Shifts in Territorial Discourse over Southern Armenia
On November 16, 2021, clashes erupted between Armenian and Azerbaijani armed forces near the town of Sisian in southern Armenia, in the province of Siunik. This episode of fighting was notable as the worst altercation since the end of the Second Karabakh War of 2020. The Armenian side reported six soldiers killed and 13 taken captive, with 24 missing, while seven killed and ten wounded was the official count from Azerbaijan. Russian mediation resulted in a halt to the hostilities.
What happened in Siunik – indeed, what has been happening across that border region since May, 2021 – is directly related to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh has numerous complexities. One is the inter-play between claimed borders and effective control. The unrecognised authorities in Stepanakert claimed the territory of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) of Soviet Azerbaijan, plus the Shahoumyan region to the north. Following the cease-fire in 1994, though deprived of some slivers of NKAO territory in the east and north-east, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic or Artsakh had at the same time effective control, in whole or in part, over seven additional districts of what used to be Soviet Azerbaijan proper – the areas marked in light beige on the map below outside the lines of the former NKAO.