International media coverage of the conflagration in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh)


International media coverage of the conflagration in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh)

Text: Tigran Zakaryan


The recent unprecedented flare up of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) as a result of the Azerbaijani assault provoked a swift reaction from all quarters. International media, which soon grasped the unprecedented scale of the Azerbaijani assault on Karabakh, was quick to publish news and analytical materials on the conflict, its background and its possible fallouts.    

Generally – with the flagrant exception of Turkish media, which were unconditionally on Baku’s side – the international media’s narrative of the conflict was that Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians, backed by Yerevan were “rebels” (although usually abstaining the less flattering term “separatist”) and that both sides trade accusations, including both Armenian/Artsakh and Azerbaijani often contradicting statements in their accounts.   

The coverage by Euronews followed the same pattern. The channel also focused on Turkey’s pro-Azerbaijani reaction. 

BBC’s account, again in the same vain, added that Russia was “traditionally supporter” of Armenians, while Azerbaijan’s ally was Turkey. 

Qatar-based Aljazeera, in spite of Doha’s close alliance with Ankara, shared the same narrative described above, holding separate live interviews with Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers providing them the opportunity to express their positions on the issue. 

French Le monde noted that Armenia’s economical resources were limited and it was involved in the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization bloc, while Turkey was the “traditional ally” of oil-rich Azerbaijan. 

The German ZDF in a concise material, highlighting also video footage posted by the Armenian Defense Ministry reported the current state of affairs, mentioning Turkey’s backing of Azerbaijan and Russia’s formal defense ties with Armenia. 

The Tagesschau podcast by the German ARD had anther concise report, mentioning that the German official stance is that Nagorno-Karabakh “by international law” was part of Azerbaijan. German published an op-ed, which said that “oil-rich Azerbaijan had upgraded its army over the past several years and can count on Turkish support”, in the meantime mentioning that “Russia supports Armenia where it has a military base”. The website also provided some historical background of the conflict, noting that in 1921 Karabakh region was transferred to Azerbaijan by Stalin’s initiative.  “Azerbaijan wants to brign the region under its full control, if needed by force” the website said. 

Italian La Repubblica in its account said that Armenia’s supporter was Russia, while Azerbaijan enjoyed support of Turkey, with whom Yerevan had no official relations “due to the unresolved issue of genocide”. The paper also quoted Roma FC’s player Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s tweet in English reading as follows: “We have an unalienable right to live in our homeland without an existential threat” and added that last year the Armenian footballer had to skip the Europe League finals in Baku due to security concerns. 

Spanish El Pais also noted that Armenia’s “ally” Russia had called for a cessation of hostilities, while Turkey has thrown its weight behind Baku, recalling the familiar phrase “one nation, two states”.  In a backgrounder the paper noted that Russia allegedly recently had shipped 500 tons of war materials to Armenia, while Azerbaijan, which otherwise had spent billions on military built-up received extensive Turkish aid, including Syrian “rebels” who had also combat experience in Libya. 

The Israeli Jerusalem post had more detailed focus on the use of mercenaries by Turkey. The paper said that those fighters came from the Turkish-occupied territories of Syria. On 26 September, the day before the hostilities started, the Jerusalem Post published an article on that specific issue, arguing that Turkey could destabilize the situation in its immediate neighborhood. “Turkey’s ruling party, which thrives on creating  a new international crisis every month, may be targeting Armenia,” the op-ed said. 

Iranian media followed more reserved and neutral stance, also suggesting that Iran could be a broker in the conflict. The state controlled IRNA agency, reporting on Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson’s statement, calling on a cease-fire and offering Tehran’s good offices, added in a backgrounder on the conflict that Karabakh chose independence over joining Armenia or being part of Azerbaijan. 

Turkish reactions, expectedly were thoroughly pro-Azerbaijani. Anadolu Agency, Sbah newspaper were replete with the Azerbaijani view of the events, including false claims of Kurdish “YPG/PKK terrorists” fighting on the side of Armenians.  

The radical Yeni Safak’s editor wrote a blatant anti-Armenian tweet which reads in translation as follows: “A missile should accidentally fall exactly in the middle of Yerevan. Azerbaijan is not alone. Armenia is actually attacking Turkey. Then we will provide the answer.” 

Russian state-controlled media tries to underline Russia’s role as the most important player in pacifying the region. Russia-1 TV channel’s main news called Pashinyan’s phone call to Putin following the start of hostilities as “anxious”. The channel, which headlined the news as “War in Karabakh” also showed video footage and reports both from Armenian and Azerbaijani sources. Meanwhile pro-opposition Dozhd channel, just like the official Russia-1 mentioned the unprecedented scale of the military operations, including shelling of Stepanakert, which did not occur since early 1990’s.  The channel hosted expert Arkadiy Dubnov, who opined that Azerbaijan was the aggressor, suggesting that it had some form of a tacit approval by Moscow.  

It is worth also noting that both official and pro-opposition Russian channels called Artsakh as “unrecognized Nagorno-Karabkh republic”.