Nagorno-Karabakh: Decades Old Conflict Resurfaces Between Armenia and Azerbaijan

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The brutal conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh has resurfaced in recent weeks, bringing devastation to many communities in the region.

Nagorno-Karabakh, located in the Caucasus Mountains, is internationally recognized to be part of Azerbaijan, but is politically controlled by an Armenian ethnic majority. Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a war over the Nagorno-Karabakh region in the late 1980s through the early 1990s, but the animosities between the two go back centuries. The resurgence of the violent conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh in recent weeks has already taken the lives of many, and threatens to take many more. Azerbaijan has sent ground forces and armed drones into the region and Armenia, which is outgunned, has put conscripts and volunteers into the fight. The use of drones in this recent conflict, which kill civilians indiscriminately, has marked a deadly difference from the war in the 80s and 90s.

The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region has deep roots. To learn more about the dynamics of the conflict, check out the Armenia/Azerbaijan/Nagorno Karabakh negotiation role-play simulation, available from the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center (TNRC), which brings together influential private citizens from both sides of the conflict and attempts to involve them in an interactive dialogue intended to change relationships among the participants.

Armenia/Azerbaijan/Nagorno Karabakh – A Peace Process Simulation

This complex 13-party, two-team facilitated negotiation is between private citizens from both sides of the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. This exercise is based on real-life efforts undertaken by several U.S.-based non-governmental organizations to bring together influential individuals from countries entangled in bitter ethnic wars. Each party in this negotiation has experienced more or less directly the war that has engulfed the region. Not only do the participants have fresh memories of the wrongdoings by the other side, but they also carry with them a sense of historical injustice for the real or exaggerated harms perpetrated by the other nation. Each group does not realize, however, that the other one carries a different and incompatible view of the history of the region. These different views are a product of diverging versions of history perpetrated through the educational system and word-of-mouth learning.

The parties must deal with the issues of fairness, historical injustice, historical blaming and, if possible, the power of apologizing. They have to grapple with the difficulty of moving beyond the circle of hate, which they have been conditioned to nurture. They have to face the decision of whether to acknowledge the pain and suffering on the other side and whether to end the blaming game, becoming able to make plans for the future with the perceived “enemy.” Finally, they must engage in the process of building coalitions not only within their own group but perhaps also with the other. Major lessons of this exercise include:

  • The importance of understanding the human dimension in ethnic conflicts and the difficulty of proposing solutions without grasping the complexity of the relationship.
  • The application and study of the major negotiation techniques in settings that do not involve negotiating, e.g., active listening.
  • The role of partisan perceptions, prejudices, and blaming in ethnic conflicts, and ways to move beyond them.

To learn more about this exercise, and the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, download a free Armenia/Azerbaijan/Nagorno-Karabakh Teacher’s Package sample.

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TNRC negotiation exercises and teaching materials are designed for educational purposes. They are used in college classroom settings or corporate training settings; used by mediators and facilitators seeking to introduce their clients to a process or issue; and used by individuals who want to enhance their negotiation skills and knowledge.

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