The historical root of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute
The Nagorno-Karabakh war began in 1988 January and February, due to the Armenians irrelevant territorial claims, which lead to the occupation of 20% of Azerbaijani territories including Nagorno-Karabakh along with seven adjacent districts. Since January 1988, Armenians backed by the leadership of the USSR began the mass deportation of Azerbaijanis from their historical lands. In subsequent periods, there has been mass deportation, bloody massacre, and Khojaly genocide against the Azerbaijan nation. In later years, to prevent war Bishkek Protocol was accepted and it was a provisional ceasefire agreement that Russia brokered a ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
To date, the ceasefire way has not been successful, as the goals of the two sides have not been met:
• Armenia occupied 20% of Azerbaijan’s territory, still demands independence for Karabakh
• Azerbaijan demands its right to self-determination, the end of the occupation, and the return of Karabakh along with seven adjacent districts to Azerbaijan.
Illogical solution models left Nagorno-Karabakh conflict unresolved
What are the offers of three plans on the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict? In order to solve the conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh, the co-chairs of OSCE Minsk group have given “proposals”.
Fig 1. Offered solution models for Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.
The “package” solution plan was formed at the first meeting in Moscow (called Moscow meeting) of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs after the Lisbon summit;
I Stage according to Package proposal
• Withdrawal of Armenian troops from the Azerbaijan territories outside Karabakh (except the “Lachin corridor”);
• To achieve a return in stages of refugees to their former homes;
• Deployment of peacekeeping forces and ending up the conflict;
II Stage based on Package proposal
• To consider the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh
• Primary agreement in conjunction with all of the disputable issues;
• Gathering and then considering all of the arguable problems in the package model plan including Nagorno-Karabakh.
However, the model was rejected by the Armenian side, because the Armenian side was afraid of…
- Successful “Energy and Nation Diplomacy” of Azerbaijan;
- In subsequent periods it would be in favor of Azerbaijan;
- Azerbaijan’s intentions and positions were right and fair.
- Armenia doesn’t know exactly what it wants?! (NOTE: stick its head in confusion in face of Azerbaijan)
The Minsk Group co-chairmen offered a new solution plan called “the step by step” plan because of the failure of “the package” plan.
I Phase of “Stage by Stage” Proposal
In initial periods…
to sign a primary agreement;
to achieve a return of six districts (Kelbajar, Agdam, Jabrail, Fizuli, Gubadli, Zangilan) including Nagorno-Karabakh; (except for Lachin corridor)
A return of refugees to their former homes
To eliminate the blockade of Armenia in occupied territories
II Phase of “Stage by Stage” proposal
- In subsequent periods…
- To conclude the second treaty;
- To take into account the Lachin corridor combining Armenia with Nagorno-Karabakh in favor of Azerbaijan
- Giving Nagorno-Karabakh interim status within the supervision of Azerbaijan recognized by the International system.
The given proposal was an accurate approach towards Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan supported the legal prism and position of “the step-by-step” model-plan, as it was not a threat to the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. However, the given plan was rejected by the Armenian side.
Aborted “Common state” proposal
The 1998 common state solution plan was reflected in the document entitled to an “an agreement on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, which was formed by the co-chairs of the Minsk Group on 7 November 1998. This plan was the idea of the former Foreign Minister of Russia, E. Primakov. The common state model was established per the resolution of the Transnistria and Abkhazia “problems”
In the common state model, the following were offered below.
- To establish the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh within the borders of Azerbaijan, especially, forming a confederate system or a state surrounded by the territory;
- Regarding the establishment of a confederate state, to create a “Special Committee” consisting of the representatives of both sides’ presidents, prime ministers, and parliaments to structure commissions and committees both in Baku and Khankendi (so-called absurd Stepanakert)
- To set up and strengthen relationship with foreign countries, international and regional organizations through the mediation of proper representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh
- Some special rights and privileges have to be given to Nagorno-Karabakh, at the same time, these privileges have to be recognized by Azerbaijan.
- The forming of the constitution of Nagorno-Karabakh and to be accepted by its people (Which people, the so called Armenian people of this region?!)
