Karabakh Knot: Identifying Myths and Clarifying Realities, 14 March 2012 Update By Yusif Babanly, Contributor
Since the ceasefire in May 1994, Armenia and Azerbaijan have been deadlocked in the so-called frozen conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh. Continuous meetings of the heads of state, ministers of foreign affairs, religious leaders and intellectuals have brought no substantial progress in the resolution of what is considered to be one of the bloodiest conflicts in the post-Soviet space.
As highlighted by the Armenian commentator in his op-ed “Karabakh Knot: Myths and Realities” in Foreign Policy (http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2012/03/10/karabakh-knot-myths-and-realities/), 2011 was indeed “another year of wasted opportunities.” Uncompromising stances from both sides makes it nearly impossible to come close to the long-awaited peace treaty. Although, the agreement on basic principles has not been reached, Azerbaijan, eager to settle the conflict soon, had even proposed to simultaneously start working on the final peace treaty in December 2011. However, the Armenian side has so far been unwilling to contribute to the process of peace-building, ironically, ever since the peacemakers began to intervene to end the bloodshed in 1991. It is worth noting that some of the most strategic locations in Karabakh were occupied by Armenian troops in the periods of mediated trilateral meetings planned to halt the hostilities, when the Azerbaijani side concentrated on peace talks and did not expect any offensives on the front lines.
The commentator Aram Avetisyan, who distinctively claims that there are three parties to the conflict (Azerbaijan, Armenia and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic), must get acquainted with the peacemaking formats used during peace negotiations, mediated both during the existence of the Soviet Union (Zheleznovodsk Accords, mediated by Russia and Kazakhstan ) and after its collapse (Tehran Agreement  and subsequent OSCE Minsk Group-sponsored talks). None of the state leaders or their representatives mediating any of the aforementioned peace agreements recognized Nagorno-Karabakh as a separate party to the conflict. Not then, not now. Russia, Kazakhstan and Iran have all mediated between Azerbaijan and Armenia only. Similarly, from the inception of the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group in March, 1992, the format of the negotiations was set up according to Baker Rules, named after the United States Secretary of State, James Baker. Within the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Baker Rules recognized only two principal parties to the conflict—Armenia and Azerbaijan, and identified two interested parties—the Azerbaijani and Armenian communities of Nagorno-Karabakh. This format has been retained to this day. During their periodic visits, OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs meet with Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders, followed by meetings with the head of the Armenian community of Nagorno-Karabakh, who depicts himself as “President of NKR” in Khankendi (Stepanakert), and the head of Azerbaijani community of Nagorno-Karabakh, currently in exile, in Baku. Therefore, there are no irregularities or inconsistencies in the format of peace negotiations and Azerbaijan is not to be accused of “rejecting” any contacts with Nagorno-Karabakh. On a separate note, reconciliation measures have always been welcomed by Azerbaijan, as many intellectuals and public diplomats have been in contact with their Armenian counterparts in Armenia and occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, and have hosted them in Baku many times.
Azerbaijan does not mislead the international community with any international documents as the commentator claims. Futile arguments to misinterpret the nature of official documents to present the conflicting sides as “Azerbaijan and NKR” will only add to the existing set of misrepresentations of facts by the Armenian side. One undeniable fact is that Armenia, in a quest for the outright annexation of Azerbaijani territory, had demanded transfer of Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia through the end of September 1991. Understanding the repercussions of demands within international law, the Armenian leadership soon denounced the claims to Nagorno-Karabakh and switched to the “self-determination” principle to gain sympathy and some legitimacy in the eyes of the international community.
Baku rightfully refers to U.N. Security Council Resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884 in an effort to underline the stance of the international community vis-à-vis Armenia and its aggression against Azerbaijan. To get clarification and understand what the documents stipulate, one must read through the texts of the resolutions in full, while also paying attention to the timing of when these documents were adopted. Resolution 822 was adopted on April 30, 1993 in relation and response to the occupation of the Kelbajar district of the Republic of Azerbaijan by the Armenian forces attacking from the eastern occupied district of Agdere and by the Armenian armed forces aided by the 127th division of the Russian army from the west (across the Armenian border) on April 2, 1993., The resolution clearly reaffirms the “respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity” and “the inviolability of international borders and the inadmissibility of the use of force for the acquisition of territory,” calling for the withdrawal of occupying forces from Kelbajar District and the other areas of Azerbaijan.
