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Armenia and Azerbaijan finally at peace? Is it true?

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Russia has surprisingly and very rapidly has become a peacemaker in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. The old wisdom says that a poor peace is better than defeat. As a matter of urgency, given the difficult humanitarian situation in Karabakh, Russia intervened and secured the signing of a ceasefire agreement by the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan on 9 November and the deployment of Russian peacekeepers in the region, writes Moscow correspondent Alexi Ivanov. 

Protests immediately started in Armenia, and the Parliament building was seized. Crowds dissatisfied with the outcome of the war, which lasted since 27 September and took the toll of more than 2 thousand Armenian soldiers, brought destruction and disaster to Artsakh, now demand the resignation of Prime Minister Pashinyan, who is accused of treason.

Almost 30 years of conflict have brought neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan peace. These years have only fueled interethnic hostility, which has reached unprecedented proportions.

Turkey has become an active player in this regional conflict, which considers Azerbaijanis its closest relatives, although the majority of the population there of the Shia Islam taking into account the Iranian roots of the Azerbaijani population.

Turkey has recently become more active at the international and regional level, entering into a serious confrontation with Europe, especially France, against the actions to curb Muslim extremism.

However, the South Caucasus remains traditionally in Russia's zone of influence, as these are territories where Moscow has dominated for centuries.

Putin, amid the pandemic and confusion in Europe, very quickly took advantage of the situation with his neighbors and turned the war into a civilized framework.

The truce was not welcomed by all parties. The Armenians should return to Azerbaijan the territories captured in the early 90's, not all of them, but the losses will be significant.

Armenians are leaving the areas that should come under the control of Azerbaijan in large numbers. They take out property and burn their homes. None of the Armenians want to remain under the rule of the Azerbaijani authorities, because they do not believe in their own security. Many years of hostility have generated distrust and hatred. Not the best example is Turkey, where the term "Armenian" is considered an insult, alas. Although Turkey has been knocking on the door of the EU for many years and claimed the status of a civilized European power.

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev promises protection to the Armenians of Karabakh, and he also promises to protect numerous Armenian churches and monasteries in this ancient territory, including the great Holy monastery of Dadivank, which is a place of pilgrimage. Currently it is protected by Russian peacekeepers.

Russian peacekeepers are already in Karabakh. There will be 2 thousand of them and they must ensure compliance with the truce and the cessation of hostilities.

In the meantime, huge columns of refugees are moving to Armenia, who are hopefully are expected to reach their historical homeland without problems.

It is too early to talk about a new turn in the Karabakh conflict. Prime Minister Pashinyan has already stated that he is responsible for Armenia's defeat in Artsakh. But this is unlikely to be the final point. Armenia is protesting, protesting against Pashinyan, against the shameful capitulation, although everyone understands that the conflict in Karabakh has to be resolved.

Many Azerbaijanis, there are thousands of them, dream of returning to their homes in Karabakh and nearby regions, previously controlled by Armenian forces. This opinion can hardly be ignored. People have lived there for centuries - Armenians and Azerbaijanis-and it is very difficult to find the perfect solution to this tragedy.

It is obvious that it will take many more years until old wounds, resentments and injustices are forgotten. But peace must come to this land, and the bloodshed must be stopped.

Armenia

Nagorno-Karabakh: What next?

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Last week, Armenia laid down its arms and agreed to a Russia-brokered ceasefire with Azerbaijan to end the thirty-year Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It remains to be seen if the two communities will ever learn to live side-by-side in peace. As we prepare for the next chapter in this painful story, we must address a principal cause of the conflict - Armenian nationalism, writes Tale Heydarov.

Throughout recent history, many conflicts have arisen as a result of ‘nationalism.’ This 18th-century ideology has enabled the creation of many modern nation-states, but has also been the root cause of many past tragedies, including the nightmare of the ‘Third Reich’. Unfortunately, this mantra still appears to hold sway over a number the political elites in Yerevan, as borne out by the violent scenes in the Armenian capital upon the announcement of the peace deal.

It could be argued that Armenian nationalism has even morphed into a form of ‘ultra-nationalism’ that seeks to exclude other minorities, nationalities and religions. This is clear in the demographic realities of Armenia today, with ethnic Armenians making up 98 per cent of the country’s citizenry after expelling hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis throughout the last 100 years.