- An agreement on the States of Nagorno-Karabakh has to be illustrated in the constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan and these documents do not collide with each other on the implementation of their affinities
- To create its “FTZ” (Free Trade Zone) as well as its currency unit. By using both its own and Azerbaijani monetary unit for providing trade relationship in the territory
Common State Model was considered a “Stillborn alliance model” because, “the 1998 common state” model-plan was a huge step backward in comparison with “the package” solution method. According to the model, Azerbaijan would left behind and trampled down as a second country. Therefore, the Common State Plan is considered a void model, because it would lead to formalizing vast separation between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh by putting under threat Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and sovereign rights, which was opposed to Helsinki Final Act /2 out of 10 points/ sovereign equality, respect for the rights inherent in sovereignty territorial integrity of States. It could be mostly inclined to weakening the positions of Azerbaijan in its ancient land – Karabakh. Therefore, the common state model was discarded by Azerbaijan, because of putting under threat Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and sovereign rights.
Other solution models? – Comparative analysis
It has to be noted that the models such as Aland, Trieste, Kosovo, etc. do not answer Azerbaijan’s aims and positions concerning Nagorno-Karabakh. Let’s investigate the Aland model as a proposed solution plan for the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. Aland consists of a group of Islands around 6757 it is an archipelago. It is also called Scandinavian Karabakh. This island turned into a discord of apple between Sweden and Finland in the Baltic Sea. What is the fate of the Aland model for today?
– Finland provided the security of the Swedish in this area,
– Use of Swedish language in this area;
– Mutual relationship between them, peace, security, and cooperation.
What are the differences between Aland and Nagorno-Karabakh?
1. It did not happen or engender any bloody conflict or war in this area but, Nagorno Karabakh has observed many bloody wars, genocide, mass massacre, that Armenia committed those massacres against Azerbaijanis residing in Nagorno-Karabakh.
2. In some cases, it has been said that Aland Island would be given to Sweden, why because of its strong economic possibilities than Finland. If it is so, Nagorno Karabakh also has to be returned to Azerbaijan. As the country possesses not only large-scale economic, political, and social possibilities, and rich natural resources but also a strong nation and oil diplomacy as well!.
Take the Trieste model, which is the center of Julia-Venice’s autonomous province. It has got its emblem, flag, legislative and administrative bodies. Both Serbian and Italian monetary units are in process. It is possible to use both of them. It does have also an international treaty about FTZ. From the administrative aspect, it belongs to Italy, but a common city of both Serbia and Italy. So, from this perspective, this is not suitable for Azerbaijan first, it is not a territory model it is merely a city model. Besides, we do (Azerbaijani side) never accept Nagorno-Karabakh as a common or a joint area with Armenia. Because Karabakh is the ancestral land of Azerbaijan. From the international law, it is ostensible that breaching a country’s boundaries is a huge threat and international criminal against it. Armenia’s occupation of Azerbaijani lands directly contradicts the principles of international law. Armenia itself is well aware that Nagorno-Karabakh is and will always remain an integral part of Azerbaijan.
Thorny path towards peace and reconciliation in Karabakh
On January 11 the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a deal to develop cross-border transportation routes and boost economic growth to benefit the South Caucasus and the Wider Region. This meeting took place two months after the Moscow-brokered armistice between Armenia and Azerbaijan ended a 44-day war over Nagorno-Karabakh.
This ethno-territorial conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh has drawn dividing lines between Armenia and Azerbaijan for almost 30 years. Some estimates put the number of deaths on both sides at 30,000 after the First Karabakh war before a ceasefire was reached in May 1994. As a result of this war, one fifth of the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan was occupied and the entire Azerbaijani population of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) and seven adjacent districts (Lachin, Kalbajar, Agdam, Fizuly, Jabrail, Gubatli and Zangilan) was forcibly expelled by the Armenian armed forces. Incidentally, due to sporadic frontline skirmishes and clashes, both military personnel and civilians have been killed along the Line of Contact, devoid of any peacekeeping force, since 1994.
