In a sudden and strikingly efficient military offensive launched on 19th September, Azerbaijan asserted a decisive victory over the Republic of Artsakh, an ethnically Armenian-majority autonomous enclave located within its borders. The campaign, which came after a protracted blockade of the vital Lachin Corridor, supplying Artsakh, was notably swift, culminating on 20th September when Artsakh President Samvel Shahramanyan conceded, agreeing to peace on Azerbaijan’s terms.

The geopolitical aftershocks of Azerbaijan’s triumph, enabled by a seemingly minimal exertion, will reverberate through the South Caucasus for the foreseeable future. Notably, tens of thousands of ethnic Armenians, propelled by fears of ethnic cleansing, have fled Artsakh, contributing to a burgeoning humanitarian crisis that stands in stark contrast to the disbanding of the Artsakh Defence Army and the planned dissolution of the separatist government by year-end.

Turkey’s solid support for Azerbaijan’s campaign aligns not only with its established alliance but also accords with a broader strategic vision for the region. Turkey has ardently backed Azerbaijan’s intention to construct the Zangezur Corridor, anticipated to forge stronger cultural and economic ties by granting Azerbaijan unimpeded access to the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and further linking Azerbaijan to eastern Turkey.

Meanwhile, Russia’s decision to abstain from military intervention, despite maintaining a 2,000-strong peacekeeping contingent in Nagorno-Karabakh, reveals a complex web of geopolitical relationships and ambitions. Frustrations with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s leadership and potential prospects for enhancing its partnership with Azerbaijan underpinned Moscow’s restrained approach, facilitating the ceasefire that handed Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan, despite existing ties to Armenia.

Iran, despite its ongoing tensions with Azerbaijan, stemming from its alleged pro-Armenian stance on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue and Azerbaijan’s security collaboration with Israel, has navigated a cautious middle-ground approach to Azerbaijan’s reintegration of Nagorno-Karabakh. Notably, amidst Iran’s expression of concern over the humanitarian plight of ethnic Armenians, Turkey has asserted that Iran has moderated its opposition to the Zangezur Corridor project.

For Western powers, moral dilemmas unfold as potential actions, or lack thereof, are scrutinised on the international stage. Despite strong admonitions and the clear expression of concern over human rights abuses, concrete interventions, such as sanctions, appear improbable given Europe’s energy dependencies on Azerbaijan. The lack of consistent policy in response to the crisis is evident, with NATO and the European Union seemingly lacking tangible leverage to decisively influence the ongoing situation.

The humanitarian crisis emanating from the conflict cannot be understated. With over 65,000 refugees, representing over one-third of Nagorno-Karabakh’s population, seeking sanctuary in Armenia by 28th September, Armenia faces both humanitarian and political turmoil. Prime Minister Pashinyan, now contending with the comprehensive management of refugee inflow amidst mounting criticism, seeks humanitarian assistance from the international community, the delivery and sufficiency of which remain to be seen.

In contrast, Azerbaijan’s assured victory in Nagorno-Karabakh, achieved with unexpected ease, consolidates its position in the region but potentially sets the stage for intricate geopolitical manoeuvring and conflict in the South Caucasus for years ahead.

While Turkey’s ambitions seem somewhat realised through Azerbaijan’s triumph, Russia, Iran, and Western powers are compelled to navigate through a newly altered geopolitical landscape, balancing strategic interests against ethical considerations and international perceptions.

The legacy of Prime Minister Pashinyan, forever marred by the loss of Nagorno-Karabakh, hinges precariously upon his handling of the resettlement and care of displaced ethnic Armenians, establishing a stage where international relations, humanitarian obligations, and domestic politics are inextricably entwined.

The complex unfolding of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict thereby raises questions about international intervention, humanitarian obligations, and the future stability of the South Caucasus, with global eyes watching, awaiting the subsequent moves of regional and international players in this high-stakes geopolitical arena.

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Note: This article provides a general overview and may not cover all aspects of the complex situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. Furthermore, events might have evolved beyond the information available at the time of writing, given the fast-changing nature of geopolitical events.

In an illuminating article published by Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida, a complex, multi-faceted deal in the intricate Syria-Iran-Hezbollah-Russia network is purportedly in the works, potentially escalating the already tense geopolitical climate in the region. The alleged four-way deal, as corroborated by trusted sources, has the potential to heighten threats against both Israel and Ukraine, countries already grappling with their respective security challenges.

If there’s merit to the claim, the arms movement could witness a strategic transfer of weapons from Hezbollah to Syrian regime-supported Arab tribes and further on to Moscow, a move that might appear paradoxical considering Hezbollah’s well-documented proclivity for stockpiling weaponry. Nonetheless, it is argued that such a manoeuvre might enable Hezbollah to offload older munitions while simultaneously acquiring newer, perhaps more advanced Iranian weaponry, thus not only maintaining but potentially upgrading its military capabilities.

