BY KHATCHIG TAZIAN
Almost forty days into the signing of the declaration to stop the war between The Republic of Artsakh and Azerbaijan more question remain than have been answered.
On November 9 a nine-point declaration that was signed basically:
- Stopped the shooting
- Ushered in Russian peace keepers
- Relinquished control of Armenian held lands
The declaration that was to have stopped the war and resolved the conflict (Aliyev’s word) in its essence is a key to a door that opens to a wider and bloodier war. The declaration is fraught with opaque wording that involve opening “all” transit and communication links, which in turn ushers in issues dealing with oversight of the same, and sovereignty issues for both Armenia and Azerbaijan. Two of the most glaring examples of these issues are the Lachin Corridor link between Armenia and Stepanankert, and the proposed link between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan. What will be the status of these roads? Does each country agree to a sovereign land route? If not, will Russia guarantee the safety of each into perpetuity?
Is that not an infringement on the sovereignty of both countries? What exactly does a corridor connecting Nakhichevan with Azerbaijan have to do with the Nagorno Karabakh Conflict. Wasn’t the conflict and internal one to Azerbaijan carried out by Armenian separatists as proclaimed by Ilham Aliyev? What about the borders being drawn up between Armenia and Azerbaijan… who is the decision maker on these issues? Does Artsakh revert back to Nagorno Karabakh Oblast borders? Will that include Shahumian? Getashen? Shushi? How about the issue of returning refugees? Who gets to go where and by what ratio…? And Armenians returning to their homes in occupied Artsakh…will they be given Azerbaijani citizenship? If so why are the areas that have been taken over by the Azeri Armed forces being emptied from their inhabitants? Why do Azeri Armed forces insist on emptying villages under their control? Aren’t Armenians considered Azerbaijani citizens? If not, then how is it that Azerbaijan would like to extend its sovereignty over an indigenous people who it considers to be its subjects yet insists on expelling them from their homes situated on their ancestral lands? What is going to be the final status of what is left of Artsakh, independence? A Russian protectorate? Azerbaijan? Then of course there is the legality of what Pashinyan is signing away. Does the parliament have to ratify any of the changes taking place? Can future Armenian governments go back to the negotiating table and claim all of this was done at the end of a gun, by a prime minister who didn’t have the authority without the parliament’s approval…. Why, what, where, when, how, by whom….
Armenians everywhere are searching for answers and are rightfully looking to the government of Armenia and Artsakh to provide them where none are to be had. Villagers are left to their own devices in many cases having to negotiate borders, and possession with Azeri Armed forces. Whole villages in the 5-kilometer wide Lachin Corridor were told to evacuate and then told to stay put after the villagers had started tearing apart their homes so as not to leave them to the enemy. Civilians are still being kidnapped and in some cases being beheaded. The Armenian government simply does not exist. The prime minister insists on staying in office having delivered the state of chaos the Armenian nation worldwide is confronting today. The parliament mostly made up of his cronies can’t find the strength to hold a vote of no confidence. The armed forces are rightfully not taking sides, yet don’t have the necessary orders to station on the borders where needed. The fate of the soldiers missing action, and the number of fallen has still not been confirmed and published. The economy is in ruins. The dollar is rising. The cost of necessary staples is rising. Coronavirus is out of control….
Any administration in any civilized country that delivered the chaos we have on our hands at this point would have automatically resigned. Any self-respecting politician that oversaw the destruction of his country and its diaspora to the extent that Nikol Pahshinyan did would have resigned or committed suicide by now. This begs the question: Why has Pashinyan and his team stayed on. There are of course no verifiable answers to that question at this point. One likely scenario is that the Kremlin has in him a cooperative subject who is putting to work all decisions mandated to him with no questions asked. A new person in that same position would more likely be resistant to the same. In Pashinyan they have a willing partner for the handing over of lands without disputing borders. Someone who is ready to concede villages in Artsakh when they were held by Armenian forces at the end of the conflict. A collaborator in the literal meaning of the word.
However, the facts remain. The credibility, trust, and authority of the administration and the Prime Minister are by any measure fatally wounded. For the country to stabilize, and for the people to regain their trust in their leaders for the long-term viability of the country, there needs to be change, and change for the better. A prerequisite for that change is the resignation of the Prime Minister.
The people need to be brought out of the deep depression and grief they are in due to the loss of the war, the loss of Artsakh, and in many cases the loss or injury of a loved one. They need to be led towards hope, towards brighter days, and toward confidence in their safety and that of their state. The diaspora as well as Armenia needs to recalibrate itself for the short / mid-term and long-term needs of Armenia and Artsakh. Neither Armenia, nor the Diaspora have the luxury at this point to waste time, to fracture further, or to resign itself to defeat as a long-term phenomenon. This may have been a defeat in the short term but in the long term it may have been the single most important catalyst for the Armenian nation to re-invigorate itself and re-assess its national goals and ideals. To not take Armenian statehood for granted. For the Diaspora to rethink its role both in support of the homeland, and its role as a stakeholder at the table, both politically and economically.
For us to start anew, we need to start with burying the past. Nikol Pashinyan and his My Step coalition now belong to the dustbin of history as do the ruling elites of the past. From Levon Ter Petrosian to Pashinyan any political party that has had the control of the country has shown their capabilities in governance. They have proven their best, and collectively it was not good enough for us to win this war. None should be allowed to regain power. A caretaker government needs to insure this is the case by revamping the electoral law of Armenia and insuring fair and free elections.
Finally, as a nation if there is one takeaway from this war it is this: The national security of the Armenian nation at any threat level must be guaranteed by our organic abilities. Therefore, any planning for the future in every sector of the country and the nation, whether, social, economic, defense or diaspora should have that premise as the cornerstone of any strategy going forward.
We may have lost this battle, but the war is just beginning…