Over the years, Armenia and the separatist regime that emerged in the occupied Azerbaijani territories refused any final status short of independence for Nagorno-Karabakh and tried to preserve this status quo and achieve international security guarantees on the non-resumption of hostilities while avoiding the withdrawal of its armed forces from the occupied territories and preventing the safe return of expelled Azerbaijani inhabitants to their permanent places of residence. However, such a policy, in its turn, polarized the region and reduced to naught any meaningful regional cooperation between the three South Caucasus states.
The Second Karabakh war, which took place from September 27 to November 9, 2020, and the subsequent Russia-brokered peace deal on November 10, significantly changed the facts on the ground and created a new political reality that replaced the “no war, no peace” situation that had been hanging over the region for almost 30 years. As a result of this war, more than 6,000 soldiers died on both sides in fighting.
This war came to an end because of a clear victory for Azerbaijan, which has restored its territorial integrity and sovereignty. Owing to the humiliating defeat of Armenia,the myth of the invincibility of the Armenian armed forces has been shattered and the Prime Minister of this country has been under continuous pressure from the opposition to step down.
Thus, after the Second Karabakh war, the pendulum has swung from devastating war towards actual peace. The question, is, however, whether the conflicting parties will be able to achieve lasting peace in the coming years: How can a relationship that has been completely destroyed owing to this protracted armed conflict and previous wars be restored?
The fate of all inhabitants of both the highlands and lowlands of Karabakh, irrespective of their ethnic origin, is crucial in this context. Security arrangements for the Armenian minority residing in this area are currently organized through the deployment of 1,960 Russian peacekeepers for at least five years to monitor the implementation of the trilateral statement signed by the heads of state of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and the Russian Federation on November 10 (hereafter, the trilateral statement). At the same time, the return of the former Azerbaijani inhabitants to their permanent places of residence previously occupied by the Armenian armed forces is envisaged by the trilateral statement and the UNHCR has been assigned to oversee this task.
It is paramount that Azerbaijan has to demonstrate a policy of “strategic patience” in the coming years to entice the Armenians of Karabakh region into closer incorporation through attractive political, economic, social, and other development.
On the other hand, Armenia has to concentrate on its own internationally recognized sovereign territory. Today, it is important that this country changes its external minority policy and withdraws its territorial claims against Azerbaijan. As a next step, both Armenia and Azerbaijan can recognize the territorial integrity of one other.
Such rapprochement can lead to the opening of the borders between Armenia and Turkey and Armenia and Azerbaijan, which would increase economic opportunities for landlocked Armenia. It can thereby contribute to regional stability, development, and trans-regional cooperation among the three South Caucasian states. At the same time, it would create an enabling environment that could be more conducive for future dialogue and interactions between Armenians and Azerbaijanis.
We must face the fact that a stable equilibrium between these two nations has never previously been achieved. However, despite ups and downs, there was peaceful coexistence between the Armenian and Azerbaijani communities in Karabakh as well as Armenia and Azerbaijan’s respective minorities in Azerbaijan and Armenia. This protracted conflict has, however, led Armenians and Azerbaijanis to live in parallel realities for almost 30 years.
In light of the recent past, we cannot soon reconcile our different narratives. It is a long process; however, reconciliation is not only an outcome, it is also a process. Although the gestation period might be long, the process of reconciliation itself can be extremely rewarding.
In fact, the Armenian and Azerbaijani inhabitants of Karabakh have lived together in this region in the past. However, for almost 30 years this was impossible. Will and determination should be put to good use in order to arrive at such a peaceful coexistence once again.
Dawn of great power competition in South Caucasus
The pace of geopolitical change in the South Caucasus is staggering, with the recent Karabakh war only underlining several major geopolitical trends in the region.
The first noticeable trend being the undercutting of democratic ideals and achievements of the region’s states. Take Armenia, its young democracy had high hopes following the 2018 revolution, but now it will be more even more dependent on Russia.
It is not a matter of whether a democratic model is better or not, the matter lies in the incompatibility of an aspiring democracy with a powerful nondemocracy such as Russia.
