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What’s new(s)? La revue de presse anglophone #1 – 16/10/2020

Written by on 16 octobre 2020

What´s New(s)? La revue de presse anglophone – Erik Ruiz Martín & Nadine Vermeulen

This weekly broadcast series presents you the European news from different angles and perspectives. Which events and developments have made the news, and how? Each week we discuss one topic which has been reported by the press in various countries across the continent, taking a closer look at different writings and quotes. 

Topic of this week: Nagorno-Karabakh, a complex conflict explained.

You’ll find the script below :

It has been more than two weeks that the tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region escalated, resulting in a period of intense violence that was supposed to end with a ceasefire agreement last weekend. Even during the ceasefire, heavy gunfire could be heard from Stepanakert, as Pablo González, the Spanish journalist reporting from the region flagged on twitter.
From Paris and Brussels, we present you What’s New(s)?

Azerbaijan and Armenia have released conflicting information, starting, according to euronews, a ‘blamegame’ on what happened, how and when. Have we also seen this division in the European press?

Not to that extent, although we could distinguish some different angles. Most newspapers in various EU countries have dedicated at least some words to for explaining the historical context.
According to Politico “A lot of the blame rests with Joseph Stalin.” It was the former Soviet leader that placed the majority-Armenian region Nagorno-Karabakh under the ruling of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. The origin of the current conflict can be traced back to the 1980s, when nationalist forces on both sides dragged the country into a 6-year long war. Violence was ended with the signing of a peace agreement in 1994 that brought relative stability for decades. The current escalations
are marked by the press as ‘the deadliest since then’.

The interference of foreign actors, including Turkey was one of the aspects that received considerate attention. How has the role of this giant connecting Europe with Asia been perceived in the European press?

France 24 analyses the ‘flexing of Turkish muscles’ within the broader intention of Erdogan to increase its footprint worldwide. According to Marion Sendker from the German newspaper Die Welt, the conflict comes as a ‘gift for Erdogan’. While Politico also positions Turkey’s unusually strong rhetoric in the Caucasus as part of Erdogan’s strategy to reshape Turkey into a political force across the region, it also mentions the risks of taking a strong position, thereby citing Richard Giragosian, who states that “Turkey’s effort to insert itself in the conflict may backfire.” It could push the young Armenian government back into overdependence on Russia, and it could be an opportunity for Russia to deploy peacekeepers in the region.

Okay, so it is clear that the role of Turkey as an increasingly important actor has caught the eye of the media. How do they describe the actions of opposing ‘senior player’ Russia, that seems to be keen to achieve a peace deal, considering its historical interest in the region and good relations with both Armenia and Azerbaijan?

The fact that Russia as a main actor was responsible for the ceasefire agreement put in place last weekend, was underlined by various European newspapers. Le Monde defined the agreement as “the first bit of hope since the conflict escalated end September.”
Dutch newspaper NRC however stresses that the conflict is revealing the impotence of Russia as an important actor in the region. The fact that the ceasefire was soon interrupted shows that the country fears to lose its grip, stated Toon Beemsterboer and Eva Cukier. According to Michael Safi in the Guardian, there are fears Russia could still be dragged into the conflict, should it escalate, considering its treaty that calls to assist Armenia should its sovereignty be threatened.

And how about Europe’s own role in the conflict and peace-negotiations?

German newspaper Der Spiegel and Deutsche Welle, France24, and RTBF were all citing the declaration by the High Representative on Sunday, who declared that the EU is ‘extremely concerned’ about the ceasefire violations and the continuing violence. According to María Sahuquillo in Spanish newspaper El País, Europe’s concerns are also triggered because the region is an important energy corridor for the European market, with the pipeline inaugurated last year being situated very close to the front line, avoiding dependency on Russia.

And, after the violation of the peace-agreement and in the context of continuing violence, is there still some optimism in the press for a potential solution?

Well, for the moment not really. “Reports of fresh shelling dent ceasefire hopes” reported the BBC. According to El País, the risks of the escalations converting into a regional conflict are pretty high. Politico confirms, stating that “The Nagorno-Karabakh clashes have the potential to draw in larger powers”.


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