Subsequent UNSC Resolutions 853, 874 and 884 were passed due to the ongoing advance and occupation of Azerbaijani districts by the Armenian army, reaffirming the stance of the U.N. Security Council on previously adopted documents calling for occupying Armenian forces to withdraw. Resolution 853 was passed on July 29, 1993, six days after occupation of the Agdam district of Azerbaijan and in accordance with the report by the Chairman of the OSCE (CSCE) Minsk Group. Resolution 874 was adopted on October 14, following the occupation of the districts of Fizuli, Jabrayil, and Gubadly on August 23, 26 and 31, respectively. Finally, Resolution 884 was adopted on November 12, 1993 after the last region in southwestern Karabakh, Zangelan and the city of Horadiz were occupied on October 29. Remarkably, Mr. Avetisyan also chooses to forget four critical points:
1)The term “occupying forces” in the resolutions is used in reference to the occupying Armenian armed forces, because Azerbaijan, in all of the districts specified in the resolutions, was on the defensive, not offensive;
2)Azerbaijani forces could not have ever been an “occupying force” in Nagorno-Karabakh, simply because Nagorno-Karabakh is a constituent part of the Republic of Azerbaijan (duly recognized so by the international community). Hence, there are no grounds to misinterpret and play around the term “occupying forces”;
3)“Local Armenian troops” would never have been able to withstand campaigns of the Azerbaijani army should they have not been aided by the Armenian army and Russia’s 127th division stationed in Gyumri (Armenia) and 366th regiment deployed in Khankendi (Stepanakert). The latter had already become notorious for its role in the joint operation in Khojaly on February 26, 1992, which ended up in the slaughter of 613 Azeri civilians by Armenian detachments ,;
4)There is ample evidence of the Armenian army participating in hostilities against Azerbaijan in Karabakh. Reputable sources, including Human Rights Watch, state that as much as 30 percent of Armenian army soldiers interviewed in Yerevan fought in Karabakh. Many Armenian soldiers, who currently serve in occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, are a part of the armed forces of the Republic of Armenia. The deaths of Armenian conscripts in Nagorno-Karabakh every now and then often make their way into the media and shed light on the denials of the Armenian side about the Armenian army being deployed in Azerbaijan’s occupied territories.
Yet, the aforementioned four UNSC resolutions are not the only documents clarifying the stance of the international community. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted Resolution 1416 on January 25, 2005 on the situation in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan and called for compliance with four UNSC resolutions. The U.N. General Assembly adopted Resolution A/62/L.42 on March 14, 2008 reaffirming the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and demanding the withdrawal of occupying Armenian forces from Nagorno-Karabakh. Many more resolutions condemning the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territory were passed by other international organizations such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. From the EU presidency to Minsk Group co-chair states, leaders have called on Armenia to respect the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and withdraw the occupying forces from its territory.,
By contrast, no documents by international bodies and governments were issued condemning any “Azerbaijani aggression,” as implied by Mr. Avetisyan, not even during the Azerbaijani campaign from December 1993 to January 1994 when Azerbaijani forces were able to liberate Horadiz, just because the restoration of the territorial integrity of a sovereign state is the right of any country, maintained by every legitimate government on the planet. Furthermore, no international organization or government has recognized the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic ruled by a regime branded by U.S. Assistant of Secretary of State Elizabeth Jones as one run by “criminal secessionists.” It is noteworthy that U.N. member Pakistan does not even recognize Armenia itself, due to its aggression against the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Unsurprisingly, commentator Avetisyan reiterates the official rhetoric of the Republic of Armenia on the continuing blockade of Armenia by the Republic of Azerbaijan, but fails to provide precedents from the history of conflicts where and when a country, a part of which had been occupied, extended a lifeline to the economy of the occupying country. This would be similar to Nazi Germany complaining about a blockade of the Allies during WWII, imposed on it untiil the end of the war while it maintained the occupation of a large part of Europe and Northern Africa. Needless to say, Azerbaijan sees no point in opening borders with Armenia or extending all economic opportunities to it, which would bring Yerevan money to sustain its occupation of Karabakh, so long as Armenia is unwilling to compromise. Unfortunately, the Armenian leadership has imprisoned the Armenian population and Armenian community of Nagorno-Karabakh, depriving them of all economic incentives and projects which enriched all countries in the region, including Georgia and Turkey. Undoubtedly, Armenia, which was left behind all major international energy and communication projects in the Caucasus, has been ranked by Forbes magazine as the second-worst economy in the world. Therefore, due to deteriorating economic conditions in the country, Armenia has ranked third among 28 post-socialist countries for having the most decreasing population, losing 15.1% of its population between 1989 through 2007. By contrast, Azerbaijan’s population grew by 20.8% in the same time period. A strikingly worrisome concern is that over 1.1 million people have left Armenia since 1991.
