Seven years have passed since an unprecedented escalation of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict that was later dubbed the April War or Four Day War.
In early April 2016, the silence of the night was broken by massive artillery bombardments caused by Armenia’s military provocations, namely the shelling of the Azerbaijani villages and civilian settlements located close to the so-called line of contact.
The clashes lasted from April 1 through April 5, 2016, and resulted in the deaths of hundreds. As a result of the Four-Day War, Azerbaijan liberated a total of about 2,000 hectares (approximately 5,000 acres) of land, including strategic hills and three villages, which were occupied by Armenia during the First Karabakh war in the early 1990s. After the April War, the government of Azerbaijan launched a two-phase revival campaign in liberated Jojug Marjanli to rebuild the village’s infrastructure as well as residential houses, a school, a hospital, and a kindergarten. Over 100 IDP families returned to their native lands.
The April War has become an unexpected reminder of the full-scale war, which broke out shortly after Azerbaijan and Armenia became independent following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The mass hostilities between the two countries broke out in 1991, spanning Azerbaijan’s Karabakh (Garabagh) region, and lasted until a ceasefire in 1994. As a result, Armenia occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territories. Over 30,000 ethnic Azerbaijanis were killed, nearly 4,000 went missing, and one million were expelled from those lands in a brutal ethnic cleansing policy conducted by Armenia. Armenia failed to comply with all four legally binding resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council, which demanded the immediate withdrawal of the occupying forces from the Azerbaijani lands and the return of internally displaced Azerbaijanis to their native lands.
The April War was considered an unprecedented escalation of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict since the 1994 ceasefire — but everything has changed after the latest outbreak of hostilities.
On September 27, 2020, Armenia’s forces deployed in the occupied Azerbaijani lands shelled military positions and civilian settlements of Azerbaijan. The attacks triggered the Azerbaijani forces to take immediate counter-offensive measures for pushing back the assault.
The war ended in a tripartite statement signed on November 10, 2020, by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia. By this time, Azerbaijani forces liberated more than 300 settlements, including the cities of Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli, and Shusha, from nearly 30-year-long illegal Armenian occupation. Armenia also returned the occupied Aghdam, Kalbajar, and Lachin districts to Azerbaijan by December 1, 2020, as part of the obligations it took under the deal.
Shortly after the war, the Azerbaijani authorities voiced readiness and determination to launch negotiations with Armenia that would ultimately bring the long-awaited peace to the region. In February 2022, Baku submitted a proposal containing five basic principles to Armenia. These principles highlight the key issues related to the peace negotiations between the two countries, including mutual recognition of respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, inviolability of internationally recognized borders; mutual confirmation of the absence of territorial claims against each other; obligation to refrain in interstate relations from undermining the security of each other; delimitation and demarcation of the state border; and unblocking of the transportation and other communications.
However, the process suffered major setbacks due to Armenia’s demands, including so-called “rights and security” for nearly 25,000 Armenians living in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, in addition to avoiding fulfilling its obligations under the Trilateral statement, such as the withdrawal of its armed formations from the Azerbaijani territories.