BY HRANT APOVIAN
“Azerbaijan strives to resume the military phase of the conflict to suppress the right of the people of Artsakh to self-determination through the use of force.”
–Armand Kirakossian, Permanent Representative of Armenia to the OSCE
Ambassador Armand Kirakossian was not exaggerating when he said in his speech at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council, “that the physical survival of the population of Artsakh and its protection from mass atrocities are the responsibility of Artsakh authorities.”
The news from the line of contact between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan is indeed alarming. Tensions are escalating, there are constant violations of the cease fire, there are attacks and incursions by Azerbaijani Special Forces and a gradual increase in the caliber of artillery being used and an almost constant bombardment of Armenian border villages.
The death toll is rising; young Armenian soldiers are indiscriminately being killed by Azerbaijani snipers or during border attacks. The OSCE – Minsk group permanent representatives are “alarmed” by the rising tensions at the line of contact. OSCE – Minsk group’s US co-chair James Warlick “urges the two sides to strictly adhere to the ceasefire to create a more conducive atmosphere.”
Basically, no one is concerned by the situation on the ground, no one takes Azeri official threats seriously, and no one is alarmed by the looming existential threat facing the inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh. In fact, immense efforts are made to placate Azerbaijan.
One thing is certain: What is happening at this time, on the eve of the Genocide Centennial, is not coincidental. It is planned and coordinated by a Turkish – Azeri military alliance at the highest level. It may devolve into major hostilities at any time. The threat is very real: witness our fallen soldiers, witness the general apathy towards the plight of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, witness the massive military buildup in Azerbaijan aided by Russia, Turkey, Belarus and Israel. An “October surprise” may be imminent.
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Fact I. Nagorno-Karabakh has never been part of the OSCE conflict negotiations. It is not recognized as a party to the conflict even though it was a signatory to the cease-fire agreement. Effectively, as far as Azerbaijan is concerned, Nagorno-Karabakh does not exist as a full-fledged viable entity to be negotiated with.
Fact II. No country -including Armenia or Russia -has recognized Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent entity. In other words, Nagorno-Karabakh’s people’s right to self-determination is not honored.
Fact III. There is a complete disregard for Azerbaijan’s arms buildup beyond the quota amount allowed. According to Karen Mirzoyan, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nagorno-Karabakh, “Azerbaijan has a complete disregard for and manipulation of the norms of international humanitarian law.”.
Fact IV. Azerbaijan has no intention of ever accepting the existence of Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent country, and it is convinced that it can re-conquer it by military means.
Fact V. Azerbaijan is encouraged in this course of action by its massive arms buildup and by its big brother – Turkey, that it will succeed in doing so. It is a shame that certain other countries are encouraging it in this belief as well.
Fact VI. According to Armenia’s Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian, the situation at the border is “tense” but under control. That must be no consolation to mothers who keep losing sons at the front. This is an untenable situation and an ominous sign of what is to come.
Fact VII. Why is Russia supplying billions of dollars of offensive weapons to Azerbaijan? Why is Turkey? Why is Israel? One would tend to believe that there is a conspiracy brewing against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh and question their motivation.
Fact VIII, Finally, it is clear that the writer of this opinion piece has grown to be utterly pessimistic and foresees dire prospects facing Nagorno-Karabakh. In addition, this writer has lost his trust in the best intentions of the nations that are involved and are in apparent collusion with Azerbaijan.
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We need a wake-up call. The danger is real and inevitable. There is an existential threat facing our brothers and sisters in Artsakh. This tiny mountainous republic is facing war and possibly annihilation. Once we acknowledge this, we can conclude that the threat is real. There has to be a major shift in strategy.
Maybe we in the diaspora have grown complacent and are not doing what needs to be done as far as raising the alarm and garnering support – both political and material – for the survival of Nagorno-Karabakh. We are not investing there, we have not encouraged repatriation, and we are not helping families who have lost a husband or a father to the defense effort.
Maybe our defensive military posture is not the right deterrent against the enemy and should be reassessed by the Armenian Defense Ministry.
Maybe the opposition in Armenia should reinforce the borders in support of our soldiers instead of internal squabbles. For example, it would be useful for their members to volunteer to train and serve as army reservists with the same urgency accorded to public protests and rallies.
Maybe the Armenian Government should increase its political support of Nagorno-Karabakh through the efforts of its ambassadors throughout the world.
Maybe the next time an Armenian officer is hacked to death in Budapest, or an unarmed Armenian helicopter is shot down, the Armenian Government can act decisively and respond forcefully and in kind to such provocations.
We witness countries that strive to achieve peace and security for their people as their primary goal. Security is the inalienable right of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. What is the world going to do to avoid another genocide masked in the guise of war? What are we doing to stop the inevitable?