In early 1994 Azerbaijan made yet another attempt to gain control of the situation, launching heavy fighting on the entire front-line from the Omar Pass to the Araks river. They persisted despite serious losses but with no gain. In early February, the NKR troops eliminated Azerbaijani bases around the Omar Pass and on February 18, the northern sector, including the Omar Pass, was entirely controlled by the Karabakh forces. Thus the entire Kelbajar (Karvatchar) region came under the NKR control.

In late February and early March, fighting developed along the south-eastern border of the front. Backed by armoured forces, artillery, and aircraft, the Azerbaijani troops attempted to break through the Karabakh defence and advance to Fizuli. However, the Karabakh forces defended their positions and launched a series of attacks of their own. 

On April 10, as a result of a counter-offensives in the north-eastern front, the NKR armed forces took a number of strategic heights in the Gyulistan-Talish region. In the middle of April, the NKR Defence Army liberated the Armenian villages of Talish, Chailu, Mataghis, and Levonarkh. The Karabakh troops were also successful in their movement south and managed to bring the Aghdam-Barda road under their control. 

Several times during the military actions, when Azerbaijan was forced to stop its offensive coming across fierce resistance by the Karabakh defence forces or suffered significant losses, it asked for a ceasefire. However, every time it was Azerbaijan who violated those ceasefires, since the Azeris never wanted to put an end to violence: they simply used it for regrouping their forces. Thus, a ceasefire agreement was signed on September 19, 1992 in Sochi at the meeting of Defence Ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia, by V. Sargsyan and R. Ghaziev to cease fire along the entire border of Republic of Armenia and Republic of Nagorno Karabakh with Azerbaijan as of September 25th. It was not implemented since Azerbaijan attacked in all directions.

Photos by Martin Shahbazyan.

Similarly, the ceasefire requested by Azeris after the taking of Aghdam on July 23rd, 1993 and signed by S. Sargsyan, the Chairman of the Self-Defence Committee of Karabakh and S. Abiev, the acting Defence Minister of Azerbaijan was violated when Azeris resumed attacks on August 5th. A temporary ceasefire held for about 60 days after it was achieved between the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh and the Azerbaijani Republic on August 31, 1993 and later extended till October 5th. 

The holding of ceasefires mainly depended on Azerbaijanis, and their violations are proven by the single fact that whenever they needed it most, it was adhered to. Thus, the ceasefire requested by Azeris in August 1993, was extended for four times and lasted from August 31 to October 21, as Heidar Aliev was running for president of Azerbaijan and, with elections being held on October 3, he needed at least temporary calm to take the reins of power into his hands. Although Karabakh had no interest in supporting smoothness of political processes in a country that had unleashed war against it, it cherished every day of peace. It is noteworthy that when Azerbaijan faced a grave situation on the battlefield it never eschewed talking to Karabakh directly, something that became an anathema for them later. In 1993 alone they directly asked Karabakh, and concluded agreements for a break in military activities ten times.

However, in 1994 the situation was graver. The decisive military defeats compelled Azerbaijan to accept the Russian Federation’s proposal of an armistice. On April 15 the Council of the Heads of States of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) adopted a Declaration in Moscow, calling for an immediate cessation of fire and military actions as a prerequisite for the resolution of the conflict. This was the first such document by this organization and the first signed by the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan.  On May 6, in the capital of Kirgizia, Bishkek, under the mediation of Russia, Kirgizia, and the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, Speakers of the parliaments of Azerbaijan, Nagorno Karabakh (acting speaker Karen Baburyan), and Armenia signed what came to be known as the Bishkek protocol, calling on the three parties to cease fire from the 9th of May. A final document was signed by the Defence Minister of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan, Defence Minister of Azerbaijan, Mamedraffi Mamedov, and the NKR Defence Army Commander, Samvel Babayan in the following days, and the cease-fire became effective on May 12th. A meeting of the three military leaders with Pavel Grachev, Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation, was held in Moscow on May 16-17 to sign a document regulating the disengagement of the Karabakh and Azerbaijani troops, withdrawal of heavy weapons and establishment of a buffer zone between the borders, however the Azerbaijani Defence Minister was urgently called to Baku and the document was never signed. This was the first document establishing a cease-fire in Nagorno Karabakh that did not have a termination date. 

The Defence Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan and the Commander of Nagorno Karabakh Defence Forces signed a document on July 26-27 re-affirming the ceasefire and committing themselves to its adherence until a political agreement on ending the armed conflict could be reached.

During the course of the war, Azerbaijan ignored the appeals by the international community, particularly the United Nations Security Council resolutions on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that called to stop military actions and conduct peaceful negotiations.     

Unleashing a wide-scale war against Nagorno Karabakh (about 140,000 population), aimed mainly at destroying its population and ousting them, making use of it truly vast resources and resorting to the use of mercenaries, Azerbaijan (7 million population), did succeed in occupying the whole region of Shahumyan, and the eastern parts of the Martakert and Martuni regions of Nagorno-Karabakh. However, as a direct outcome of its own aggression Azerbaijan lost to Nagorno Karabakh some of its regions neighbouring NK. Under the control of the Nagorno-Karabakh Defence Forces, these territories later played the role of a security buffer to prevent further bombardment and direct threat by the Azeris to Nagorno-Karabakh settlements.        

Although a ceasefire was established in 1994, no political resolution of the conflict was achieved and Azerbaijan regularly violated the ceasefire, killing innocent civilians and military personnel, while threatening with the resumption of war if its demands were not met.     

It made another attempt of war in 2016 and was not successful again. The details of the wide-scale aggression of 2020 and the resulting occupation are described in the respective sections. 

Till the 2020 war conflict settlement negotiations were held withn the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group which is co-chaired by three countries, Russia, the USA and France. Several options for the settlement proposed by the co-chairs were rejected by Azerbaijan. Armenian leaders in Yerevan and Karabakh have stated on numerous occasions that there can only be a peaceful political resolution of the conflict. And whatever the nuances of the final agreement are, several realities can never be compromised: Artsakh will never relinquish its freedom, connection with Armenia and its security guarantees. The 2020 war and the following developments have made many realities uncertain though.