By Yusif Babanly
October 26, 2013
A recent article by Aram Avetisyan, published in FPJ blog is nothing but misrepresentation of facts in an effort to mislead the reader. I’ll start from the statements about the re-election of the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev.
First and foremost, the entire process of elections was assessed as free and transparent and in accordance with all international standards by many international institutions and watchdogs, including the short-term OSCE Mission in Azerbaijan, Council of Europe and European Union missions. Furthermore, numerous international observers on the ground, including the American Observers Group, completely endorsed the results of the elections, reaffirming the expectations about the victory of the incumbent, forecasted by the pre-election polls and exit polls on the day of elections.
Needless to say, there was criticism from other parties taking part in the observation mission and it’s absolutely fine as this remains a part of proper democratic development of any given country. Second, the Azerbaijani government clearly allows unrestricted access to rallies and freedom of assembly at sanctioned venues in the pre- and post-election period. The situation is quite the contrary in Armenia. In Armenia, the country’s leadership explicitly commits massacres of peacefully demonstrating civilians in public areas. This was the case with 2008 post-election rallies, resulting in deaths of 8 demonstrators who were shot by the security forces in the central streets of Yerevan. Another good example is an assassination attempt of one of presidential hopefuls Paruyr Hayrikyan a couple of weeks before the 2013 presidential elections were held in Armenia. Clearly, the modus operandi of the Armenian government is not to just contain the opponents through political process but simply exterminate them.
As far as President Ilham Aliyev’s foregn policy vis-à-vis Armenia is concerned, it is in full accordance with the obligations he has taken before Azerbaijani people upon swearing in. The president is by all means to “protect the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan”. Therefore, as Armenia continues its occupation policy against Azerbaijan, Baku has a full right to cease diplomatic and economic relations as long as the territorial integrity of the country is not restored. As logic dictates, no state in the history of mankind had continued diplomatic and/or economic relations with the aggressor state, occupying the former’s territory.
It is hard to imagine that the Soviet Union would continue its diplomatic relations with the Nazi Germany, allow it to ship materials and commodities through its territory or endorse projects for laying railways and other communication links through the Nazi controlled territories, thus economically enriching it. The same can be said about the position of the United States which suffered from the aggression of the Imperial Japan during WWII. In fact, even today, many countries exercise the same policies towards the rivals. For instance, the U.S. and Israel do not seem to be too eager to see any international projects realized in Iran or North Korea. On contrary numerous sanctions have been inherently imposed on economies of these states.
Let’s also keep in mind that Azerbaijan had already readily agreed to open all communication links to Armenia on September 23, 1991, when the Zheleznovodsk Accords were signed. Sadly, a helicopter with numerous Azerbaijani, Russian and Kazakh peacemakers onboard was soon shot down on November 20, 1991 by Armenian militants near Qarakend village of Khojavend district of Azerbaijan, which subsequently and effectively ended all negotiations in early stages of the conflict. Occupation and ethnic cleansing campaigns of Azerbaijani cities of Khojaly, Shusha and Lachin ensued in the first half of 1992 and seven more districts outside of former Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) were occupied in 1993. A rather rhetorical question is why would Azerbaijan open up all of the communication links to Armenia thus extending it an economic lifeline and source to financial gains it desperately needs to amass ammunition and sustain its occupation of Azerbaijani territories?
Moving on. As far as the Chapter VII, Article 41 of the UN Charter is concerned; Azerbaijan does not need another separate resolution to enforce breaking off economic relations with Armenia. Four UN SC resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884 are quite sufficient to highlight the fact of illegal occupation of Azerbaijani territories and provide basis for Azerbaijan’s actions vis-à-vis Armenia. And since we’re invoking the UN SC resolutions from 1993, the UN SC Resolution 853, adopted on July 29, 1993 after the occupation of Agdam district by Armenian forces, “reiterates in the context of paragraphs 3 and 4” binding restoration of “economic, transport and energy links in the region” with the “immediate complete and unconditional withdrawal of occupying forces involved from the district of Agdam and all other recently occupied areas of Azerbaijan Republic”.