This scenario is further complicated by the historical backdrop of arms movement through Syria to Hezbollah, a strategy that Iran has previously leveraged. The unfolding of the Syrian Civil War from 2011 onwards, with Hezbollah’s intervention on behalf of the regime – facilitated by Iranian support, including the deployment of IRGC troops – shifted the geopolitical dynamics slightly, embedding an objective of Iranian entrenchment within the broader framework.

Hezbollah managed not only to benefit from the situation but also firmly establish itself in strategic Syrian locations such as near Aleppo and the Golan. Iran reciprocally expanded its trading axis in Syria, maneuvering weaponry to crucial points like Albukamal, T-4 base, Damascus, and further across the Syrian expanse.

A vital aspect to explore in this convoluted situation is the Quds Force’s leadership, particularly its current leader, Ismail Qaani, who stepped into the role following the 2020 killing of his predecessor, Qasem Soleimani. Qaani, according to a source cited by Al-Jarida, agreed to facilitate the provision of new weapons to Hezbollah via Syria, receiving, in return, a significant portion of its older arms and ammunition to bolster the Arab tribes allied with Syria. These tribes pose a threat to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and are instrumental in expanding the regime’s sway, particularly in eastern Syria. A facet of this arrangement potentially enables Russia to acquire a portion of Hezbollah’s weapons, bolstering its military operations in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

On a parallel trajectory, the alleged deal may facilitate diplomatic and strategic maneuvering between Moscow, Turkey, and Syria. Turkey, having occupied northern Syria and supported Syrian rebels against the SDF, maintains a turbulent relationship with the latter, designating it a “terrorist” entity. As Ankara navigates discussions with Russia, the Syrian regime, and Iran, normalization between Turkey and Syria remains a complex and delicate process, hinging on nuanced demands and historical agreements like the Adana agreement of 1998. However, it appears that Turkey, Iran, and Russia collectively seek to avoid a direct confrontation with Washington, each due to its individual reasons, viewing the empowerment of Arab tribes as a strategically viable means to undermine the SDF without directly instigating conflict.

Moreover, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, in dialogue with Qaani, reportedly expressed that confrontations with Israel have morphed into a new phase, centring upon the conflict over energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean. Thus, Hezbollah’s need for qualitative weaponry, capable of establishing a deterrent balance with Israel, becomes imperative.

This complex web of international relations and strategic deals indicates an elaborate, albeit precarious balance in which entities like Hezbollah stand to benefit, replenishing their weapon caches with more advanced technology, and thereby perpetuating a persistent threat to Israel. Simultaneously, Russia’s benefit from the arrangement is situated in the acquisition of additional arms—albeit how Moscow would navigate the transportation of the weaponry remains unclear. This arrangement, if brought to fruition, is indicative of a recalibration of power dynamics in the region, emphasizing the need for careful observation and strategic engagement from the international community to mitigate potential escalations and protect precarious stabilities.

Turkish air strikes conducted in northern Iraq on Sunday night, as stated by Turkey’s defense ministry, resulted in the “neutralization” of numerous Kurdish militants and the destruction of their depots and shelters. This operation came shortly after a Kurdish group claimed responsibility for a bomb attack in the capital city of Ankara.

On Sunday morning, two assailants detonated a bomb near government buildings in Ankara, resulting in the death of both attackers and the injury of two police officers. The banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group claimed responsibility for this attack.

The ministry reported, “A total of 20 targets were destroyed, consisting of caves, bunkers, shelters, and depots used by the separatist terrorist organization.” The term “neutralized” was used to indicate that many militants were killed in these operations. These airstrikes were carried out in the Metina, Hakurk, Qandil, and Gara regions of northern Iraq at 9 p.m. (1800 GMT), and the ministry emphasized that all necessary precautions were taken to prevent harm to civilians and the environment.

Earlier on Sunday, CCTV footage showed a vehicle pulling up to the main gate of the Interior Ministry, with one of its occupants quickly approaching the building before being engulfed in an explosion. The other individual remained on the street. One attacker was killed in the blast, while authorities eliminated the other. This explosion sent shockwaves through a district housing ministerial buildings and the nearby parliament, marking the first attack in the capital in several years and coinciding with the opening of the new parliamentary session.

The ANF News website, closely associated with the PKK, cited the group as claiming responsibility for the attack, carried out by a team from its Immortals Battalion unit. The PKK has been classified as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States, and the European Union. It initiated an insurgency in south-eastern Turkey in 1984, resulting in the deaths of over 40,000 people in the ongoing conflict.

The bomb explosion on Ataturk Boulevard was the first such incident in Ankara since 2016 when a series of deadly attacks plagued the country.

Subsequent videos depicted a Renault cargo vehicle parked at the scene, with shattered windows and open doors, amidst debris and surrounded by soldiers, ambulances, fire trucks, and armored vehicles.

A senior Turkish official informed a western news agency that the attackers had hijacked the vehicle and killed its driver in Kayseri, a city located 260 kilometres (161 miles) southeast of Ankara, before executing the attack.

During a series of violent incidents in 2015 and 2016, Kurdish militants, ISIS, and other groups either claimed responsibility for or were implicated in a series of attacks in Turkish cities.

