What were the advantages of the ceasefire agreement for Armenia?

When the ceasefire came into force at midnight on May 11-12, 1994, Armenia already came out of the conflict with a victory and succeeded in consolidating its control over Nagorno-Karabakh. Although no sovereign state recognized the independence of NK, including the Republic of Armenia, it created functioning bodies and political institutions for its secessionist group in Nagorno-Karabakh. It is possible to say that the separatist group successfully reached its first aim, independence, without international recognition.[1] In this regard, Thomas de Waal elucidates that, since the ceasefire agreement was signed, “the Armenians have focused on normalizing the status quo and building up a de facto state in the hope that history will eventually ratify their victory and that Nagorno-Karabakh will follow the path of Kosovo to international legitimacy.”[2]

Moreover, Armenia did not only take control of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Lachin region that was connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia but also occupied the entire Kalbajar, Gubatli, Zangilan, and Jabrayil; a significant part of the Fuzuli, Tartar, and Aghdam; and a small portion of the Martuni and Mardakert regions of Azerbaijan. Together with Nagorno-Karabakh, these regions constitute 20% of the internationally-recognized territory of Azerbaijan, which was depopulated entirely by Armenian military forces. Thus, after signing the ceasefire agreement, Armenia was able to create a security buffer zone with the occupied seven provinces of Azerbaijan situated outside Nagorno-Karabakh and had the opportunity to use them as a political tool later in the negotiation process.[3] In this situation, Robert Kocharian stated during the interview with Thomas de Waal: “We seriously began to think about [a ceasefire] when we came to borders where we could seriously organize the defense of Karabakh.”[4]

Furthermore, Armenia knew that occupying further Azerbaijani territories would have a high diplomatic cost. Thus, at the end of 1993, there were already four UN Security Council resolutions demanding that the fighting cease and the immediate withdrawal of the occupying forces from the territory of Azerbaijan. On the other hand, regional powers were also concerned about the conflicting situation. Turkey closed its border with Armenia and deployed its military to the border, while Iran and Russia also warned Armenia about the need to stop the military offensive. The Armenian leadership thus realized that it was not easy to mislead the international community anymore and that the ceasefire was, therefore, preferable for Armenia. Additionally, the ceasefire agreement gave Armenia a chance to strengthen its military forces via establishing two more Russian military bases in its territory,[5] which guaranteed Armenian military control over Nagorno-Karabakh. In addition, the ceasefire of 1994 “gave the Armenian government a short breathing space needed to bring civil order to its towns, lay the basis for a restoration of the economy, and win over foreign friends and aid.”[6]

[1] Cornell, Svante E., “Peace or War? The Prospects for Conflicts in the Caucasus,” The Iranian Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 9, No. 2, 1997, p. 210.

[2] De Waal, Thomas, “Remaking the Nagorno-Karabakh Peace Process,” Survival, Vol. 52, No. 4, 2010, p. 163.

[3] MacFarlane, S. Neil, and Minear, Larry, Humanitarian Action and Politics: The Case of Nagorno-Karabakh (The Thomas J. Watson Jr. Institute for International Studies, 1997), p. 19.

[4] De Waal, Thomas, Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan through Peace and War (New York University Press, 2003), p. 240.

[5] Croissant, Michael P., The Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict: Causes and Implications (Praeger Publisher, 1998), pp. 111-112.

[6] Laitin, David D., and Grigor Suny, Ronald, “Armenia and Azerbaijan: Thinking a way out of Karabakh,” Middle East Policy, Vol. 7, No. 1, 1999, p. 154.