Who is meant to breathe Karabakh air?
ANALYTICS 30 January 2023 - 10:35
With the landslide victory in the war, Azerbaijan heralded the end of the Karabakh conflict. The signing of the Trilateral Statement on November 10, 2020, has kicked off the post-conflict stage of negotiations for a peace treaty with Armenia, the delimitation of borders, and the unblocking of communications in the region. However, the defeated side, despite its verbal commitment to peace, with the support of some powers, has shown an unwillingness to take steps towards it and has derailed the process of normalising relations.
For example, Armenia's actual recognition of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity at the Prague meeting last October was disavowed by Prime Minister Pashinyan's subsequent ambiguous statements and the refusal of the Armenian foreign minister to attend the trilateral meeting in Moscow. Yerevan also continued its support for separatism with concrete actions. With RPC's connivance, fighters and weapons were brought into Karabakh from Armenia before the events on the Lachin road (details of which are given below). Moreover, in September 2022 the government of Pashinyan decided to increase the defence expenses for 2023 by 47 per cent (1 billion 20 million dollars) and to continue financing the remaining bands in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, allocating almost 360 million dollars.
The peace-seeking side does not disrupt negotiations, does not support separatism and revanchism, and does not seriously try to pursue a policy of armaments.
It is clear that defeated Armenia does not have sufficient resources for revanchist activities. Its course is directed and financed by external players, among whom a reshuffle has been tacitly announced. A new EU civilian mission to Armenia has already been invited and approved. Against the background of unambiguous statements by Armenian politicians about their dissatisfaction with the CSTO and the Russian presence, Armenia will soon be flooded with Western intelligence officers to prepare the country for a change of strategic ally.
While Yerevan's minds are busy with an ambitious project to reverse the 'northern avenue', in Karabakh itself the Vardanyan factor has become a brake on the peace process. The Kremlin-sent oligarch accompanied his arrival with aggressive rhetoric: "Karabakh Armenians have three choices - integrate into Azerbaijan, leave or fight" or "The peoples of Karabakh and the Republic of Azerbaijan should live side by side, but not together. This is the only opportunity for all sides to avoid conflict". The last sentence is even more remarkable. It seems that the aspiration to "avoid the conflict" is a certain maxim on which Azerbaijan builds its domestic and foreign policy. Actually, the main principle of Azerbaijan, like any other self-respecting state, is to ensure its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Methods to achieve this goal include the use of force, which our state used in 2020. And it is strange to hear such nonsense from the Armenian side after Azerbaijan showed that it is not afraid of conflicts.
Such rhetoric, overt dependence on Moscow, as well as Vardanyan's mafia activities in Karabakh, have disrupted the positive dynamics of both Azerbaijani-Armenian peace talks and contacts between Karabakh Armenians and official structures in Azerbaijan. The situation reached its pinnacle after the provocation with the prevention of a delegation of Azerbaijani environmentalists to the Karabakh mines and the subsequent action by eco-activists on the Lachin road. Public control of the road makes it impossible to transport illicit goods along it. The philosophizing oligarch himself is also an illegal cargo subject to detention, and he, of course, guesses about it. In his eyes, there is the doom of a victim on his way to the slaughter. By the way, this is recognised not only by us but by the Armenians themselves, in particular the blogger Roman Baghdasaryan.
The billionaire's wretched situation is exacerbated by the fact that his relations are not only bad with Azerbaijan and with Pashinyan, whose place he is supposed to take according to his handlers but even with Araik Harutyunyan's gang, still hanging around in the RPC's control zone with the latter's connivance.
Meanwhile, the Armenian propaganda machine concocts tales about Karabakh's starving and freezing children. The latest masterpiece of the fake factory is a photo of toddlers suffering the lack of electricity and warming themselves by a wood stove ... with no wood and no fire in sight.
Azerbaijan allows RPC and ICRC vehicles to pass with food supplies. Azerbaijan has repeatedly and openly stated that it is ready to meet the food and other needs of Armenians living in Karabakh. This is logical because our country has stated at the highest level that the Karabakh Armenians are citizens of Azerbaijan and that we are ready to ensure all their rights and security in accordance with the Constitution of the country.
However, this truth is not beneficial for either Armenian politicians or their handlers, who see the growing influence of Azerbaijan and Türkiye as a threat to their national interests. They use the main weapon of Armenian propaganda - the "threat of genocide". And this is understandable. For global Armenians and patronizing powers, the "threat of genocide" remains the only factor in the absence of legitimate grounds to challenge the sovereignty of Azerbaijan over the territory temporarily under the control of the RPC. The issue of ethnic cleansing of Armenians in Azerbaijan goes back in the minds of the world community to the events in Sumgayit in 1988. The world establishment, while completely ignoring the separatist actions of Armenians in Karabakh and the ethnic cleansing of Azerbaijanis in Armenia, considers the Sumgayit events as the starting point of the conflict. It is no coincidence that Russian President Putin, in addition to recognising Karabakh's belonging to Azerbaijan, made a remark to the effect that 'the conflict began not with territorial claims, but with ethnic cleansing - we must not forget Sumgayit'. Such a narrative is intended to give the Karabakh Armenians the status of both actual and potential victims and the territory they inhabit a special political status "for the security of their lives".
Azerbaijan covers and should continue to cover the true picture in the world media. The expulsion of Azerbaijanis from Gafan in 1987 as the first incident of ethnic cleansing should actually supplant the artificially created Sumgayit gestalt. Azerbaijan should take over this humanitarian discourse from Armenia. Without fanaticism, not from the position of a victim and not to appeal for justice, which the world powers have an exceptionally selective character, but to counter the noise effect of the Armenian "suffering" project.
Ethnic cleansing, occupation of lands, plundering of natural resources, destruction of cultural heritage - all this should be reflected in the world's leading media outlets. However, it will have an effect only in addition to a strong state with a full arsenal of means to protect its interests. In 2020 Azerbaijan has proved to the world that it should be respected as a strong state. And there is no doubt that this agenda will only intensify.
It is not too late for Armenia to return to the negotiating track. It has lost its influence in Karabakh, which should further cool its 'mother-defender' ardour. On this side, the crisis on Lachin road has a positive impact. Karabakh Armenians have realised that no venture to impose the rules of the game on Azerbaijan will pass. The Armenian community must understand that the best way to live in peace is to accept Azerbaijani citizenship. Those unwilling will have to leave. Those of its representatives who were in any way involved in the separatist actions will have to be convicted.
To stabilise the situation in Karabakh, establish trusting relations between the Azerbaijani authorities and the Armenian community, and lay a healthy foundation for the full reintegration of the region into the country, the Azerbaijani state will pursue three main demands:
- Ruben Vardanyan must leave the area;
- Azerbaijan's legal demands regarding environmental monitoring must be fulfilled;
- Azerbaijan must control the Lachin road.
As we can see, there is nothing here that points to the eviction of Armenians from the designated areas. On the contrary, Azerbaijan stands for the security of the region, against arming the Karabakh Armenians, fomenting separatism, plundering the wealth belonging to the Azerbaijani people by mafia structures, and further damage to the environment.
Our country has its own plan of action based on the foundation of a strong army, principles of international law, as well as strategic and economic ties with other states. Using the whole arsenal of means, Azerbaijan will discourage both Armenia and third countries from challenging its state sovereignty over the Karabakh region.
It should be noted that the Azerbaijani-Turkish tandem has so far simply been observing the intensified uproar of extra-regional forces in the South Caucasus, refraining from any drastic steps. And even today's terrorist act in the Iranian embassy will not provoke Azerbaijan into ill-considered actions. Everything will happen as and when it is necessary.
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