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Forecast podcast: Azerbaijan halts assault on Nagorno-Karabakh after ceasefire with Armenian separatists

Standing atop a mountain overlooking a high-relief valley are two individuals in European Union markings. They are looking at a truck convoy at a checkpoint

Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Alex Moore discuss the fighting between Azerbaijan’s military and Armenia-backed Artsakh forces this week in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region left hundreds of people killed and injured, plus more on the Asian Games in China, a hearing for former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, a Republican presidential debate in California and pro-reform demonstrations in Colombia..

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This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Alex Moore, Vivian Wang, Sophie Perryer and Jeff Landset. Produced and edited by Jimmy Lovaas. Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

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Factal Forecast podcast transcript

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.


Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.

Today is Sept. 21.

In this week’s forecast we’ve got a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Asian Games in China, a hearing for former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, a Republican presidential debate in California and pro-reform demonstrations in Colombia. 

You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.

Azerbaijan military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh

Information compiled by Alex Moore

JIMMY: Up first, we’ll take a look at the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenian separatists. For more on that I’ve got the lead for our Europe desk, Alex Moore.

JIMMY: Hi, Alex. 

ALEX: Hello, Jimmy. 

JIMMY: You know, Alex, it’s been more than a year since you were here talking about the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and it seems that things have suddenly gotten worse. But before we get into the latest, can you give us a bit of a recap on the situation?

ALEX: Yes, happily. Well, obviously last time we talked, there was a mass eruption along the Armenian state border of Azerbaijan last year and and since then there’s been the imposition of a blockade on the Armenian-backed Artsakh Republic in Nagorno-Karabakh. But, on Tuesday of this week, Azerbaijan launched renewed military operations targeting Artsakh forces in Nagorno-Karabakh. And again, we have to distinguish between the Armenian state border and fighting happening there between Armenia and Azerbaijan and fighting between the Artsakh Republic and Azerbaijani forces in Nagorno-Karabakh. So this was the latter, taking place over the past 24 hours as we record this on Wednesday. So this was a significant uptick in fighting and featured the first, sort of, systemic targeting deep within Artsakh, including the capital Stepanakert, which was heavily bombarded during the six-week war of 2020. This was the first time that we’ve seen systemic targeting like that deeper into Artsakh and not just surrounding the Lachin corridor area, which was the main fighting hotspot when we did see flare ups over the past three years since the conclusion of the war in November of 2020.

JIMMY: Well, what’s the latest then how are things looking at the moment?

ALEX: Yeah, so after 24 hours of pretty intense fighting in Nagorno-Karbach a ceasefire was reached earlier today, on Wednesday, which was tantamount basically to Artsakh surrendering to broad and sweeping Azerbaijani demands. So, they acquiesced to some pretty significant demands. They have essentially agreed to disarm their army within Artsakh and starting tomorrow, on Thursday, they will engage in a series of talks with Azerbaijan regarding integration of Nagorno-Karabakh into the Azerbaijani state. And just a brief note, it is internationally recognized as Azerbaijan territory. The Nagorno-Karabakh region is within the state borders of Azerbaijan, but obviously, as we’ve talked about at length in the past, there have been a couple of wars fought over the status of Nagorno-Karabakh since the Soviet Empire dissolved. So the latest is that today, Artsakh authorities did acquiesce to some very broad demands and they agreed to fully disarm

JIMMY: Well, what have the reactions to the situation been like?

