia through either the use of force or the threat of it. With the absence of substantial deterrents on the ground, Azerbaijan faces few constraints to escalate.