With the intensification of the confrontations between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region in late September 2020, Russia initially refrained from making quick statements or moves with regard to this development. However, the intensification and expansion of the battles prompted Moscow to move and make active contacts with both the Azerbaijani and Armenian sides of the conflict, in addition to Turkey, and also with international actors, such as France, which co-chairs the Minsk Group.
Following the signing of the peace agreement between the Afghan Taliban and the USA on February 29, 2020, most observers expected the violence in the country to subside, paving the way for negotiations among the Afghan people. No tangible progress in the Afghan reconciliation process — particularly the dialogue between President Ashraf Ghani’s government and the Taliban — has been achieved thus far, however.
On 12 September 2020, in the wake of the nineteenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC) towers in New York in 2001, direct intra-Afghan negotiations between the government of President Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban movement began in Doha. These negotiations constitute the second phase of the Afghan peace project, nearly six months after the signing of the Doha Agreement between Washington and the Taliban on 29 February 2020, which aims at ending the war that tore the country apart for nearly twenty years.
In light of the facts and complicated conditions that will result from the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, new international and regional inclinations and policies are emerging regarding the future of that country. Peace talks between the Taliban Movement and the Afghan government are expected to be complicated and protracted, probably extending for years. In case a political settlement is not reached between the Afghan government and the Movement, the US withdrawal could lead to the eruption of a large-scale civil war, some of whose protagonists would be supported by regional and international powers such as Russia and China which have political, economic and security interests that converge at times and conflict at others in Afghanistan. Some neighbouring countries such as Iran, Pakistan and India also have conflicting interests. The influence of India and Pakistan over actors in Afghanistan is well known. Besides, the two countries have mechanisms and means to influence the state of affairs in Afghanistan.
On 27 September 2020, after an inconclusive ceasefire period that lasted nearly three decades, military confrontations erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan through a barrage of artillery shelling, during which heavy armour was deployed along the confrontation line separating the two countries regarding the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region and its neighboring areas. The confrontations quickly turned into an escalating military conflict between the two countries, which reinforced fears of potential destabilising repercussions in the Caucasus.
In a remarkable turn of events, the two parties to Afghanistan's 19-year conflict, the United States (U.S.) and the Taliban, decided to sit at the same table for direct talks aimed at nailing down a "peace deal". This qualitative shift is partly necessitated by massive human and material costs incurred by the two parties since 2001 without either of them being able to resolve the conflict militarily. Nor did the political system that was built in Afghanistan after the removal of the Taliban regime succeed in proving political or economic or security efficiency, which kept the Taliban alive and kicking to this day.
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