Former Armenian President, Robert Kocharyan, once said that the reason Armenians could not live with Azerbaijanis was that they were “genetically incompatible”. Compare Armenia’s record to that of Azerbaijan, where, to this day, thirty thousand Armenians continue to live alongside their Caucasian neighbours alongside a plethora of other ethnic minority groups and faiths within the Republic of Azerbaijan. Outside of Azerbaijan, neighbouring Georgia is host to both a large Armenian and Azerbaijani diaspora who have lived happily side by side for many years, proving that peaceful co-existence is possible.

Despite universal recognition that Nagorno-Karabakh is an integral part of Azerbaijan, Armenians have consistently ‘overlooked’ the premise of territorial integrity as recognised under international law. Armenia’s now much under-fire Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, branded a traitor by many of his countrymen for surrendering in the war, had consistently called for a ‘unification’ between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, previously stating that ‘Artsakh [Nagorno-Karabakh] is Armenia - the end’.

In a Facebook video address to Armenians, Pashinyan said that though the terms of the peace deal were “unbelievably painful for me and my people” they were necessary due to “a deep analysis of the military situation”. It, therefore, remains to be seen whether Armenian territorial claims to Karabakh are now once and for all at an end (facilitated by some 1900 Russian deployed peacekeepers).

Armenian territorial claims however are not limited to Nagorno-Karabakh. In August 2020, Pashinyan characterised the Treaty of Sèvres, (never ratified), as a matter of ‘historical fact,’ laying claim to lands that have been a part of Turkey for over 100 years. Armenia’s regional aspirations do not end there.

The Georgian province of Javakheti is also described as an integral part of a ‘United Armenia.’ These claims against neighbours demonstrate a pattern of behaviour. Such disregard for international law coupled with antagonistic policy positions is not conducive to maintaining peaceful relations within the wider region. Armenia needs to respect the sovereignty of the territories of its neighbours to ensure that peace is maintained.

Public discourse and information exchange in the media and online is also of particular importance for the peace. Throughout history, nations have utilised propaganda to rally citizens behind a government, or to boost national morale. Armenia’s leadership has consistently used disinformation and inflammatory remarks to whip up public sentiment for the war effort, including accusing Turkey of having an objective of “reinstating the Turkish empire” and an intent to “return to the South Caucasus to continue the Armenian genocide”. Responsible journalism should seek to challenge and call out baseless claims such as these. Politicians and the media have a responsibility to cool the simmering tensions between the two communities and should refrain from making inflammatory remarks for us to have any hope of peace.

We must learn the lessons of the past with Europe providing the perfect example of how countries, and a continent, can succeed in reducing conflict and disputes following its post-war response to fascism.

My home country of Azerbaijan has never sought war. The entire nation is relieved that at last, we have a chance to experience peace once again in the region. Our refugees and Internationally Displaced People (IDPs) will in due course be able to return to their homes and lands. Our relationship with the rest of our near-neighbourhood is a model of peaceful co-existence. Any embittered sentiment in Azerbaijan is in direct response to the aggressive and people displacing policies of Armenia over the last thirty years in their pursuit of a ‘Greater Armenia’. This must end.

Only through combatting destructive and xenophobic nationalism can Armenia find peace with both its neighbours and its own national identity. Armenia will not be able to do this alone. The international community has a pivotal role in ensuring that the worst facets of nationalism are called out and condemned under the internationally accepted norms of a rules-based system. We must learn and extol the lessons of post-war Germany and the role of education in ridding countries of fascist ideology. If we achieve this, there may just be a chance for lasting peace in the region.

Tale Heydarov is very well-known in Azerbaijan, and in London. A former president of the Azerbaijan Premier League Football Club Gabala and founder of the Azerbaijan Teacher Development Centre, current chairman of Gilan Holding, founder of the European Azerbaijan School, European Azerbaijan Society, as well as several publishing organisations, magazines and bookstores.  

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Nagorno-Karabakh: Declaration by the High Representative on behalf of the European Union

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Following the cessation of hostilities in and around Nagorno-Karabakh after the Russia-brokered ceasefire of 9 November agreed between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the EU has issued a statement welcoming the ceasing of hostilities and calls on all parties to continue to strictly respect the ceasefire to prevent further loss of life.

The EU urges all regional actors to refrain from any actions or rhetoric that could jeopardize the ceasefire. The EU also calls for the full and prompt withdrawal of all foreign fighters from the region.

The EU will follow closely the implementation of the provisions of the ceasefire, especially with regard to its monitoring mechanism.