The Armenian leadership will now have to make extensive concessions to Moscow to shore up its military, backtracking on its democratic values. Building a fair political system cannot go hand in hand with the Russian political model.
The war also put an end to any hopes of Armenia implementing a multivector foreign policy, an already highly scrutinized issue. Mistakes were made continuously along the way, the biggest being an overreliance on Russia.
In the buildup to 2020, Armenia’s multiaxial foreign policy efforts gradually deteriorated, with the 2016 fighting showing the limits. Armenian politicians attempted to develop ties with other regional powers in the aftermath, but Russian influence had already begun to incrementally increase.
Tipping the scales in a no longer balanced alliance culminated in the 2020 war with Azerbaijan thanks to Yerevan’s maneuvering. More crucially, the war has obliterated Yerevan’s multiaxial policy efforts for years to come.
Now, Armenia’s dependence on Russia would be even more pronounced with no viable geopolitical alternatives.
With no more foreign policy diversification, the three South Caucasus states are divided by larger regional powers, further fracturing the region.
The return of Turkey and the growth of the Russian military could resurrect the great power competition, in which a nation’s military power, infrastructure projects and economic might are directly translated into their geopolitical influence over the region, ultimately deterring long-term conflict resolution.
The Western stance
The Karabakh war highlighted a regression in Western peacekeeping standards. The Western approach to conflict resolution based on equality rather than geopolitical interests has been trumped by the Russian alternative.
Moscow is not looking to resolve the conflict (it never does in territorial conflicts); instead, it is seeking to prolong it under its close watch in a bid to increase its influence.
Looking at the situation from the Russian perspective, it is clear the country will continue to influence Armenia and Azerbaijan, only now to a far greater extent than before.
The West’s inability to accommodate fluid geopolitical realities in the South Caucasus also raises questions about its commitment to resolving the issues at hand. The second Karabakh war was in a way a by-product of the West’s declining engagement in the region over the past several years.
The West can no longer treat the South Caucasus as a monolithic entity, and a diversified foreign policy should be applied in line with realities on the ground.
Policies should reflect each individual state, and the West should, perhaps, be more geopolitical in its approach.
Turkey’s recent suggestion to create a six-nation pact bringing together the South Caucasus states, Russia, Turkey and Iran, shows the regression of Western influence in the region. But the geopolitical vacuum is never empty for long, and Turkey and Russia approach.
Georgia could act as the last bastion of dominant Western influence, but even there, the West should be cautious. The country is on the cusp of Europe, making it susceptible to foreign influence.
Bordered by Russia and Turkey, two powers often discerning of Europe, Georgia also feels the pressure to adapt to the changing circumstances on the ground.
The lack of Western resolve in the region and the Black Sea could propel Tbilisi if not toward a total reconsideration of its foreign policy, toward diversifying its foreign ties – one could call a “rebalancing.”
The war also solidified that the Caspian basin and South Caucasus are inextricably linked to the greater Middle East.
Russia and Turkey are basing their strategies in the region on developments in the Middle East and the Black Sea region. Not since the end of the Soviet Union has the South Caucasus been such a critical point for the West, especially the incoming Biden administration.
But time is critical and any further delay in active U.S. policy could spell disaster for Georgia, which serves as a door to the Caspian and on to Central Asia.
The West has been in regression in the region for quite some time now; the Karabakh war only brought it to the light, and it must be proactive if things are to change.
Much will depend on the U.S. and its new administration, but the West will have to come to an understanding with Turkey, even if it be limited, to salvage its deteriorating position in the region.
After all, the South Caucasus has always been the only theater where Turkish and Western interests have always coincided. Considering its limited presence in the region, the West could consider backing Turkey.
Not only would it serve as a reconciliatory gesture pleasing Ankara, but it would also limit Russia’s movement in the region. With the ink about to dry on who will influence the region, the West must immediately adapt its approach if it wishes to have any input in the rapidly changing geopolitics of the South Caucasus.
