When the deadliest fighting in decades broke out in Nagorno-Karabakh in early April, Armenians, Azerbaijanis, and the rest of the world struggled to figure out what was going on. Did Azerbaijan, as it claimed, really seize villages and strategic heights? Were there really hundreds of casualties on each side? How did the fighting start?
In any conflict, the fog of war makes it difficult to sort out truth from propaganda. But the situation in Karabakh is especially murky because so few independent observers are able to monitor the shaky ceasefire that has been in place since 1994.
A monitoring mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) includes only six observers, including Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk, who has headed the mission since 1996. Further, the monitors are not based in the region and must announce their visits to the line of contact separating Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in advance. OSCE monitors have not been able to visit the scene of the most recent fighting because of security reasons, Kasprzyk said.
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Joshua Kucera is a Washington, DC-based freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East. He is the editor of EurasiaNet's Bug Pit blog.