The core of the problems Armenia faces today is the irredentist and decrepit ideology of the state, imposed on the Armenian public, impeding the economic and social development in the country. It is the only state in the South Caucasus which lays territorial claims on Azerbaijan (its Nagorno-Karabakh and Nakhchivan regions), Georgia (Samtskhe-Javakheti region) and Turkey (eastern provinces) simultaneously. It is the only state violating international laws and norms in the region. And it is the only state depriving its own population of economic benefits other countries have been enjoying. Yerevan should seriously rethink its strategies and start integrating into the region instead of conspicuously calling on the younger generation of Armenians to ominous causes such as “fighting to annex eastern Turkey.” The mere fact that the international community has not recognized the regime in Khankendi (Stepanakert) in the last two decades and does not endorse the occupation of Azerbaijani territory by Armenia should give it a hint. Saber rattling against Azerbaijan does not supply the Armenian public with income, nor does it increase their chances of justifying the occupation of a sovereign state’s territory in the eyes of the international community. Only through good-willed compromise and respect for international laws can Armenia overcome this impasse.
 News.az agency, Azerbaijan ready
to start work on major peace agreement.
December 6, 2011 (http://www.news.az/articles/50317)
 Yusif Babanly, History of peace
starring Armenia, July 14, 2011
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Jean-Christophe Peuch. Caucasus: Iran
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Armenia Yielding Claim on Enclave,
September 23, 1991 (http://www.nyt
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Adopted by the Security Council at its 3205th
meeting, on April 30, 1993 (http:
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Azerbaijan: Seven years of conflict in Nagorno-
Karabakh: Human Rights Watch, 1994
, p. 116 (http://books.google.com
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dopted by the Security Council at its 3259th meeting,
29 July, 1993 (http://www.unhcr.org
 UN SC Resolution 874 (1993)
Adopted by the Security Council at its 3292nd meeting,
on 14 October, 1993 (http://www.u
 UN SC Resolution 884 (1993)
Adopted by the Security Council at its 3313th meeting,
on 12 November, 1993
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Armenians Being Reported. March 3, 1992
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The Debacle: From Kafan to Khojaly,
Yusif Babanly (http://www.turkishweekly
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New York University Press, 2003, p. 236
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er the Nagorno-Karabakh region dealt with by
OSCE Minsk Conference, Text adopted by the
Assembly on 25 January 2005 (2nd Sitting)
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forces from Nagorno-Karabakh, 14
March 2008 (http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp
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chronicles: nation-building a
nd diplomacy in Armenia, 1993-1994: Gomidas Institute
, 2002, p. 134 (http://books.
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s toward cease-fire in enclave,
May 7, 1993 (http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/chicagotr
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, Speech on 13 January
2005: Karabakh Factsheet, Excerpt from the website of
Embassy in Moscow
 Senate of Pakistan World View, 7 July 2008
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Worst Economies, 5 July 2011
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, adapted from Elizabeth Brainerd
, “The Demographic Transformation of Post-Socialist
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, and Questions”, Brandeis University, August 2009
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* Yusif Babanly is the co-founder and secretary of the US Azeris Network (USAN) and a member of the board of directors of Azerbaijani American Council.
Wednesday, 14 March 2012
The Kurdish issue, particularly the matter of founding a homeland for Kurds, has complicated efforts to stabilize a situation in Iraq. Recently, there is growing concern among international experts that the Kurdish issue could become a source of tension, and possibly conflict in the South Caucasus.
In 1997 an Armenian samizdat author suggested that restoring Kurdish autonomous . . districts in the southern Caucasus could help resolve the Karabakh dispute, but later Armenia's 60,000-strong Kurdish community has taken a step likely to make finding a solution to that conflict even more difficult. In December 2007 the leaders of that community endorsed Serzh Sarkisyan for president of Armenia in the hopes that the latter would work to re-establish the Kurdish autonomous district in the Lachin corridor of Azerbaijan, where in 1992, the Kurds played a key role in breaking through Baku's military encirclement of Karabakh. And now Kurds in Iraq support the restoration of a Kurdish district in the Lachin district of Azerbaijan, viewing it as analogous to and a precedent for a Kurdish region in Iraq.
