wsj.com Epilogue to the views of the President of Russia

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https://www.turan.azOgtay Gasimov, assistant to former President Elchibey

During his 21 years in power, President Putin has not made as many statements as he did in the last two months regarding Armenian separatism and occupation of Karabakh, which he has been interested in prolonging by saying “It is not yet time to resolve the conflict”.

Commenting on the war, which was started in Karabakh to restore Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, for the first time in October, in addition to the positive aspects of Putin’s view regarding the problem, his distortion of historical facts and several anti-Azerbaijani theses attracted attention. In November and December, we witnessed the continuation of these distortions in press releases.

Although his opinions that Russia will not intervene because the war is within the borders of Azerbaijan established by international law and that Karabakh is an integral part of Azerbaijan and the fact that the term Nagorno-Karabakh is not used are welcomed in our society, his other opinions are equally worrying. Let’s pay attention to these theses separately:

1.Putin presents the Karabakh conflict as an ethnic conflict, not a conflict that began with Armenia’s territorial claims against Azerbaijan. These are completely different concepts. An ethnic conflict is a conflict between two or more ethnic groups for political, economic, national, religious, and social reasons. However, the Karabakh conflict is a war started by Armenians to occupy Azerbaijani territories and unite them with Armenia. The fact that this is a territorial claim is confirmed by the decision of the Supreme Soviet of Armenia on December 1, 1989, on the annexation of Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. Apparently, the Russian president gives the impression that it is impossible for the two communities in Karabakh to coexist, and that he intends to deploy first in the conflict zone and then stay there for a long time. The peaceful coexistence of Azerbaijanis and Armenians in both countries during the Soviet era, and in Georgia, Russia, and other countries now, may be the best response to Mr. Putin’s views regarding “ethnic conflict”.

2.In his speeches, the idea that the current status quo will be maintained and that the status of Nagorno-Karabakh can be considered in the future increases the likelihood that the problem will be frozen and re-ignited when necessary. This contradicts the essence of the cooperation format proposed by the Turkish president and supported by Putin. If constructive and consistent steps are not taken to fully resolve the problem in accordance with the requirements of international law, then it will be meaningless to talk about peace and cooperation in the South Caucasus. On the other hand, while saying that Nagorno-Karabakh is an integral part of Azerbaijan under international law, his insistent stress on the nonrecognition of the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh by Armenia can also be seen as a message to Armenians. It seems that Russia is interested in discussing issues such as status, religious monuments, etc. at the international level in order to prolong the settlement of the problem after its deployment in the region. Putin’s statement that “the situation around Karabakh is more complicated than the postulates of international law” can be read as an expression of the unwillingness to fully resolve this issue in the near future, as well as an expression of unpleasant intentions.

3.One of the distorted issues is Putin’s repeated statement that “At the root of the ethnic conflict are the events in Sumgayit, which later passed to Nagorno-Karabakh.” In any case, it is impossible that he, as Russian president, does not know the details of the causes of the conflict. If he does not know, it is useful to remember history briefly. Such that after the Russian occupation of northern Azerbaijan, only 1,559 (8.4%) of the 18,563 families in Karabakh were Armenians in the 1823 census. In 1823-1829, Russia tried to change the ethnic composition of the population by bringing 40,000 Armenians from Iran and 84,000 from the Ottomans to the region. Later, in 1905 and 1918-1920, Russian-backed Armenians carried out ethnic cleansing through terrorism, gaining a majority in the mountainous part of Karabakh, and attempts to separate the region from Azerbaijan were prevented. Although the Soviets established autonomy for the Armenians in Karabakh in 1923, Armenia did not give up its claims to seize the region, and its leaders and Catholicos never hid their intentions. Facts such as the letter of the then Armenian First Secretary Arutunov to Stalin in 1945 about the transfer of Karabakh to Armenia, the repetition of his opinion by Catholicos Vazgen during his visit to Baku in 1958, etc., prove that the issue was not an ethnic conflict. The Russian president is probably aware that when the conflict began, two Azerbaijanis, Bakhtiyar and Ali, were killed by Armenians in Karabakh before the Sumgayit events. Therefore, it is not the right approach to link the cause of the conflict with the events in Sumgayit. President Putin’s views on “Armenians taking up arms for their lives and dignity in Karabakh” can, in fact, be seen as an attempt to justify the separatists and protect them. The notion of dignity has nothing to do with terrorist acts committed by Armenia such as the brutal killing of about 70 peaceful Azerbaijanis in Gugark region of Armenia, 30 in Baghanis Ayrim village of Gazakh, 20 in Malibayli village of Karabakh, 144 in Garadaghli village of Karabakh, and 613 in Khojaly, and the burning of hundreds of settlements. Such views cast doubt on the intentions of the party obliged to conduct a neutral peacekeeping mission in the conflict zone.

Russia, which is to carry out a peacekeeping mission, must do its part in accordance with the tripartite agreement and convince the parties of its goodwill. Russia has a lot to do in this direction. Instead of carrying wooden beams to Khankendi and carrying out construction work, they should deal with the return of Azerbaijani refugees to their homes together with Armenians. Due to unfavorable conditions in other liberated regions, the residents of the region may be returned to the habitable city of Lachin at the initial stage. The tripartite agreement provides the basis for this. Such that Russian peacekeepers can ensure the safety of the Azerbaijani population returning to Lachin, as in Khankendi. If necessary, the Azerbaijani police and units of the Internal Troops can take part in the process together with them.

According to the tripartite agreement, the issue of opening the Mehri corridor connecting Nakhchivan with Azerbaijan, which will be controlled by Russia in parallel with the Lachin corridor, must be resolved without delay.

Finally, in accordance with the requirements of UN Security Council resolutions and the terms of the tripartite agreement, Russia must ensure the disarmament and withdrawal of 25,000 Armenian troops and armed forces of the junta regime in Karabakh from the conflict zone.

These issues have been resolved over a certain period of time. If security issues in the region are addressed, then confidence in Russia will not decrease but increase.

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