The cessation of hostilities is only a first step to end the long-standing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The EU considers that efforts must be renewed for a negotiated, comprehensive and sustainable settlement of the conflict, including on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The EU therefore reiterates its full support to the international format of the OSCE Minsk Group led by its co-chairs and to the personal representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office to pursue this objective. The EU stands ready to effectively contribute in the shaping of a durable and comprehensive settlement of the conflict, including where possible through support for stabilization, post conflict rehabilitation and confidence building measures.

The EU recalls its firm opposition against the use of force, in particular the use of cluster ammunitions and incendiary weapons, as a mean to settle disputes. The EU stresses that international humanitarian law must be respected and calls on the parties to implement the agreements on the exchange of prisoners of war and the repatriation of human remains reached within the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs format on 30 October in Geneva.

The EU underlines the importance of guaranteeing humanitarian access and the best possible conditions for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of the displaced populations in and around Nagorno-Karabakh. It underlines the importance of preserving and restoring the cultural and religious heritage in and around Nagorno-Karabakh. Any war crimes that may have been committed must be investigated.

The European Union and its member states are already providing significant humanitarian assistance to address the immediate needs of the civilian populations affected by the conflict and stand ready to provide further assistance.

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Nagorno-Karabakh - Demand for recognizing the Republic of Artsakh

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The historic conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is one that is consistently overlooked by the world. The reality is there are 3 not 2 countries in conflict – Armenia, Azerbaijan and Artsakh (also known as Nagorno-Karabakh). The dispute is - should Artsakh be independent or should Azerbaijan rule them? The dictatorial pan Ottoman regime of Azerbaijan wants the land and ignores the plea for democratic self-determination – writes Martin Dailerian  and Lilit Baghdasaryan.

Artsakh people who oppose this are met with their deaths each day while the world is turning a blind eye. For this reason, it is important toraise awareness and we are asking for acknowledgement to be made on this global geopolitical conflict, so that increased humanitarian aid can intervene.

Aggression on Artsakh

The current aggression has been planned and well timed. The World is preoccupied with COVID and the US is focused on a major election.

Azerbaijan has significantly upgraded its military capacity with help from Israel and Turkey equipment and munitions. Azerbaijan is using ISIS killers to combat Armenian soldiers protecting the border.

Civilian settlements are bombed and forced to evacuate before the incoming army. Massive information warfare which is successfully keeping the world media confused and silent. We urge you to act in the interest of stopping the war and bringing in a peaceful process.

Call for Action

The war needs to be stopped and the people of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) have the right to self-identify. Azerbaijani dictatorship should not be allowed to take over Artsakh without civilian consent. Our demand is to preserve democracy as well as the historic heritage and many of the first Christian churches. Azerbaijan has a history of aggressively destroying Armenian heritage sites.

Lack of American Mediation

The current American President, Donald Trump, has tried to avoid involvement in the conflict which enables Turkey to give its full support to Azerbaijan. President Trump is also known for having personal interests in Turkey (hotels in Istanbul) which may be a reason for his reluctance to stop the humanitarian crisis unfolding at the present. Although Donald Trump does not have much of an interest in the war, his opponent for the upcoming elections, Joe Biden, has strong opinions on the conflict as he believes that it is important to halt the siding with Turkey and for Turkey to stay out of the conflict, as Turkey borders Armenia and Azerbaijan. U.S. officials in general wanted to stop the trade of weapons and the transfer of mercenaries within the battle zone, but there is no diplomatic plan in place. A diplomatic plan needs to be put in place to achieve peace and stability. It is imperative that the United States involve itself in activities to create peace in the Armenian-Azeri conflict. Israel is providing weapons and aid to Azerbaijan throughout the conflict.

Refugee Crisis

History seems to repeat itself for Armenians. This is a humanitarian crisis as many Artsakh families are leaving their homes to escape the bombs and the advancing Azerbaijan army.

Another Armenian genocide is unfolding before your eyes. Hospitals and social systems in Armenia are struggling due to COVID and the onslaught of wounded soldiers from the front lines. There is no refugee plan and many families have lost the fathers on the front lines which creates further strain on refugee families and the social system.

Invisible Human Crisis in Artsakh

A war has been raging on for a month between the Defense Army of Artsakh backed by Armenia and the Azerbaijan army backed by Turkey. Artsakh is also known as Nagorno Karabakh. Azerbaijan has a history of human rights violations and using heavy propaganda to maintain an image of control and being victimized by a small nation.

