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Op-Ed: Azerbaijan v Armenia: A protracted tragedy in Nagorno-Karabakh

  • Published at 01:10 am October 22nd, 2020
Azerbaijan has the moral and legal high ground in this conflict REUTERS

Turkey wants to see a negotiated settlement of the conflict based on Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity in accordance with international law

On September 27, early Sunday morning, Armenian Armed Forces started an intense shelling of Azerbaijan’s defense positions and civilian settlements with large calibre artillery and rockets in blatant violation of the ceasefire, as well as the international law, along the Line of Contact in Nagorno-Karabakh. In fact, this attack was the culmination of Armenian provocations, which started in Tovuz on July 12. 

Azerbaijan launched a counter operation to protect its population and restore its territorial integrity by invoking its inherent right of self-defense enshrined in the Article 51 of the UN Charter. It is important to recognize that Azerbaijan is conducting its operations within its internationally recognized borders, on its own territory, which has been under illegal Armenian occupation for nearly three decades. 

In a state of desperation, Armenia is intensifying its attacks on the civilian population and infrastructure in Azerbaijan away from the conflict zone. Armenian armed forces are targeting major cities in Azerbaijan like Gence, Nakhcivan, Mengiçevir, Abşeron, Hızı, Terter, Berde, Beylegan, with long range artillery and rocket fire.

Armenian attacks, which constitute a clear violation of international humanitarian law, particularly the Geneva Conventions of 1949, have already caused 60 deaths among the civilian population, leaving 270 people wounded (as of October 17). 

Armenia also targets the gas and oil pipelines, threatening the energy security of a wider region including Europe. By targeting the cities outside the occupied lands of Azerbaijan, Armenia aims to provoke Azerbaijan to retaliate on Armenia. 

Armenia hopes to widen the conflict to bring The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) into the theatre. The recent attacks from Armenia to the Mingechevir dam reservoir and the hydroelectric power plant show that Armenia does not inhibit itself in any way. 

However, Azerbaijan’s leadership have declared that they will not respond to such Armenian provocations and they will keep their counter operations confined to the internationally recognized borders of Azerbaijan. 

Despite four UN Security Council Resolutions (822, 853, 874, 884), which call for immediate, complete, and unconditional withdrawal of occupying forces, Armenia continues to occupy almost 20% of Azerbaijan’s territory, which caused profound human suffering, displacing a million Azerbaijanis.

Armenia does not want a peaceful negotiated settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. That is why Armenia has done everything to sabotage the negotiations under the auspices of the Minsk Group and its three co-chairs. Meanwhile, Armenia has also been using the stalemate to change the demographic composition of the occupied Azerbaijani territories by resettling ethnic Armenians from Syria and Lebanon in Nagorno-Karabakh and the adjacent districts.

Not seeing any tangible results after decades of negotiations, one can understand Azerbaijan’s frustration with the ultimately futile talks. Remaining equidistant to both sides regardless of who’s the occupier does not lead to impartiality; it rewards the aggressor. International community must pressure Armenia to resume sincere, substantive, and result-oriented negotiations in good faith. 

The issue is not just about establishing another ceasefire. A ceasefire that is not designed to move towards a negotiated settlement will be fragile and temporary. Declared ceasefires (of October 10 and 18) did not take hold so far. 

If ending the occupation is not accepted as the point of departure, there will be other eruptions of violence in the future.

Turkey wants to see a negotiated settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict based on Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity in accordance with international law, UN Security Council Resolutions, and OSCE decisions to ensure enduring peace and stability in the region. Our support for Azerbaijan is not only based on our special bonds. It also stems from the fact that Azerbaijan stands on the right side of international law. Azerbaijan has the moral and legal high ground in this conflict.

Turkey gives and will continue to give strong political support to Azerbaijan. However, Turkey is not a party to this conflict and is not present on the battleground. Turkey does not want conflict and war across its borders. But the peace we need is one that is lasting and fair. Otherwise we will be having what we had for 30 years: Constant instability and protracted human tragedy.

Mustafa Osman Turan is Ambassador of Turkey to Bangladesh.

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