Questions Must be Asked of Azerbaijan’s Intentions

Questions Must be Asked of Azerbaijan’s Intentions.

As fighting broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan yet again, tensions over the Nagorno-Karabakh region have been simmering for decades: a ceasefire was agreed upon in 1994 after a vicious war in the region during the late 1980s and through the 1990s, but a peace treaty was never agreed upon.

Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh on outline geographic map.

The territory is recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but is governed by ethnic Armenians.

In the worst escalation of hostilities since the 1990s — which includes a four day war in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2016 — Azerbaijani and Armenian forces have been in direct conflict since September 27th, following Azerbaijani forces bombing civilian settlements based in Nagorno-Karabakh.

As fighting continues to identify — with heavy artillery fire, civilian casualties, and no peace on the horizon — there are fears growing that an all out war that could occur mirror the Nagorno-Karabakh war of the 1990s. Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, has warned that the ongoing conflict could indeed lead to a “regional war.”

Turkey have, unquestionably, aggravated the situation. Political experts estimate that Turkey have supported Azerbaijan with over 1,000 Syrian fighters, alongside weaponry and intensive training.

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Turkey’s role in the conflict has not gone unnoticed — Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad is quoted on record as naming Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s President, as being “the main instigator and the initiator of the recent conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh between Azerbaijan and Armenia”.

World leaders have further condemned Turkey for their actions — French President Emmanuel Macron has asked Turkey to “explain” their role in “jihadist fighters” arriving in Azerbaijan.

Turkey’s involvement could have further dire consequences beyond the scope of the Nagorno-Karabakh region — Russia may have to move away from their traditional involvement in the region as an arbiter of peace toward directly intervening, which could question the authority of a NATO ally. It is clear, therefore, that Turkey’s reasoning for their involvement is in the public interest.

Moreover, Azerbaijan’s and Turkey’s provocation has clearly led to unnecessary regional damage, with the potential for far reaching damage. With martial law declared on both sides, hundreds injured, many servicemen on each side killed: how can Azerbaijan — and Turkey, who appear to be clear instigators of the conflict — justify their actions?

zerbaijan claim, much to the bemusement of the international community, that an escalation in violence was simply inevitable. But it appears that Azerbaijan’s stance — that violence is a necessary push back on Armenian diplomats who are refusing to engage in progressive negotiations on the region — is merely an excuse.

Senior officials in Turkey and Azerbaijan must be able to recognize that they are making unreasonable demands — expecting Armenia withdrawal is just unfeasible. As Varuzhan Nersesyan, Armenian’s Ambassador to Washington, says: “they are trying to put blame on Armenia and ‘settle the score’”.

If, then, as Azerbaijan publicly claims — that violence is simply a byproduct because of Armenia’s stubbornness and unwillingness to comprise — how can that be reconciled with both leaders’ approach to the conflict?

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has publicly stated that he was prepared for “mutual concessions”. In return, Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, showed no remorse:

“Nagorno-Karabakh is our land. This is the end. We showed them who we are. We are chasing them like dogs.”

Azerbaijan making out that their escalation of violence is anything other than power driven land-grab is, to put it bluntly, an insult to everybody’s intelligence. Azerbaijan are not interested in peace, or a mutually agreed compromise, until Armenia withdraws support for the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.

A brutal war could be the result, with thousands dead and even more displaced refugees.

How could it be, then, that Turkey — a member of NATO — are so willing to lend their unwavering support to Azerbaijan, both “on the battlefield and the negotiating table”?

In many ways, their support does not come as a shock. Turkey and Azerbaijan share strong diplomatic ties, both ethnically and culturally, which has led to their relationship being described as “two states, but one nation”. Turkey and

Azerbaijan share further political and economic ties — Azerbaijan invests heavily into Turkey, and they are heavily bound together in the exporting of oil and gas.

Not only do the two countries share strong relations, but Turkey and Armenia actively have a tense relationship, which can be traced back to the killings of the Armenians by Ottoman Turks.

On the face of it, Turkey have publicly alluded to their rationale for their involvement: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has made it clear that they support Azerbaijan’s demand for Armenia to withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh. But critics are quick to point out that Turkey’s involvement is likely to be for far more sinister and selfish reasons.

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Susan Fraser sees Turkey’s “hardline rhetoric” as part of their “aspirations for global and regional leadership and Ankara’s increasing efforts to resolve disputes through “gunboat diplomacy.” It is clear that whenever Turkey see an opportunity they are not hesitant to use their military to intervene.

Nikol Pashinyan concurs: he says “[the] Azeri-Turkish international terroristic attack […] is a policy of continuing the Armenian genocide and a policy of reinstating the Turkish empire.”

Not only are both Azerbaijan and Turkey being irrational and disingenuous, it is clear that both countries might be in direct violation of international law. On 29 September 2020, the European Court of Human rights applied Rule 39 of the Rules of the Court in response to Armenia’s request for interim measures against Azerbaijan.

The decision is technically confidential — as are all interim measures — but the Court was of the opinion that “that the current situation gives rise to a risk of serious violations of the Convention, the European Court of Human Rights decided to apply Rule 39 of the Rules of Court. 

[Armenia and Azerbaijan must] refrain from taking any measures, in particular military action, which might entail breaches of the Convention rights of the civilian population, including putting their life and health at risk, and to comply with their engagements under the Convention, notably in respect of Article 2 (right to life) and Article 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) of the Convention.”

Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejcinovic-Buric, later made it clear that “all sides of the conflict to immediately cease hostilities and implement without delay the interim measures decided by the European Court of Human Rights. A peaceful solution must be found at the negotiating table to prevent a grave humanitarian crisis.”

Azerbaijan’s insistence that they will not put a stop to the violence until Armenia withdraws from the region appears to be in direct contradiction with this request from the Secretary General.

Furthermore, Article (2) of the Charter of the United Nations — which has been ratified by both Azerbaijan and Turkey — states: “all Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

There are a number of examples that would deem Azerbaijan and Turkey to be in direct violation of the Charter of the United Nations, but the particularly vitriolic include: Azerbaijani forces attacking a civilian bus in Vardenis; an Armenian Su-25 being shot down by a Turkish F-16 in Armenian airspace; and the civilians killed as a direct consequence of Azerbaijan’s shelling.

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Azerbaijan rationale is dishonest and their intentions are a threat to peace across the region and beyond. It is time for the international community to intervene.

Telling the truth the way it should be! Facts and nothing else!