Author’s note: first published in dailysabah
An Impending Revolution
Even on the end note, the year contains surprises enough to deem it as a year of instability and chaos given every nook and cranny around the globe is riddled with a new crisis every day. Latest down in the tally is the country of Belarus that has hardly streamlined over at least half a decade but now is hosting up as a venue to rippling protests in almost all the districts of its capital, Minsk. The outrage has resulted from the massive rigging imputed on the communist party in ruling for almost three decades since the split of Soviet Union in 1994. With Europe and Russia divided on the front as the protests and violence continue to rage: a revolution is emerging as a possibility.
The historical map of Belarus is nearly as complex as the geographical landscape which might only stand next to Afghanistan in terms of the intricacies faced by a landlocked country as such. Belarus is located in the Eastern European region bordered by Russia to the north-eastern perimeter. Poland borderlines the country to the West while Ukraine shares a border in the South. The NATO members, Lithuania and Latvia, outskirt the borders of Belarus in the Northwest, making the region as a prime buffer between the Russian regime and the western world. As Belarus stands as a junction between the European Union (EU) and Russia, the proximal nature brings about interests of either parties in the internal affairs of Minsk. However, the nature of the bond shared between the trio is by no means a triangle unlike other former soviet nations since Belarus has casted its absolute loyalty to Russia since the split of Soviet Union and ultimate accession to power of president, Alexander Lukashenko, the leader of the Communist Party of Belarus. Along with the alliance, however, came the unwanted dependency since over the 26-year rule of Lukashenko, he crippled the economy and the political writ of Belarus, using every last ounce of authority to subdue the opposition and the democratic mechanism of the country, earning him the nefarious title ‘Europe’s last dictator’.
The outburst of protests today stems from this very problem that is more deep-rooted than what comes across as apparent. The excessive and draconian use of power and autonomy has invalidated the independence of Belarusians and turned them haplessly at the mercy of Russian aid and support while blocking out any western support in the name of guarding national sovereignty. The ongoing surge of dissent was triggered earlier in August when the elections turned about to be absurdly rigged in favour of Alexander Lukashenko, granting him an indelible majority of 80% of the total vote count along with a lifetime of rule over the country despite his blatant unpopularity across the country. The accusations were further solidified when one of the popular opposing candidates, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, casted a complaint with the authorities regarding the falsification of election results. Instead of being appeased, she was detained for 7 straight hours and was even forced to exile to the neighbouring country of Lithuania. This resulted in major tide of riots and protests erupting all across Minsk, preceding over 3000 arrests over the election night.
On the official front, however, an aggressive stance was upheld along with a constant refusal of Lukashenko from stepping down from the long-held office or even considering a review of the polls counted despite exorbitant reports of unfair results. Heavy use of rubber bullets and tear gas was an eccentric protocol adopted by the local police force which instead of placating the rioters, further ignited the protests in more districts of the capital city. The anti-government relies also entitled ‘March of Neighbours’ transitioned into a high scale protest with many of the state employees resigning from their positions to stand upright against the long overdue corrupt regime. With the protests raging over months and the Lukashenko government getting more and more aggressive with their policies, the fear that once sparkled in the eyes of the natives is dwindling exceedingly and is turning into a cry for an outright revolution, which would be a ground-breaking one ever since the revolution of Iran back in 1979.
European counties have taken their conventional passive position in the crisis sinceEU is well aware of the Russian influence in Belarus and does not want to interfere with a probability of a direct conflict with Russia. However, they did call out their protest over the rigged elections, slapping sanctions over Belarus yet have not accused Lukashenko directly but instead have proposed a thorough international dialogue. Russia, on the other hand, faces a complex position since the dependence of Belarus bought Moscow a base against the West along with other regional rogues like Ukraine. However, high scale protests and rising chances of a full-blown revolution is hardly the choice Russian intends to opt. As the situation continues to unfold, economic reforms, as promised by Lukashenko, appears to be the only option that both EU and Russia could encourage as a bipartisan plan. Despite that, with six months of protests erupting as an outrage over a tyranny of 26 years, the reform-offering might be a bit late an offer since its no more about the country anymore, it’s about a struggle between a liberal or a communist Belarus.
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