And Armenians across the Middle East have spoken in support of Kurds in both places. Among the Armenian activists doing so are members of the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA), well-known terrorist organization. Moreover, in December 2007 Seyran Barzani, the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) representative in France, threatened that in case of a Turkish invasion into northern Iraq, Kurds would start military actions in Azerbaijan. Nevertheless, while some analysts consider the prospect of establishing a new Kurdish state in the Caucasus as mere fiction, other experts do not deny the possibility of such a scenario developing. Before moving to an analysis of the current situation, it is worthwhile to look at the historical aspects of the problem.
The idea of establishing a Kurdish state in Azerbaijan is not new. After the Bolsheviks seized power in Azerbaijan in 1920, the idea of using Kurdish nationalism to spread proletarian revolution over the Middle East occupied the minds of the Soviet leadership. In 1923 the communist government of Azerbaijan decided to establish Kurdistanskiy district (referred to as "Red Kurdistan"), encompassing Kelbajar, Lachin and part of the Gubatli region. Lachin city was chosen as the administrative capital of the new district. Soviet authorities hoped that the creation of a Kurdish district would serve as an inspiration for oppressed Kurds in the Middle East. In the case of a possible separation of Kurdish areas from Iran or Turkey, it would have been easy for Soviet authorities to "accommodate" or unite them with an already existing Kurdish district. Later in 1929, however, the Soviets abandoned this idea, abolished Kurdish administrative unite and deported most of the Kurds to Kazakhstan and Central Asia.
The "Independent Kurdistan" scenario was reanimated again in the early 1990s. After finishing the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenian forces captured Lachin and six other districts of Nagorno-Karabakh, including areas constituting the former "Red Kurdistan." In 1992 the Armenian-backed but unrecognized government in Karabakh announced the establishment of a Kurdish republic with its capital in Lachin. Using the Kurdish card, Armenian authorities were trying to show that not only was the Armenian minority fighting for independence from Azerbaijan, but the Kurdish minority was as well. However, this last attempt to revive the Kurdish issue failed again because of several reasons. First, due to the ethnic cleansing in the occupied territories, most of the Muslim Kurdish population had already fled to other regions of Azerbaijan. Second, by creating a Kurdish state in the region, Armenian authorities would have contradicted the basic Armenian argument in the Karabakh war: that Karabakh belonged historically to Armenia.
Azerbaijan has not been directly involved in Turkey's conflict with the PKK, instead limiting its assistance to information-sharing. After the launching of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, PKK activities in Turkey began to endanger this economically lucrative regional project. In October Murat Karay?lan, leader of the PKK's military wing, announced that "since pipelines that cross Kurdistan (southeastern Turkey) provide the economic resources for the Turkish army's aggression, it is possible the guerrillas will target them". With the BTC pipeline crossing through territory in which the PKK operates, the possibility of such an attack cannot be discounted. An attack of this sort would send a shock wave all over the Caucasian region and would result in Azerbaijan being less attractive to foreign investors.
In early December 2007, both Turkish and Azerbaijani sources started to express their concerns about possible relocation of PKK bases from Northern Iraq to Armenia-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh. The Turkish "Zaman" newspaper informed that many intelligence reports had revealed that the PKK planned to move ten of its camps, previously established in the Qandil mountain range in the border areas of the Kurdistan region, to the Armenian occupied areas of Karabakh. The reports also say that a number of PKK gunmen had visited twelve Kurdish villages in the Karabakh region and asked the villagers to help them. The newspaper also revealed that a PKK gunman who had escaped from the camp and surrendered to the Turkish forces had given important information on the PKK and their plan to move their camps to Karabakh. Allegedly, the PKK bases would be located in Azerbaijani cities Shusha, Fizuli and definitely Lachin.
The news about PKK bases did not surprise Azerbaijani establishment. Already in April of 1998, the Turkish press was reporting that Armenia had seven PKK camps on its territory. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan's minister of defense stated in 1999 that up to 200 Kurdish terrorists were getting trained in Lachin region of occupied Azerbaijan. During the Turkish military operations in 1999, Stratfor reported that PKK members were retreating to Armenia for replenishing and re-training. Meanwhile, for a last couple of years Azerbaijan was collecting information and reporting to the international organizations about settlement of Armenians and Kurd from Middle East in Karabakh region. During visit of the Turkish President to Azerbaijan in November 2007, both sides discussed possible PKK relocation to Azerbaijan and the establishment of new Kurdish settlements in Karabakh. Araz Azimov, deputy Foreign Minister stressed that in case of necessity Baku could consider to apply anti-terrorist measures against PKK bases. The PKK is a terrorist organization according to the US, EU, UK, Turkey and many other states' laws.
