In July, the military confrontation between Azerbaijan and Armenia for the first time escalated not along the confrontation line in Nagorno Karabakh but at the state border between the two countries. And now it has shifted abroad. Many countries have witnessed manifestations in support of this or another side, which grew into fistfights. In Moscow alone, the police detained 13 people after the scuffle between Azerbaijani and Armenian natives in the southeast of the capital, on the night of July 24. Authorities deployed the Russian guard and special police force, while the community representatives accused each other of provocations. Although the situation on the front is gradually stabilizing, the increased clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani communities are unnerving.
Clashes in Moscow occurred right after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with the representatives of both communities, calling them for peace. Despite his efforts to reconcile the parties, the fistfights in the capital city have become an expected continuation of processes that earlier spilled over to other countries where there are Armenian and Azerbaijani communities. On July 22, Belgian police used water jets to drive Armenians out of the territory of Azerbaijan’s diplomatic mission and detained 17 people during the unrest.
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov has already urged to reinforce the protection of the country’s establishments and citizens following the clashes in Belgium and outside the country’s general consulate building in Los Angeles. In the United States, the large-scale action, which grew into classes, like in Brussels, was organized by members of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). Los Angeles accounts for nearly half a million Armenian natives, and country’s prime minister Nikol Pashinyan repeatedly called this Californian city ‘the American capital of Armenian diaspora.’
Azerbaijanis, whose number in Los Angeles is lower than of Armenians, formed a ‘human shield’ outside the general consulate in Brentwood, a quiet and prestigious area. There were 70 of them against around 3,000 Armenians, according to one of the organizers of the demonstrations from ANCA’s western council Alex Galitsky. Police had to interfere. Los Angeles policeman Michael Lopez said one of the officers was injured, and one participant of the action was arrested on suspicion of attacking the law enforcers.
Thousands of Armenians against tens of Azerbaijanis. It is not bravery, manhood or heroism that you did. It is shame for all Armenian nation. You wrote your own shameful history. Shame on you. #shameonyouallpic.twitter.com/eOK6SQz844
Experts say that the thoughtless statements of Los Angeles officials, who seek to win the votes of the Armenian diaspora, added to the aggravation and promoted the escalation. The human rights activists and lobby groups of Armenia have long been advocating their stance among the US legislators. In line with the documents of the Federal Election Commission, in 2008 Armenian Political Action Committees allocated around $200,000 for various actions during the election cycle, and those figures further grew.
Nir Alon/ZUMAPRESS.com/Global Look Press
The actions of the Azerbaijani consulate employees played their role in the events in Los Angeles since they allowed their compatriots to respond to the counter-demonstrations, instead of ignoring them.
On July 21, 2020 #Armenians surrounded the building of the Azerbaijani consulate in the city of #LosAngeles and held a protest against Azerbaijan with aggressive and provocative slogans.Thousands of Armenians aggressively attacked 50 Azerbaijanis. pic.twitter.com/2faV4p3FxG
Earlier, the Armenian natives in the Hague rallied outside the local embassy of Azerbaijan.
They demanded that Azerbaijani military unilaterally stop hostilities, launched in response to Armenia’s shelling of Tovuz.
A similar action took place in the Moldovan capital. On July 22 morning, the Congress of Azerbaijanis of Moldova took to streets in Chisinau to support Baku’s stance, because most countries recognize Nagorno Karabakh as a territory of Azerbaijan. Hardly had the march started, dozens of Armenian community representatives living in Moldova tried to block the rally. It led to clashes between the two sides, forcing local police to use tear gas.
Before that, Azerbaijanis and Armenians clashed in the center of London. One suffered as a result. Both diasporas accuse each other.
Though further confrontation on the border seems to have been avoided, the fact of the fight between diasporas abroad sets serious challenges before Baku and Yerevan. After Pashinyan spoiled relations with CSTO two years ago, this organization does not rush to resolve the conflict. Russia, which is considered the mediator between Armenia and Azerbaijan, in fact, has not so many levers of pressure on any of the sides. These conditions increase the risk of escalating the smoldering conflict around Nagorno Karabakh, though the recent events are not directly linked to it.
The fact that the armed confrontation between Yerevan and Baku spilled over to Moscow and capitals of western countries gives the hope for the soonest de-escalation. Though for the United States and Europe, Armenia and Azerbaijan are a sort of periphery in their foreign policy, no one in Russia and West is interested in the escalation of inter-ethnic conflicts in their territory. Brussels and Washington may soon make statements urging to end the confrontation.