Nagorno-Karabakh conflict: the basic prerequisites for a sustainable and lasting peace

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Armenian volunteers receive uniforms and weapons at a military commissariat to join the self-defense army of Nagorno-Karabakh in Yerevan, Armenia, 03 April 2016. [EPA/HAYK BAGHDASARYAN / PHOTOLURE]

A sustainable and lasting settlement is attainable but Azerbaijan should commit itself to peace, writes Armenian diplomat Rima Karapetyan.

Rima Karapetyan is Third Secretary at the Armenian Embassy in Brussels. This op-ed is in response to an op-ed written by Hikmat Hajiyev, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, entitled “Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict: Between lasting peace and eternal war”.

On 5 July, the spokesperson of Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs published an op-ed piece arguing that ‘’a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is possible but hostile rhetoric is counterproductive’’.

Indeed, we should agree with Mr Hajiyev since we do believe that persistent anti-Armenian hate propaganda led at government level in Azerbaijan is among the main obstacles on the path of peaceful resolution of the conflict.

This is exactly what the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairs also were calling for throughout the years of their mediation. Alas, it fell on the deaf ears of the Azerbaijani authorities, since the image of Armenia and the Armenians, as the “enemy number one” of the Azerbaijani people have already become part of kindergarten and school curriculum in Azerbaijan.

Bellicose statements fused with nationalist rhetoric and falsehoods continuously appear in recent statements coming from Azerbaijan’s high-level leadership.

And it is utterly disappointing that in his two-page piece the spokesperson of Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry failed to mention the internationally agreed format of negotiations – the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmanship and its recommendations – and instead writes about some imaginative, out-of-nowhere “6D plan”.

This very well illustrates the pattern of Azerbaijan’s behavior, the last case being its failure to implement the agreements reached after 2016 April war at Vienna, St Petersburg and Geneva summits aimed at establishing confidence between the parties.

This endless maneuvering of Azerbaijani leadership throughout the entire negotiations process – when it agrees on something during the meeting, backtracks on its commitment afterwards and then comes out with a new set of proposals – serves one and only one purpose: bide its time to find an appropriate moment for solving the conflict on its own terms, including through military means.

This is not a behavior of a party that is ready and willing to settle the conflict.

In his article, Mr. Hajiyev also attempts to distort the nature of Armenia’s assistance to the authorities of the Republic of Artsakh. Armenia has been extremely outspoken on this issue from the very beginning of the new phase of the conflict back in 1988.

The Armenian leadership always stated that the status of Artsakh and security of its people are top priorities. We firmly believe that the inalienable and inherent right of people of Artsakh to self-determination, provided by the international law and exercised on numerous occasions in recent history – including by Azerbaijan itself – should be recognized and respected.

Azerbaijan should first and foremost acknowledge that Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is about people of Artsakh exercising their right to self-determination. It should engage in a direct dialogue with the authorities of Artsakh, as in the past when Azerbaijan negotiated and signed ceasefire agreements back in 1994-1995. The sooner the Azerbaijani side acknowledges this the sooner solution will be found.

And a final observation: democracies are more prone to peace. And while in Armenia one can witness open discussions about the ways of resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, in Azerbaijan this seems highly unlikely to happen anytime soon.

To consolidate its undemocratic grip on power, the Azerbaijani leadership has stifled any dissenting voices, which could have called for a real peace and has brainwashed its society on two postulates – Armenians are enemies and Azerbaijan is the most powerful country in the region – thus making lasting and sustainable peace less and less reachable.

Azerbaijan’s leadership is channeling immense funds from oil revenues to buy influence in international organizations to both blacken Armenia and Armenians and whitewash its continuous violations of fundamental human rights.

The recent revelations concerning the notorious Azerbaijani Laundromat and the investigation results in the Council of Europe speak for themselves.

A lasting and sustainable settlement is a possibility indeed, but to achieve it, Azerbaijan needs to truly commit itself to peace not only in words but also in deeds.

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