“External forces to interfere in Garabagh Armenians' reintegration into Azerbaijan”
    Expert opinions on Caliber.Az

    INTERVIEWS  23 September 2023 - 13:12

    Azerbaijan has drawn up a comprehensive plan for the integration of the Armenian population living in the Garabagh region, Azerbaijani presidential aide Hikmet Hajiyev told a briefing in Baku.

    “The relevant government agencies have developed a plan for broad socio-economic integration of the Armenian population of Garabagh,” Hajiyev told the briefing.

    Characterizing this integration initiative as Azerbaijan’s domestic issue, Hajiyev also added Baku’s readiness to assess the humanitarian needs of the Armenian population in the region.

    The announcement signals a potential shift towards reconciliation and cooperation. A focus on socio-economic integration represents a potentially constructive approach to addressing the complex dynamics and challenges that persist in the region.

    What are the chances of reintegrating the peaceful Armenian residents of Garabagh into the fabric of Azerbaijani society through the ongoing dialogue, the first round of which took place on September 21 in Yevlakh?

    Will people who have not taken up arms understand that they have a chance for a better life as part of Azerbaijan? Moreover, will the Armenian diaspora and other forces that are not interested in peace between Armenians and Azerbaijanis not interfere in this process?

    Foreign analysts shared their thoughts on this matter with Caliber.Az.

    Irish political expert and historian Patrick Walsh said that there is no reason why the Armenian community of the Garabagh region cannot become a full and valuable part of a united Azerbaijan.

    “Their historically distinctive culture, freed from the malign influence of occupying forces, can enrich the region, as it should be within a large state of over 10 million people, made up of a diversity of people, and not a homogeneous, isolated backwater where only one group is perceived people,” the expert noted.

    Given the legacy of the past, it will take decades to fully integrate people and develop functional inter-community relations, he said.

    “It is important that functional structures are developed so that the communities of Garabagh can work together in mutual interests. The region has great tourism potential and visitors will want to experience different cultures, cuisines, and traditions. When Garabagh opens for business, many European tourists may come here. Many will be interested in the history of the region, past conflicts, and ways to resolve them. The EU should certainly be interested in providing funding for peace, and reconciliation between communities, to do something positive in this region. What I am saying is that the people of Garabagh should have greater opportunities from the dividends of peace, and hopefully, this will give Armenians an incentive to stay and become prosperous citizens, free from the threat of future conflict,” the Irish historian said.

    However, he says, there will be voices, especially from the diaspora, who will do anything to prevent any integration.

    “Some are already calling for a `biblical exodus’. It would not be an exaggeration to say that they would prefer that all Armenians leave rather than submit to the authorities of Baku. On the BBC, David Babayan even stated that Azerbaijanis are a lower form of civilization than Armenians. This overt racism was not challenged by the interviewer, although it would have been unacceptable if it had been said about other peoples,” Walsh said.

    American analyst, an expert in the field of geopolitics and security, and editor-in-chief of The Washington Outsider Irina Tsukerman notes that comments from Baku are very encouraging, given that this kind of constructive, positive, and action-oriented response is exactly what is needed to overcome propaganda attacks obsessed with the past.

    “Striving for peace by definition means being visionary. Demagoguery is just the opposite: it seeks to limit its followers to the past and focus on problems rather than solutions. However, we must be realistic. While in the long term, building bridges and integrating once isolated and divided communities into Azerbaijani society is the only way to achieve permanent peace, prosperity, and security in the South Caucasus, it is not a solution that can be implemented overnight as it will take decades of indoctrination,” she emphasized.

    According to the American expert, old habits die hard, just like old contradictions.

    “It will take a lot of time, persistence, dedication, consistency, and creative thinking to overcome the problems caused by instilled mistrust, bigotry, and a narrow view of this relationship. Baku must be prepared for setbacks and continued interference from third parties seeking to derail these efforts and regain power. This will be a marathon, not a sprint. That is why it is important for Baku to take the lead in any humanitarian and development efforts, but at the same time, leave room for conscientious partners, allies, mediators, and advisers who will help smooth out the rough edges and move forward the various stages and nuances of this process,” Irina Tsukerman concluded.


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