In other words, UN SC suggests that once the Armenian occupying forces withdraw from the Azerbaijani territories, all communication lines and economic relations would need to be re-opened. What’s more, it’s Armenia which has been enforcing a policy of blockade since the beginning of the conflict. Aside from numerous assaults on civilian buses and trains in 1988-1991, Armenians had instituted a full containment of Azerbaijani populated districts and settlements during the war. For instance, before Khojaly and surrounding villages were occupied in February 1992, they remained in full blockade by the Armenian armed forces for three months. The same can be said about the districts of Gubadly and Zangelan, the communications of which to the outside world were cut off due to blockade by Armenian forces in August and October 1993, respectively. This policy of blockade led to the eventual occupation and ethnic cleansing of these districts by Armenian army. These events, in turn, produced the UN SC Resolutions 874 and 884.
So far, Azerbaijan has continued its efforts to come to terms with Armenia, including participating in various CBMs, but the entire process is frequently disrupted by the Armenian side via illegal initiatives. Take, for instance, the illegal relocation of Syrian refugees of Armenian descent to the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. In 2013, 24 Armenian families were relocated to occupied Lachin district, 7 to Zangelan, and 27 to Kelbajar, which Armenian leadership showcased to the outer world as an humanitarian effort. First and foremost, resettlement is in full violation of the Article 49 of the Geneva Convention from 1949, forbidding the occupying power to transfer civilian population into the territory it occupies. Secondly, if the initiative was of humanitarian nature, Armenia would have been able to use abundant space in its own republic for any refugees, considering that a large portion of its own population continues to emigrate to other countries due to lack of work and economic opportunities in Armenia. In the first 9 months of 2012, 97 thousand people left Armenia but that is “just the tip of the iceberg”, and as much as one million Armenian have left the country in the last two decades, writes an Armenian journalist Houry Mayissian. It follows, that Armenia’s policy does not constitute humanitarian efforts, but that the resettlement of Armenians to the occupied territories of Azerbaijan is part of the deliberate policy of changing the demographics in the territories and intentionally disrupting the negotiations.
Azerbaijan has repeatedly and emphatically extended its olive branch to the neighboring Armenia, eager to reconcile and prosper in the same region with the Armenian people. The only precondition, endorsed by the international community, is for Armenian troops to withdraw from Azerbaijani occupied territories and allow the return of Azerbaijani IDPs forced out by Armenian army during the war. The Armenian community of Nagorno Karabakh region of Azerbaijan would be able to live and prosper alongside their Azerbaijani neighbors and benefit from the economic incentives generated by Azerbaijan, as much as Georgian and Turkish economies have. Scores of international documents, based on international law, have been issued in support of territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and condemning the occupation of the territories by the Armenian armed forces, including the aforementioned UN SC Resolutions 822, 853, 874, 884, UN GA Resolution 62/243, PACE Resolution 1416, OIC resolutions 10/11 and 10/37, and last, but not least, the European Parliament Resolution on October 23, 2013 on the European Neighborhood Policy, stating the occupation “by one country of the Eastern Partnership of the territory of another violates the fundamental principles and objectives of the Eastern Partnership and that the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should comply with the UN Security Council resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884”.
1. 8 killed in Armenian protests. Los Angeles Times, March 2, 2008 (http://articles.latimes.com/2008/mar/02/world/fg-armenia2)
2. Armenia presidential candidate shot, election in doubt. Reuters, January 31, 2013 (http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/31/us-armenia-candidate-idUSBRE90U1GJ20130131)
3. The Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan (http://en.president.az/azerbaijan/constitution)
4. See Item 5, UN SC Resolution 853, July 29, 1993 (http://www.refworld.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/rwmain?docid=3b00f15a60)
5. See Item 3, UN SC Resolution 853, July 29, 1993 (http://www.refworld.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/rwmain?docid=3b00f15a60)
6. UN SC Resolution 874, October 14, 1993 (http://www.refworld.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/rwmain?docid=3b00f1684)
7. UN SC Resolution 884, November 12, 1993 (http://www.refworld.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/rwmain?docid=3b00f16520)
8. Letter of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan to UN General Assembly and UN SC
9. Geneva Convention, Article 49, August 12, 1949 (http://www.icrc.org/ihl/WebART/380-600056)
10. Mayissian: Armenia’s ‘Silent’ National Security Threat. Armenian Weekly, January 3, 2013 (http://www.armenianweekly.com/2013/01/03/mayissian-armenias-silent-national-security-threat/)
11. European Parliament resolution of 23 October 2013 on the European Neighbourhood Policy: towards a strengthening of the partnership. Position of the European Parliament on the 2012 reports. (2013/2621(RSP))
Yusif Babanly is the co-founder and secretary of the US Azeris Network (USAN)