The European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy (EAFJD), a non-governmental organization representing European citizens of Armenian descent to European institutions, has sent a letter of protest to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) asking that the co-chairs objectively point to Azerbaijan as the side that continues to violate the ceasefire agreement with Armenia and that blocks a constructive peace process.
The letter sent to the OSCE reads as follows.
Subject: Recent escalation of tension on the contact line between Armenia and Azerbaijan and around Nagorno Karabakh
The Armenian communities in Europe are deeply concerned about the recent escalation of tension on the contact line between Armenia and Azerbaijan and around Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, perpetrated by the government of Azerbaijan. As you know, the ceasefire violations initiated by Azerbaijan became particularly intense on the eve and during your meetings with the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in New York on 24 – 25 September of the current year. The goal of the Azerbaijani government was clear – to put pressure on the Armenian side and harm the negotiation process.
Using the unresolved conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh as an excuse, the Azerbaijani army shelled borderline villages in Tavush region, in north-east of Armenia, killing 3 civilian women, two of who elderly. The goal behind this vicious strategy is to terrorize the civilian population in borderline villages and make them leave their homes. Azerbaijan also fired in the direction of the town of Noyemberyan in Tavush region in Armenia for the first time in ten years. Besides other heavy weaponry, the Azerbaijani side used howitzer D-30 for the first time after signing the cease-fire agreement. Further shelling resulting from the escalation of the tension took the lives of several servicemen.
The European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy (EAFJD) regrets the fact that on September 27 official Azerbaijan dismissed the proposal made by the OSCE Minsk Group to accept an OSCE mechanism to investigate ceasefire violations. Armenia agreed to discuss the details of the mechanism which would enable to identify the initiator of the cease-fire violation and make it difficult for the sides to blame each other for initiating deadly attacks.
The logical answer to the question why official Azerbaijan which continuously blames the Armenian side for violating the cease-fire is not interested in such a mechanism, is evident.
This is not the first time Baku has rejected similar proposals suggested by the OSCE Minsk Group. Official Azerbaijani has repeatedly rejected confidence-building measures proposed by the OSCE Minsk Group, including a system for investigating individual shooting incidents. It also blocked the suggestion of pulling snipers back from front-line positions.
Moreover, the current Government of Azerbaijan actively hinders grass-root peace process. It curbs people-to-people contacts such as those between the civil society, youth activists and intellectuals from Armenia and Azerbaijan. This type of exchange would be of major importance for bridging the two societies and for the peace process. Prominent civil society members who are genuinely interested in promoting a dialogue between the societies are intimidated or sentenced to several years of prison based on fabricated charges and falsified trials. One can recall the imprisonment of Leila Yunus and Arif Yunus as just one example.
The clear goal of the current Government of Azerbaijan is to insulate its own society and have a complete control over the public opinion. It is not a secret that hatred towards Armenians all over the world is being encouraged and nurtured from the highest level in Azerbaijan. This is dangerously irresponsible and short-sighted, considering the fact that Armenian and Azerbaijani peoples will continue living side by side for the centuries to come.
It is evident that the current Government of Azerbaijan with is maximalist and zero-sum-game approach towards the conflict is not interested in a genuine peace process. How can one otherwise explain the constant hate-filled war-rhetoric and bragging of the regime of Ilham Aliyev over the country’s rocketing military budget?
EAFJD is convinced that making generic announcements or putting a sign of equation between Armenia and Azerbaijan when addressing the two sides and calling them to stop violating the cease-fire, distorts the reality, creates false public opinion and in fact encourages the Aliyev regime in the dangerous game it is playing also at the expense of the lives of its own citizens. It is evident that if a new war unleashes under the current circumstances it will be the responsibility of the current Azerbaijani Government.
EAFJD considers that with its hard work towards the settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict OSCE Minsk Group has played an indispensable and highly valuable role in maintaining the relative peace. EAFJD therefore calls on the Co-chairs to objectively point at the side that violates the cease-fire or blocks a constructive peace process as well as confidence-building measures. Anything other than this would mean bearing a co-responsibility if a new war unleashes in Nagorno-Karabakh with its unpredictable and highly dangerous consequences for the whole region, including Azerbaijan.