BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
Azerbaijan and Turkey kept insisting that they will not accept a ceasefire until the Armenian armed forces vacate Artsakh. In other words, they want to reoccupy Artsakh and eliminate the Armenian presence there.
Turkey, an outsider, kept pouring fuel on the fire by stressing that the war on Artsakh should not stop until Armenians return the land back to Azerbaijan. However, as the Azeri and Jihadist terrorists’ losses mounted, Pres. Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan started softening his stance by announcing last Friday that the “principles to settle the Nagorno Karabagh conflict, which had been put forward by the United States, Russia and France, should form the basis for a settlement.”
That same day, at the invitation of Pres. Vladimir Putin of Russia, the Foreign Ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia met for over 10 hours in Moscow and agreed to a humanitarian ceasefire starting on Oct. 11, at 12 noon (local time), for the purposes of exchanging prisoners of war and retrieving the bodies of dead soldiers. Under Islamic law, a burial ceremony should be held within 24 hours of someone’s death.
However, not surprisingly, Aliyev and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had no intention of abiding by the ceasefire. Azerbaijan continued the shelling of civilian and military targets within few minutes of the start of the ceasefire. Aliyev showed no respect for the dead and their grieving families by refusing to make arrangements to pick up the bodies of killed Azeri soldiers. He also showed no respect for the strict Islamic burial time table as he is not a devout Muslim.
The real reason Aliyev pretended to accept the ceasefire was to use it as a cover to regroup its shattered armed forces and rush in new military hardware from Israel. Meanwhile, Turkey continued to recruit more terrorist mercenaries from Syria as they kept getting killed in the field of battle.
The blatant Azeri and Turkish violations of the ceasefire should finally wake up Pres. Putin from his slumber. The transfer of these mercenaries to Azerbaijan is not only against the interests of Armenia and Artsakh, but more importantly, against the national interests of Russia. If Putin does not care about the killings of Armenians, he should care about future acts of terrorism by the mercenaries who had been fighting in Syria against the Russian forces. Armenia and Artsakh are doing a big favor to Russia by eliminating hundreds of Islamist Jihadists that were a menace in Syria and potentially in Russia. These mercenaries could not fight well against Artsakh since they are not trained soldiers, but are capable of committing suicide bombings and blow up civilian targets in Russian cities.
Furthermore, Pres. Putin should feel embarrassed that a ceasefire he had arranged between Armenia and Azerbaijan is being disrespected by Aliyev and Erdogan. This may finally force Putin to take more decisive measures against both Azerbaijan and Turkey. Otherwise, Russia’s own prestige will go down the drain.
Russia also has to respect its commitment to the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) with Armenia. It has to defend Armenia’s borders since Azerbaijan has repeatedly shelled civilians inside Armenia.
Even more concerned with these Islamist terrorists is Iran which has been fighting them in Syria. To have thousands of terrorists on Iran’s border is a serious security risk. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has repeatedly warned Azerbaijan and Turkey about the transfer of these mercenaries to areas next to the Iranian border. Rouhani even spoke with Putin about this threat. If the danger persists, Iran may be forced to take military action against these foreign terrorists to defend its own borders.
One thing that remains puzzling is the polite and civilized reaction of the Armenian forces in the battle. Azerbaijan has kept shelling the civilian population of Stepanakert, Artsakh’s Capital, on a daily basis, causing dozens of deaths and injuries both before and after the ceasefire.
However, it is not understandable why the Armenian forces refrain from shelling Azeri cities and villages in return. The only exception was the Armenian shelling of the airport of Ganja (Gantsak) in Azerbaijan where Azeri and Turkish air force jets are stationed.
Armenians have every right to respond to Azeri targets. This is war. When the enemy does not respect international law and commits war crimes repeatedly, Aliyev should understand that Armenians will hit back until he stops targeting Armenian civilians. Even the historic Cathedral of Ghazanchetsots in Shushi came under Azeri missile attack causing major damage to this house of worship. Unless such barbaric Azeri attacks cease, Armenia should hit back all Azeri targets, particularly Azerbaijan’s oil pipeline.
I was very pleased that on October 11, a massive protest was organized by the Armenian community of Los Angeles in front of the Turkish Consulate.
Erdogan, the delirious leader of Turkey, should be pressured to stop its continuation of the genocide against the Armenian people. Armenian communities around the world should organize similar demonstrations against Turkish Consulates and Embassies and demand that all governments pressure Turkey to stop its involvement in the war and the recruitment of terrorist mercenaries. The war has unified 10 million Armenians worldwide who are ready to support their homeland against the pan-Turkic onslaught which is far more sinister than the coronavirus pandemic. Everything must be done to foil Erdogan’s attempt to stick his nose in the Artsakh conflict. Contrary to the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s announcement, Turkey should have no involvement either at the war zone or at the negotiating table.
Just as importantly, protests must be held in front of Israeli Consulates and Embassies in various countries as Israel has sold and continuous to sell billions of dollars of lethal sophisticated drones and missiles to Azerbaijan, killing and maiming hundreds of innocent Armenian men, women and children. A statement circulated on Facebook appropriately describes this insane situation: “The grandchildren of genocide perpetrators are killing the grandchildren of genocide survivors with weapons provided by the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors!”
Last week, a group of prominent Israeli intellectuals issued a joint statement calling on Israel “to cease immediately the sales of arms to Azerbaijan… aimed mainly against a people that like the Jewish people suffered genocidal attacks in the twentieth century. We call upon other Israelis to raise their voice on this important issue.” I am pleased that among the signatories are Professors Yair Auron, Israel Charny and Michael Stone, who have always defended the truth of the Armenian Genocide and called for its recognition by the Israeli government.
Since the Russian government has failed to take decisive action against Azerbaijan and Turkey, I suggest that protests be organized in front of Russian Consulates and Embassies in various countries, particularly in Yerevan and Moscow to let Pres. Putin know that his inaction in this war is causing Armenians everywhere to lose their sympathy for Russia and its government.
Finally, the governments of Artsakh and Armenia have urged everyone in the world to recognize the independence of the Republic of Artsakh. This is a very sensitive subject with far reaching consequences. However, given these tragic circumstances, Armenians have no choice but to resort to such a measure, as a reaction to the Azeri and Turkish attempts to annihilate the Armenians of Artsakh. The recognition of Artsakh’s independence would be an adequate response to Azerbaijan’s and Turkey’s war crimes. However, the first step should be the recognition of the Artsakh Republic by the Armenian government. Otherwise, when Armenians approach foreign leaders, they will be told why should they be the first to recognize Artsakh, since Armenia itself has not!