ALEX: Domestically, in Armenia, the reactions have been pretty visceral, intense. For those that remember, in 2020, when the six-week war ended, there were very intense protests in Yerevan. Those – last night, we saw, not that scale of protests, but similar ones. And today we’ve seen more, and it’s possible, if not likely, that we’ll continue to see protests against the Pashinyan government that made the decision not to intervene on behalf of their Artsakh allies, I suppose, in Nagorno-Karabakh. So Armenia has sat this one out. Under the terms of the 2020 ceasefire, Armenia removed their forces from Nagorno-Karabakh. So they decided not to intervene militarily, which has been a controversial decision within Armenia. Moreover, in Yerevan we’ve seen a significant uptick in anti-Russian sentiment. Armenia is part of the CSTO Alliance, which is the Russia-led, post-cold war, sort of, counterweight to NATO, basically. And Russia sort of infamously chose not to intervene on behalf of Armenia during the 2020 war. They did position a few thousand peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh following the conclusion of that war and those peacekeepers have been accused of spotty at best implementation of the peace treaty’s terms. And so we’ve seen anti-Russian sentiment sort of run amok in Yerevan over the past 24 hours, which has sort of been exacerbated by the fact that Russia has taken an extremely peculiar neutral – if not in some ways pro-Azerbaijan – line regarding the past 24 hours of fighting, which has just sort of been further continuation of a phenomenon that we’ve witnessed over the past year or so of Armenia sort of repositioning its alliance system to the West, with countries like France and the U.S. becoming more heavily involved from a pro-Armenian bent alongside countries like Iran to sort of further muddle the famously peculiar alliance system that characterizes the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. But Israel and Turkey remain steadfast behind Azerbaijan and the international and domestic reactions have some sort of been a continuation of what we’ve been observing over the past year.

JIMMY: Well, considering all of that, what do you think folks should be watching for next then?

ALEX: Yeah, a few things. First and foremost, the most pressing concern at the moment is the status of the approximately 120,000 ethnic Armenians that live in Nagorno-Karabakh. I think I mentioned this at the start of the podcast today that obviously the region has been under blockade by Azerbaijani forces for going on almost a year. The blockade began in December of last year, so the sole road that connects Armenia with Artsakh, the Lachin corridor, has been blockaded ever since. So, essentially, there are 120,000 ethnic Armenians that are basically now trapped with no way to get out. The single airport in Stepanakert is not functioning; it acts essentially as a Russian airbase at the moment. So there are no flights in and out. And obviously, we’ll see how this plays out, but sort of the fear is that we will see, sort of, a forced mass expulsion – a mass exodus or evacuation, however you want to characterize it, of the ethnic Armenians that are living within Nagorno-Karabakh. And the further fear might be that Azerbaijan proceeds to replace them with Azerbaijanis. We don’t know exactly how that will play out yet. That will be determined over the course of the talks that I mentioned are due to start tomorrow. Moreover, in that same vein, we don’t yet know exactly the sequencing of how Artsakh’s forces will disarm themselves and at what cadence Azerbaijan’s forces will enter into the areas that remain under Artsakh control under the terms of the 2020 ceasefire, most notably, obviously, Stepenakert. But with Azerbaijan in control of Shusha, down to Lachin corridor, and taking control of more strategic heights over the past 24 hours, it remains to be seen how soon we’ll see Azerbaijani forces advancing into Stepanakert and at what cadence there will be, if there is, sort of, an organized, forced evacuation of the ethnic Armenians there. There remain questions regarding how that will play out as well as the integration of the Nagorno-Karabakh region as a whole into Azerbaijan proper. So, definitely a lot to watch for over the next couple of days and weeks, likely. But yeah, extremely momentous occasion in the Caucuses. Obviously, like I said, there have been multiple wars fought over the status in Nagorno-Karabakh, so this marks sort of a massive, massive bellwether in the history of the region.

JIMMY: Well, I suppose we’ll pause there then, but thank you so much for getting us caught up to speed. Quite the concerning situation.

ALEX: Yeah, no worries. Thanks for having me. 

JIMMY: Take care.

19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China

Information compiled by Vivian Wang

JIMMY: The opening ceremony for the Asian Games is this Saturday in Hangzhou, China.

The games were originally planned for last September, but were postponed due to pandemic travel restrictions 

North Korea is even participating after largely abstaining from international sports since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Now, while the games don’t officially open until Saturday, the competition has already started for several sports, including soccer, volleyball and cricket.

