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PKK’s involvement in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict would jeopardize European security

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The alarming reports that Armenia has been relocating Kurdistan Working Party (PKK) terrorists from Syria and Iraq to the occupied territories of Nagorno-Karabakh to prepare for future hostilities and train Armenian militias is news of the sort that should keep you awake at night, not only in Azerbaijan but also in Europe, writes James Wilson.

Changing the demographics of the occupied territories by bringing in refugees of Armenian origin from Lebanon, Syria and Iraq is one thing, even though unlawful, but populating Nagorno-Karabakh with PKK militants, classified by all Western countries, including the US and the EU, as a terrorist organisation, is another.

The artificial resettlement policies of Armenia following the explosion in Beirut on 4 August this year and the Syrian War in 2009, aim to change the demographics of Nagorno-Karabakh and to consolidate the 30-year-long Armenian occupation. They represent a violation of international law, the Geneva Convention and various international agreements. Professionally hired militants and terrorists being resettled to Nagorno-Karabakh would be designated as an war crime under international law, putting peace and stability in the region at risk.

According to Cairo24 News Agency and other reliable local sources, Armenia went so far as to let its top-level career diplomats negotiate a transfer plan for the terrorists with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the most militant wing of the Kurdish establishment led by Lahur Sheikh Jangi Talabany and Bafel Talabani. This followed a first failed attempt to negotiate a plan to create a corridor to send Kurdish fighters to Nagorno-Karabakh with the Kurdistan Autonomous Regions leader Nechirvan Barzani.

Reportedly, Armenias efforts led to the transfer of hundreds of armed terrorists from Suleymaniyah, considered to be a stronghold of the PKK in Iraq, to Nagorno-Karabakh via Iran. A separate group of YPG militants, seen by many as the Syrian wing of PKK, were sent to Nagorno-Karabakh from Qamishli region on the Syrian-Iraqi border while a third group of PKK/YPG militants, which was formed at the Makhmur base in the South of the Iraqi city of Erbil, was first deployed to the headquarters of Hezbollahs Iraqi wing to Baghdad before being transferred to Nagorno-Karabakh via Iran. 

According to intelligence, special camps were established by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to train the militants on Iranian soil before sending them to Nagorno-Karabakh, where they have also access to training camps at a safe distance from the PKKs Kandil base, which has been increasingly raided in recent years.

This is not the first time Armenia has been recruiting terrorists and paid mercenaries for its own interests.  Such was also the case during the Nagorno-Karabakh war in the 1990s. Even back in the Soviet times, Kurds were instrumentalised by Russia and Armenia, the former having established the autonomous region of Red Kurdistan in Nagorno-Karabakh in 1923-1929 to facilitate the resettlement of Kurds living in Azerbaijan, Armenia and Iran to the region. 

However, the current Armenian administration shows itself more and more belligerent towards Azerbaijan, thwarting the negotiation process between the two nations because of internal political considerations, including an unprecedented health and economic crisis. Not only did the current Armenian administration refuse to adhere to the OSCE framework agreement, which was agreed upon in principle, but asked for a start-over of peace negotiations from scratch. As Armenians increasingly refuse to send their children to the frontline, the Armenian administration seems to be determined to minimise personal losses through the use of militants from terrorist groups. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan even announced the peoples militia initiative in the country, dangerous examples of which were seen in other conflict-torn parts of the world, such as Burkina Fasso.

Under his leadership, the Caucasus has seen the worst hostilities in the last few years when the Armenian armed forces used distillery fire to attack the Tovuz district of Azerbaijan on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border on July 12th.  The attack resulted in 12 Azerbaijani deaths, including a 75-year-old civilian, leaving 4 injured and causing serious damage to Azerbaijani border villages and farms. On 21 September, one Azerbaijani soldier fell victim to new skirmishes in Tovuz region, as Armenia once again failed to respect the ceasefire.

Recognized by the UN as an Azerbaijani territory, Nagorno-Karabakh and its seven surrounding regions, have been under Armenian occupation for 30 years despite 4 UN resolutions calling for the immediate withdrawal of Armenian armed forces. The growing militarization of Nagorno-Karabakh as well as the involvement of mercenaries from paramilitary groups in the Middle East would lead to the internationalization of the conflict, putting regional powerhouses at odds.

 The dangerous actions of Armenia risks to further destabilize the region, which has a strategic importance for Azerbaijan and Europe, as it provides energy and transport links to Georgia, Turkey and Europe for the Azerbaijani oil and gas as well as other export commodities. By jeopardizing major infrastructure projects, such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline, Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, Armenia could put European energy and transport security at huge risk.

