Russia has taken the driver's seat over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
and does everything to prevent its settlement, Eugene Chausovsky,
a Stratfor analyst writes in an article.

"A cease-fire was broken between Armenia and Azerbaijan on Tuesday
after an exchange of gunfire occurred between the two countries on
the line of contact. These skirmishes occurred after the latest round
of negotiations over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is a disputed region
between the two countries, failed to produce a settlement on Friday,"
reads the article.

Further, it says that while negotiations over Nagorno-Karabakh have
been going on for several years, there are significant geopolitical
realities that serve as obstacles to any sort of agreement over
this issue.

"The primary actor when considering the prospects for a
Nagorno-Karabakh settlement is not Azerbaijan or Armenia but, rather,
Russia. Russia's primary goal in the former Soviet Union is to advance
its interests in these countries while blocking the interests of
foreign powers and particularly the West," writes Chausovsky.

"This is especially the case in the Caucasus region, which is made up
of Armenia, Azerbaijan as well as Georgia, and these three countries
are heavily pursued by the West. Within these pursuits, Azerbaijan
is the key as it has the largest population in the region, it borders
both Russia and Iran in strategic points, and perhaps most importantly,
it has significant quantities of oil and natural gas".

The author goes on to mention that these "energy resources allow
Azerbaijan to be a significant exporter of energy to the West and
therefore serve as a threat to Russia's energy relationship and
political relationship with Europe.

"This then explains Russia's relationship with Armenia, which Russia
supports politically, economically and has a troop presence within
Armenia. This also explains Russia's position on Nagorno-Karabakh,
which is to appear that Russia is trying to do everything it can as
a negotiator to reach a settlement while in reality do everything it
can to prevent such a settlement".

The article further says that as long as the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
remains an issue, then Azerbaijan's access to the west via Turkey is
blocked through this corridor. And while Azerbaijan has been increasing
its military expenditures on the back of its growing energy exports,
the fact remains that Russia's military presence in Armenia will
serve as a significant blocking force to Azerbaijan.

"In addition, Russia also has a military presence in two breakaway
territories of Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, giving Russia even
more leverage over Azerbaijan. Therefore, it ultimately boils down
to Russia's position when assessing the prospects for any meaningful
change to the status of Nagorno-Karabakh".

From: Baghdasarian