Esports are also set to make a historic debut as a medal event at the games, possibly paving the way toward Olympic recognition.

Pakistan Election Commission hearing to indict Imran Khan

Information compiled by Sophie Perryer

JIMMY: Former Prime Minister lmran Khan will face Pakistan’s electoral regulator on Tuesday. 

He’ll be disputing a charge of breaching the Official Secrets Act, the latest in a litany of legal cases against the former prime minister and PTI party leader.

Khan is accused of leaking a diplomatic cable, which his party claims contains details of U.S. support for a no-confidence vote to oust him from power back in 2022. 

After the document was published by U.S. news outlet The Intercept, Khan was charged and questioned at a jail in Attock, where he was detained on separate corruption charges. 

Khan says the document is no longer in his possession, while his party is seeking to question the legitimacy of his detention by discrediting the Official Secrets Act.

Now, Tuesday’s trial is expected to take place in jail in Attock as Khan remains there in pre-trial detention

While his prison sentence for corruption was overturned, his conviction stands, leading the Election Commission to ban him from seeking office for five years. 

Pakistan is due to hold national elections in November.

Still, they are likely to be delayed given a lack of organization by the caretaker government, Khan’s ongoing legal troubles and a national economic crisis.

Second Republican presidential debate in California

Information compiled by Alex Moore

JIMMY: The U.S. Republican Party will hold its second debate among presidential hopefuls on Wednesday. 

The debate will be at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

It comes a month after the first GOP debate in late-August in which eight presidential primary candidates took the stage, with the notable exception of heavy polling favorite Donald Trump. 

Participation thresholds for this debate are higher than the first, which will likely slightly limit the number of people on stage, though it remains unclear who exactly will qualify. 

Now, as with the first debate, former President Trump is expected to skip it in order to hold his own counterprogramming coinciding with it, this time speaking in Detroit to union workers. 

The decision to speak with union workers in Michigan is indicative of the extent to which the Trump campaign is ignoring the primary and looking ahead to a rematch with President Joe Biden.

Pro-reform demonstrations organized by Colombian government

Information compiled by Jeff Landset

JIMMY: Thousands of people will take to the streets across Colombia on Wednesday. That, ahead of next month’s regional elections.

As you may recall, Colombia elected Gustavo Petro, its first leftist president, in June of 2022. 

And earlier this year, he announced a package of controversial reforms to the country’s health, education and labor systems. 

He has called them ways to fight inequality and poverty in the country. 

Since then, Congress has stalled the proposed reforms

Last week, the Minister of Labor asked people to march in Bogotá and call for the reforms to be put in place. The teachers’ union has already announced it would take part.

Now, after a progressive wave put Petro into office, his momentum has slowed down. 

Recent polls have put his disapproval rating near 60 percent, thanks in part to a campaign finance scandal involving his son.

That son, also a politician, admitted to taking thousands of dollars from a convicted drug trafficker and funneling some of it into his father’s presidential campaign without his knowledge

If voters ignore the scandal and the marches have large turnouts, it may encourage lawmakers to move forward with the reforms. 

Of course if they fizzle, it may give Petro’s opponents more reason to fight back against the proposed reforms.

JIMMY: As always, thank you for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast and newsletter each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. Please subscribe and review wherever you find your podcasts. We’d love it if you’d consider telling a friend about us.  

Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Vivian Wang, Sophie Perryer, Alex Moore and Jeff Landset. Our interview featured editor Alex Moore and the podcast is produced and edited by me – Jimmy Lovaas. Our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

Until next time, if you have any feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing

This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed. 

Copyright © 2023 Factal. All rights reserved.

Music: ‘Factal Theme’ courtesy of Andrew Gospe

Top photo: European Union Mission in Armenia monitors within Armenia looking at Azerbaijan’s military checkpoint on the Lachin corridor and the blocked humanitarian convoy of trucks that was sent to Artsakh in July 2023. (Photo: EU Mission in Armenia)

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