Armenia

Armenian capitulations

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We have to understand our history in order to not repeat the mistakes of the past. I have seen too many instances where people continue to pursue wrong courses of action because they do not take the time to think critically about what has happened in the past.- Winston Churchill.

In April 1920, Kemal Atatürk, the founding father of modern Turkey, appealed to Vladimir Lenin with a proposal to develop a common military strategy in the Caucasus for protection against imperialist dangers. This was to be a "Caucasus Barrier" created by the Dashnaks, Georgian Mensheviks and the British as an obstacle between Turkey and Soviet Russia, writes Gary Cartwright.

After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, Armenia, which appeared on the political map of the world at the expense of the Ottoman Empire (in the Caucasus, and on the territories of other states) did not lose its appetite for expansion.

The war continued with the newly formed Turkey and with the help of the USA and the Entente (the Russian Empire, the French Third Republic and Great Britain). On 10 August 1920, the Peace of Sèvres was signed, which formalised the division of Arab and European possessions of the Ottoman Empire. Although the members of the Entente had achieved most from the Treaty of Sèvres, Turkey lost Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Mesopotamia and the Arabian Peninsula.

Armenia, which did not receive the promised lands, was left out: Antanta - the triple entente - had needed Armenia only as a temporary tool to weaken and force Turkey to peace.

On September 24th 1920, a state under the name Armenia was established on the lands of Azerbaijanis: during the ensuing conflict Armenia’s fledgling army was destroyed and the entire territory of the Dashnak government, except for Erivan and Lake Gokca (now Sevan), came under Turkish control.

On 15th November 1920, the Government of Armenia requested the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (GNA) to start the peace negotiations.

On 3rd December 1920 in the city of Gyumri (Alexandropol) a peace treaty was signed between Armenia and Turkey, according to which the territory of the Republic of Armenia was limited to the region of Erivan and Lake Gokcha. Armenia was obliged to abolish compulsory conscription and have an army of up to 1500 bayonets and 20 machine guns. Turkey acquired the right to freely transit and conduct military operations on the territory of this state. Armenia also pledged to withdraw all its diplomatic delegations.

Thus the first Republic of Armenia ended in ignominy. As a result of the capitulation, the Armenian government transferred its authority to the Soviet Union. The dream of a "Greater Armenia" remained just a dream.

But the Soviets did not intend to offend the Armenians, and they made them a gift of Zangezur (historical land of Azerbaijan) as well as autonomy over Karabakh within the Azerbaijani SSR. The decision was that Karabakh would remain autonomous within Azerbaijan, and was not given to Armenia as some Armenian historians now claim.

Thus Armenia owes its current internationally recognised borders to Lenin’s Soviet Union.

The Karabakh war that Armenia began with Azerbaijan in the 90s might be seen as a second phase of the "Armenian Dream". However, by 1994 Armenia controlled only 14% of Nagorno-Karabakh, having been out-fought by the Azerbaijani army all the way.

In the current conflict, which erupted on the morning of September 27th with Armenian artillery barrages, history does indeed appear to be repeating itself, with Azerbaijani forces recovering lost territory as early as the first day of fighting.

This presents Russia with a dilemma: to fuel the Armenian dream with give free weapons and to and ruin relations with its neighbours on the southern borders, or to provoke Azerbaijan into a major conflict, drawing in Turkey and Pakistan?

If the first option threatens Russia with the continued loss of its multibillion-dollar military-industrial complex, the second option is the end of its presence in the South Caucasus region as a regional leader.

In addition to all the vain pressure from Russia, the need to create a new military bloc with the participation of Azerbaijan, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Ukraine, which will fully cover the strategic borders of Europe and Asia.

In today's geopolitical landscape, such a military bloc would very quickly find worthy patrons to effectively contain the growing threats from China and Russia.

And can Russia really afford to lose its sincere partner Azerbaijan, whose foreign policy has not gone beyond good neighbourly relations with Russia, despite all the known pressures from all sides over the years?

The alternative to this catastrophe is a new, much more balanced and therefore stable, predictable political and economic balance of power in the region based on just one consensus - the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan within its recognised borders with the complete liberation of all occupied territories.

Azerbaijan has been and will continue to be committed to honest and allied relations with its neighbours, and has not allowed or will not allow third countries to use its territory to harm neighbouring countries. This is primarily because Azerbaijan, unlike Armenia, is a sovereign state in the full sense of the word.