As we see PKK terrorists have been settling in Nagorno-Karabakh and in portions of Armenian-occupied Azerbaijan, with the tacit support of the Armenian government in Yerevan. Many of the Kurds are reputed to have resettled in the strategically important Lachin Corridor, a strip of territory now occupied by Armenia that was formerly part of Azerbaijan proper. Control of Lachin is one of the main obstacles in the search for a Karabakh settlement. PKK terrorists have established training camps in and around Karabakh, and that Armenian authorities have given Kurds access to state broadcasting facilities. Political organizations in Armenia, including such a terrorist organization as Dashnakstoutiun, are actively assisting the Kurdish separatists, seeing them as a means to strengthen Armenians' hold on Karabakh. According to the Jerusalem Post, the PKK is under the protection of foreign intelligence organizations and financed by some of the separatist Kurdish businessman and international drug smugglers. Furthermore, Israeli Debka File accuses Armenian Government of giving Armenian citizenship to the PKK militants. However Armenia cannot decide on PKK move issue without support of another country. Such countries could be Greece, Russia and Greek Cyprus
The Karabakh authority wins from relocating PKK bases on its territory. First, hundreds of Kurdish families will move to Karabakh along with PKK terrorists. By this move Armenian authorities try to increase Karabakh's diminishing population. Second, Karabakh get hundreds if not thousands experienced guerilla fighters. If Azerbaijan decides to wage war to get back its territories, its army would need first to fight through PKK controlled areas before reaching Karabakh's heartland. Third, the establishment of PKK's base in Lachin and Kalbajar would be the first step for creation of Kurdish state. It is important to mention also that Kurdish minority of Armenia numbering sixty thousand people, hopes that Armenia would help them to get their autonomy. The PKK, as a professional terrorist organization, has all features of government and can take such responsibility. Some experts draw a parallel stating that Kurdistan in Karabakh is a miniature of Iraqi Kurdistan. It is interesting that idea of Kurdistan in Caucasus was met with great sympathy in Iraqi Kurdistan calling for direct relations with this region. They also believe that both Kurdistans can be a counter-balance for Pan-Turkism.
For a long time experts in international relations warned that non-recognized territories could become rogue states - sources of terrorism and criminal activities. These territories are de facto independent, but not bound by any international treaties. Thus, no sanctions can be applied there to comply with international law. They have their own armies, law-enforcement, and political institutions. But lack of financial viability and absence of economy force them to earn money through weapon sales, drug-trafficking and places for training of terrorists and guerillas.
Karabakh, for example, remains one of the most militarized patches of earth in the world. The PKK's decision to move to Karabakh is rational, well-thought out and of benefit to both sides. Karabakh is the only territory in the Middle East and the Caucasus that can be immune from any military actions of Turkey. Most of the countries of the region would hardly host PKK, risking the wrath of the Turkish army. Even for Armenia it would be suicidal to establish PKK camps on its territory. Armenian government would need to give explanations to the world community and can get sanctions. But Karabakh is a different story. The Turkish army would hardly chase PKK terrorists in Karabakh. Any Turkish military actions in that area would definitely involve Armenian troops deployed in that region. Armenian participation would automatically bring Russia into the conflict as a guarantor of security of its southern ally. Russian involvement into the conflict with member of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a nightmare scenario for many politicians in the world. PKK also will not be considered as an alien element in Karabakh.
Many Armenian terrorist organizations including notorious Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) had successfully cooperated for a long time with PKK. For example, in April of 1980, both organizations held a press conference in Sidon, Lebanon, where they issued a joint declaration on fighting against Turkey. Later, ASALA members, including famous Monte Melkonyan, took part in a war against Azerbaijan. Together with them, many PKK militants fought in Karabakh against Azerbaijani army in summer of 1992.
At a moment when some officials are expressing hope about a breakthrough via the Minsk Group and others, including the International Crisis Group, are suggesting that there is a threat of renewed fighting, the Kurdish initiative in Armenia provides those opposed to any settlement with yet another means to block it. It is very difficult to predict how the situation will evolve, but one can be sure that the introduction of a new nationalist-terrorist element in a volatile region like the Caucasus would play a severely negative role. While Azerbaijani and Armenian authorities are trying to reach peace accords over Karabakh, the PKK factor could significantly undermine the entire process. If all peace initiatives are exhausted and Baku begins to view conflict as the only means of regaining lost territory in Nagorno-Karabakh, the presence of the PKK could be used by Azerbaijan's hawks as yet another argument in favor of war.
by Ilgar MAJIDLI, October, 2010 Eurasiacritic.co.uk