Cluster Bombs on Civilians

During an on-site investigation in Nagorno-Karabakh in October 2020, Human Rights Watch documented 4 incidents in which Azerbaijan used cluster munitions. The report says that HRW researchers have identified the “remnants of Israeli-produced LAR-160 series cluster munition rockets” in the capital Stepanakert and the town of Hadrut and examined damage caused by them. HRW researchers say that “Azerbaijan received these surface-to-surface rockets and launchers from Israel in 2008–2009".

Premeditated War

Clearly, there has been preparation by bringing in ultra-modern technology from Turkey and Israel and staffing up with Syrian fighters. International news organizations like Reuters and the BBC already reported about Syrian militants being sent to help Azerbaijan emerged in late September. Both Turkey and Azerbaijan are ruled by dictators and they face little opposition internally. The fear is that due to the slump in oil prices and the desire to unite their territories they are counting on the world being preoccupied with COVID to be able to execute their aggression on the land.

“Thanks to advanced Turkish drones owned by the Azerbaijan military, our casualties on the front shrunk,” said Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev in a televised interview with the Turkish news channel TRT Haber. Their Armed Forces destroyed a number of Armenian positions and vehicles with the aerial assaults conducted by Bayraktar TB2 Armed UAVs. These are Turkish drones capable of remotely controlled or autonomous flight operations manufactured by Turkey′s Baykar company.

However, time is running out as more world leaders are begging to notice the rising human death toll and suffering. The advancing army is not even stopping to collect the dead bodies. The battlefield is filled with a putrid stench and sometimes Armenians would bury those soldiers in fear of an outbreak and wild boars or other animals eating them. However, according to this Washington Post article, the bodies of the mercenaries seem to be removed and sent back to Syria.

Decapitations

Several news sources reported another inhuman incident by Azerbaijan - the decapitation of a soldier. On 16th October, at around 1 pm a member of the Azerbaijani armed forces called the brother of an Armenian soldier and said that his brother is with them; they beheaded him and were going to post his photo on the Internet. Afterward, several hours later, the brother found that horrible photo showing his beheaded brother on his brother’s social media page. Those pictures are archived as they are too gruesome. Unfortunately, people who decapitate Armenians are awarded medals and it is a common practice during wartime.

Azerbaijani military forces beheaded an Armenian soldier and posted this photo on his own social media.

Prisoner Executions

There is a viral video of two prisoners of war, who were violently killed by Azerbaijani soldiers. In the video, the prisoners appear to have their hands bound behind them and are draped in the flags of Armenia and Artsakh sitting on a small wall. In the next 4 seconds an Azerbaijani soldier orders in Azerbaijani: "Aim at their heads!", then hundreds of shots are heard which kill the prisoners of war in no time.

Strained Medical System

Artsakh and Armenian hospitals are strained by the rise of COVID-19 cases. Additionally, there is a growing shortage of staff and beds to tend to the wounded who are getting rushed from the front line. Many refugees have escaped the bombing in Artsakh by Azeri forces and have fled to Armenia to seek shelter. Many families have lost the father to the war and are also on the run during this extremely dangerous time.

Turkey has blocked hundreds of tons of international humanitarian aid to Armenia traveling from the US. They banned it from flying through Turkey's air space which has impacted getting much-needed medical supplies donated from abroad.

We call the attention of the international community all around the world to the seriousness of the situation.

We call on the leading countries of the world to use all the leverages of influence they have to prevent any possible interference on the part of Turkey and Azerbaijan, which have already destabilized the situation in the region.

Today we are facing a serious challenge. The situation is being aggravated by COVID-19. We ask you to exert all the possible efforts to end the war and resume the political settlement process in the Azerbaijani-Karabagh conflict zone.

The seriousness of this moment calls for everyone's vigilance in every country. Peace depends on our individual and collective efforts.

We urge you to act in stopping the war in the interest of preserving human lives on both Armenian and Azerbaijani sides. The people of Armenia are hurting but so are the people of Azerbaijan who are ruled by a dictator who is careless with human life on both sides and enjoys international support. Israel, USA, Germany and Russia: you created this and you can stop this while you still can!

The authors are Martin Dailerian, a Citizen of the U.S.A, and Lilit Baghdasaryan , a Citizen of the Republic of Armenia.

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

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