Nagorno-Karabakh line of contact

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The Nagorno-Karabakh line of contact in red with the largely unguarded Murovdag (Mrav) mountain range in the north.

The Nagorno-Karabakh line of contact (Armenian: շփման գիծ, shp’man gits, Azerbaijani: təmas xətti) is a militarized separation barrier that separates the Armenian forces (namely the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army) and the Azerbaijan Armed Forces in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It was formed in the aftermath of the May 1994 ceasefire that ended the Nagorno-Karabakh War (1988–94).[1] The mountain range of Murovdag (Mrav) is the northern part of the line of contact and is essentially a natural border between the two forces.[2][3] The length of the line of contact is not well-defined. According to various sources it ranges from 180 kilometres (110 mi)[4] to 200 kilometres (120 mi).[5]

The line of contact was, immediately after the ceasefire, a "relatively quiet zone with barbed wire and lightly armed soldiers sitting in trenches", according to Thomas de Waal. There was also a relatively large no-man’s land after the ceasefire which was several kilometers wide in some places. It was reduced to a few hundred meters in most areas of the line of contact due to Azerbaijani redeployments into the former neutral zone.[6] By contrast, in 2016, there were around 20,000 men on each side of the heavily militarized line of contact.[7] Since the ceasefire the line of contact has become a heavily militarized, fortified and mined no-man's-land and a buffer zone of trenches.[1][8][9] According to de Waal, it is the "most militarised zone in the wider Europe,"[10] and one of the three most militarized zones in the world (along with Kashmir and Korea).[5] The trenches along the line of contact have been extensively compared to those of World War I.[5][11][12]

The line of contact is regularly monitored by a group of six OSCE observers, headed by Andrzej Kasprzyk of Poland.[13] There are exchanges of fire virtually on a daily basis.[14] There have been occasional significant violations of the ceasefire,[15] usually characterized by low-intensity fighting.[16] Significant fighting occurred in April 2016,[17] when for the first time since the ceasefire the line of contact was shifted, though not significantly.[18]


Some Armenian analysts, including Ara Papian encourage the Armenian side to avoid the term "line of contact", instead calling it a "state border" between Artsakh and Azerbaijan.[19][20] Independent journalist and author Tatul Hakobyan writes of it as a state border of Azerbaijan and Artsakh and notes it is called the "line of contact" in international lexicon.[21]


  1. ^ a b Smolnik, Franziska (2016). Secessionist Rule: Protracted Conflict and Configurations of Non-state Authority. Campus Verlag. p. 12. ISBN 9783593506296.
  2. ^ "DAVID SIMONYAN : SURRENDER OF TERRITORIES TO AZERBAIJAN: STRATEGIC CONSEQUENCES FOR ARMENIA AND NAGORNO-KARABAKH". Noravank Foundation. 21 April 2009. the northern flank – by the hard-to-access Mrav mountain range
  3. ^ Elbakyan, Edgar (16 May 2014). "Արցախի տարածքն անբաժանելի է". Hayastani Hanrapetutyun (in Armenian). բնական սահմաններ հասցնելու համար, որը հյուսիսում Մռավի լեռնաշղթան է, իսկ հարավում՝ Արաքս գետը
  4. ^ Freizer, Sabine (2014). "Twenty years after the Nagorny Karabakh ceasefire: an opportunity to move towards more inclusive conflict resolution". Caucasus Survey. 1 (2): 2. doi:10.1080/23761199.2014.11417295.
  5. ^ a b c de Waal, Thomas (24 July 2013). "The Two NKs". Carnegie Moscow Center.
  6. ^ Hakobyan, Tatul (24 March 2018). "Emil Sanamyan: Nakhichevan Remains the Quietest Stretch of Armenian-Azerbaijani Frontline".
  7. ^ de Waal, Thomas (2 April 2016). "Dangerous Days in Karabakh". Carnegie Moscow Center.
  8. ^ Bagirova, Nailia; Mkrtchyan, Hasmik (4 April 2016). "Armenia warns Nagorno-Karabakh clashes could turn into all-out war". Reuters.
  9. ^ Kao, Lauren (11 May 2016). "Eight Things You Need to Know About Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict". Eurasian Research and Analysis (ERA) Institute.
  10. ^ de Waal, Thomas (3 April 2016). "Nagorno-Karabakh's cocktail of conflict explodes again". BBC News.
  11. ^ Toal, Gerard; O'Loughlin, John (6 April 2016). "Here are the 5 things you need to know about the deadly fighting in Nagorno Karabakh". The Washington Post.
  12. ^ Lynch, Dov (2001). "Frozen Conflicts". The World Today. 57 (8/9): 36–38. JSTOR 40476575. The 'line of contact' between Azeri and Armenian forces is a trench system reminiscent of World War One.
  13. ^ Kucera, Joshua (8 April 2016). "Nagorno-Karabakh: Trying to Separate Fact from Fiction". EurasiaNet.
  14. ^ Cristescu, Roxana; Paul, Amanda (15 March 2011). "EU and Nagorno-Karabakh: a 'better than nothing' approach". EUobserver.
  15. ^ Lynch, Dov (2004). Engaging Eurasia's Separatist States: Unresolved Conflicts and de Facto States. United States Institute of Peace. ISBN 9781929223541. The line of contact between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces is a well-defined trench system, which experiences only occasional violations of the cease-fire regime.
  16. ^ "The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh". The Economist. 15 April 2016. But despite the ceasefire, low-scale fighting continued along the line of contact.
  17. ^ "Nagorno-Karabakh violence: Worst clashes in decades kill dozens". BBC News. BBC News. 3 April 2016.
  18. ^ Simão, Licínia (June 2016). "The Nagorno-Karabakh redux" (PDF). European Union Institute for Security Studies: 2. doi:10.2815/58373. ISSN 2315-1129. For the first time since the 1990s, Azerbaijani forces managed to regain control of small parts of the territory surrounding Karabakh – the first time the Line of Contact has shifted. Although these changes do not significantly alter the parties’ military predicament on the ground...
  19. ^ "Ոչ թե շփման գիծ, այլ սահման". a1plus (in Armenian). 9 March 2011.
  20. ^ Jamalyan, Davit (26 July 2012). "Ոչ թե շփման գիծ, այլ՝ պետական սահման". Hayastani Hanrapetutyun (in Armenian).
  21. ^ Hakobyan, Tatul (11 January 2018). "Հայաստան-Ադրբեջան սահմաններն ու "սահմանադռները"". CivilNet (in Armenian).

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