Azerbaijan’s full victory renewed debates regarding reintegration of ethnic Armenians
    Rebuilding confidence amid fears

    ANALYTICS  25 September 2023 - 14:25

    Analytics Department Caliber.Az

    With the end of the armed conflict in the Garabagh region due to the Azerbaijani Armed Forces' recent anti-terrorist operation, the region entered a new stage of post-conflict rehabilitation, reconstruction and re-integration.

    In the post-conflict period, sustaining peace, rehabilitation and reconstruction activities, and the return of all IDPs is the absolute priority for Azerbaijan. The steady reconstruction of formerly war-torn towns like Fuzuli, Lachin, Zangilan, and Kelbajar will enable Azerbaijan to revive the region economically and attract additional foreign investment.

    The military operation in the Garabagh region came amid heated security threats and a stalled peace process between Azerbaijan and Armenia. The frequent fire exchange between Azerbaijani regular forces and the Armenian armed groups and the recent mine explosion that killed seven people were important catalysts behind the recent deadly escalation. After one day of clashes, Azerbaijan declared victory and total control over the separatist regions after three decades.

    The end of the active phase of the conflict will enable Azerbaijan to focus on socio-economic issues in the post-conflict period and start face-to-face working with the ethnic Armenian community for their re-integration into Azerbaijani society. Shortly after the military operation, the Azerbaijani authorities stated that a plan was ready for the extended social-economic integration of the Armenian-origin residents, which had been prepared with the relevant authorities.

    Earlier in this speech in Geneva, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov stated that Azerbaijan guarantees the rights and freedoms provided for by the country's Constitution to the Armenians of Karabakh, but Armenia is still trying to evade its obligations to normalize relations between the two countries. According to the Minister, Azerbaijan guarantees the Karabakh Armenians the observance of all rights and freedoms.

    The reintegration methods of Azerbaijan have been the central topic of many scholars and international debates since the end of the Second Karabakh War in 2020. In the post-war period, Armenia started seeking new international mechanisms for ensuring the safety of the ethnic Armenian population of Garabagh.

    However, Baku rejected allegations regarding “threats to ethnic Armenians.” Nevertheless, the first and historic engagement of Azerbaijan and the ethnic Armenian community happened in March 2023 in Khojaly town to address their concerns and reinstate security guarantees.

    Baku’s reluctance to grant ethnic Armenians special status and rights as such conversations were actual in the late 1990s when the OSCE Minsk Group presented proposals based on the concept of a “common state” as a potential solution. This confederal proposal envisioned granting Nagorno-Karabakh the status of a state and a territorial unit in the form of a republic, which, together with Azerbaijan, would form a common state within the internationally recognized borders of Azerbaijan.

    Meanwhile, Baku rejected this option, arguing that it infringed upon Azerbaijan's sovereignty and contradicted the principles established during the OSCE Lisbon Summit in 1996, which emphasized the importance of respecting the territorial integrity of states and seeking peaceful resolutions based on internationally recognized borders.

    To this end, Azerbaijan is ready to work with relevant international partners, including ICRC, UNHCR and other UN agencies, as well as individual States which are willing to contribute to peace and stability in the region in full compliance with the United Nations Guiding Principles on humanitarian assistance of 1991.

    As for the re-integration model, Azerbaijan proposes Slovakian and Croatian models. It is considered that the Croatian re-integration model is regarded as a successful case in Europe. The Croatian re-integration model serves as an interesting case study for addressing the challenges of re-integrating breakaway regions back into a country following a conflict.

    The Croatian model aimed to establish a system of governance in the affected areas that would be under the central government's control. It aimed to foster reconciliation, ensure the return of displaced persons, and establish a functioning system of governance under the central government's control.

    However, before the successful implementation of the Croatian model, Azerbaijan needs to restore confidence between the two ethnic communities in Garabagh and fully ensure Armenians' rights, allowing them to participate in the daily life of the region. After the earlier stage, Baku will be able to re-integrate ethnic Armenians into the local society.

    Consequently, this was the main topic on the agenda of the recent meeting in Yevlakh city on September 22. Azerbaijan presented plans that would see the Armenian-held region accept being governed by Azerbaijan, urged "quick implementation" of agreed issues, and pledged to provide urgently needed supplies of humanitarian aid and fuel amid warnings of severe shortages.

    Even with the negotiations, as of September 25, the number of residents of Armenian nationality who left Azerbaijan’s Garabagh region has reached 2,906 people. Azerbaijan created favourable conditions for those who were willing to leave the region through the Lachin road.

    Although most ethnic Armenians seemed less enthusiastic about staying and living under Azerbaijani rule, the successful re-integration of those who remained in Karabakh will pave the way for possible returnees to Garabagh and acquire Azerbaijani citizenship.

    Caliber.Az

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