History repeats itself, conclusions are not being drawn, and this is frightening. To conclude with the same thesis as we started, inviting Armenians and Russians to draw conclusions and take the real state of affairs as a basis not for desire, but for reality.

The opinions expressed in the above article are those of the author, and do not reflect any opinions on the part of EU Reporter.

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Nagorno-Karabakh conflict: Armenia continues bombing civilians

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Azerbaijani authorities have reported an attack on a residential area in Ganja, the country's second largest city, with at least nine dead and 34 injured, on Sunday, October 11. President Ilham Aliev has denounced this violation of the ceasefire only just agreed by both sides.

Azerbaijan accused Armenia of not respecting the truce agreement that entered into force the day before, and of continuing the bombing of civilian areas. In the afternoon, no exchange of prisoners or bodies had been announced, a stated objective of the humanitarian ceasefire negotiated in Moscow, which was due to come into force on Saturday at 12 p.m. local time.

In Ganja, journalists saw Azerbaijani rescuers at work in the rubble of a building, from which two bodies were removed. A total of nine apartments were destroyed, according to witnesses, by a strike at 2 a.m. (local time).

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev denounced the attack on Twitter as a "flagrant violation of the ceasefire" and a "war crime".

"The Armenian armed forces do not respect the humanitarian truce and continue to fire rockets and artillery on the towns and villages of Azerbaijan".

Armenia denies bombing Ganja.

Araïk Haroutiounian, the self-proclaimed “president” in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, said Sunday morning that his troops respected "the ceasefire agreement" and considered the situation "calmer" than the day before.

"As long as the shooting continues, there will be no exchange" of prisoners or bodies, warned the separatist leader in the morning.

The humanitarian truce was negotiated by the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers, under the aegis of Russia.

The Russian and Turkish foreign ministers called, in a Russian statement given after their telephone conversation, for "the need to strictly respect all the provisions" of the agreement.

The European Union (EU) has expressed “extreme concern” over violations of the truce in Nagorno-Karabakh.

"We take note with extreme concern of reports of continued military activities, especially against civilian targets, and civilian casualties," EU foreign minister Joseph Borrell said in a statement on Sunday.

An Azerbaijani spokesman said, “Indifference to the tragedy in Azerbaijan today could lead Europe to greater instability and tragedies in the future”.

He named the current stance of the EU ineffective, stating that the silence over human tragedy in Ganja and making veiled general statements will only encourage Armenia to continue its war crimes.

President of the EU Council Charles Michel responded to the situation in a tweet, saying:

“The humanitarian ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan is an essential step towards de-escalation. I call on parties to observe ceasefire and to avoid further violence and putting civilians at risk. Negotiations without preconditions must resume without delay #NagornoKarabakh”.

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Nagorno-Karabakh: Armenia and Azerbaijan agree ceasefire

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Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed a temporary ceasefire in the conflict in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Russia's foreign minister announced the agreement just before 03:00 Moscow time (midnight GMT), following 10 hours of talks in the Russian capital.

Sergey Lavrov said the two countries would now begin "substantive" talks.

More than 300 people have died and thousands displaced since the latest violence in the long-running conflict broke out on 27 September.

The hostilities will be halted from midday local time (08:00 GMT) on Saturday, to allow an exchange of prisoners and the recovery of dead bodies.

Nagorno-Karabakh is run by ethnic Armenians although it is officially part of Azerbaijan.

The two former Soviet republics have blamed each other for the latest outbreak of violence - the worst in decades.

Russia has a military base in Armenia and both are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) alliance.

However, Moscow also has good relations with Azerbaijan.

On Friday (9 October) the Armenian defence ministry said fighting continued through the day, despite the talks being held in Moscow.

On Thursday, Armenia accused Azerbaijan of deliberately shelling a historic cathedral in Nagorno-Karabakh. Pictures showed serious damage at the Holy Saviour Cathedral in Shusha city (known as Shushi in Armenian).

At the same time, Azerbaijan said that its second-largest city, Ganja, and the region of Goranboy had been shelled by Armenian forces, with at least one civilian killed.

Speaking to the BBC earlier this week, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan warned of a "genocide" in the region, and said it was "Armenia, land of Armenians".

The clashes have displaced half of Nagorno-Karabakh's population - about 70,000 people - officials said.

The region's main city, Stepanakert, has suffered several days of shelling with residents sheltering in basements and much of the city left without power.

Armenia and Azerbaijan went to war over Nagorno-Karabakh in 1988-94, eventually declaring a ceasefire. However, they never reached a settlement in the dispute.

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