Furthermore, the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq in the mid-2010s had significant repercussions for Turkey. The porous border between Turkey and its troubled neighbours facilitated the flow of foreign fighters and logistical support to ISIS, leading to a spate of deadly attacks within Turkey, including bombings in Istanbul and Ankara.

Turkey’s fight against terrorism has been multifaceted, involving both domestic and international efforts. The country has undertaken military operations, intelligence sharing, and law enforcement initiatives to combat various extremist groups. Additionally, Turkey has called for greater international cooperation in addressing the root causes of terrorism, including socioeconomic factors and ideological extremism.

Throughout its history, Turkey has demonstrated resilience in the face of terrorism, and its security forces have worked tirelessly to protect its citizens and maintain stability. However, the threat of terrorism remains a persistent challenge that requires ongoing vigilance and cooperation with the international community and especially regional allies.

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In a significant diplomatic manoeuvre, Turkey has expressed crucial support for Ukraine’s bid to join NATO, a development greeted with caution by US President Joe Biden, citing the divisive nature of the move among alliance members amid Russia’s invasion.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced the promising result following his talks with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Istanbul, as the conflict marked its 500th day on Saturday. The Ukrainian leader lauded Turkey’s consistent support for his country’s territorial sovereignty and hoped that their united efforts could further contribute to peace and stability.

On the sidelines of the meeting, the two leaders also signed military production agreements, including the manufacture of drones. Zelenskiy extended an invitation to Turkey to partake in the massive task of rebuilding and transforming war-torn Ukraine.

Although the meeting was under the watchful eye of the Kremlin, which has been making diplomatic strides to nurture relations with Turkey, Erdogan confirmed his unwavering support for Ukraine’s NATO aspiration. “There is no doubt that Ukraine deserves membership of NATO,” he said in a joint press briefing.

Nonetheless, President Biden expressed reservations about the timing, during a CNN interview aired on Friday. He argued that the current ongoing conflict could escalate the situation, putting the entire NATO alliance in a state of war with Russia.

Next month, Erdogan is set to brief Russian President Vladimir Putin on these negotiations during his visit to Turkey – the first since the invasion began. Their discussion will encompass potential prisoner exchanges, an area where Erdogan has proven effective in the past, and the status of the Black Sea grain deal crucial to Ukraine’s exports.

As anticipation builds for the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius, leaders are expected to affirm Ukraine’s potential membership and strategize on strengthening its ties with the alliance, according to NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg. His strong words emphasised NATO’s unity and Russia’s futile aggression.

However, the path to NATO membership remains complex for Ukraine. The US national security adviser Jake Sullivan stated that further steps are required before Kyiv can be officially welcomed into the NATO fold.

As the conflict drags on, President Zelenskiy is vigorously campaigning across Europe for more powerful weapons to bolster a sluggish counteroffensive against entrenched Russian forces. Despite human rights criticism, the Ukrainian president appreciated the controversial US decision to supply banned cluster munitions, describing them as a “timely, broad, and much-needed” measure.

In other news, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials reported significant progress inspecting several areas of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine. Contrary to previous reports of explosives, the IAEA found no such indications, though they were unable to visit the facility’s rooftops, where alleged explosive devices were suspected. Both Ukraine and Russia continue to exchange accusations about potential threats to Europe’s largest nuclear plant.

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Iran is anticipated to secure membership of Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO), an influential regional entity, next week. This assertion comes from Sergey Lavrov, the Foreign Minister of Russia, and is expected to bring Iran into closer cooperation with countries such as China, Russia, and a host of Central Asian nations.

Mr Lavrov made the announcement on Friday, during the inauguration of an SCO centre in Moscow. “The full membership of Iran will be approved at the meeting of heads of state on July 4,” he stated.

Known as the globe’s largest defence and security organisation, the SCO consists of eight countries including China, Russia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia currently hold observer status.

The Russian Foreign Minister also shared insights into various geopolitical issues in a news conference. He addressed the operations of the Wagner Group in Africa, the 2018 alleged poisoning of a defector, and recent developments in Ukraine.

Mr Lavrov criticised Western countries for what he termed as “brazen pressure” applied on African and Latin American nations, coercing them into siding with sanctions against Russia due to its involvement in the Ukrainian conflict.

Discussing the role of the Wagner Group, a private military company reportedly linked to Russia, he stated that it would be the prerogative of African countries to continue their engagement with the group.

Recent tensions involving the Wagner Group escalated into a brief rebellion, which was suppressed last weekend. The outfit, commanded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, operates in several African nations including Mali and the Central African Republic.

Mr Lavrov refuted allegations of deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure in Ukraine by Russia’s armed forces. He pointed the finger at Ukraine, accusing them of positioning military resources near civilian areas like schools and residential buildings.

The Foreign Minister further rebutted claims by Ukraine and its Western allies that Russia was endangering the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, accusing Kyiv of spreading “pure lies.”

In addition, he mentioned recent enquiries from Russia to the UK about the location of Sergei and Yuliya Skripal, a former double agent for Britain and his daughter, who the UK alleges were poisoned by Russian agents in Salisbury in 2018 – a claim Moscow consistently denies.

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