February 21
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We present below an article by Samvel Babayan, former Secretary of the Security Council and former Minister of Defense of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh; NK), provided to Aravot daily, "On the role of mediators in settlement the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict."

At the present stage of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, there were many direct and indirect attempts to settlement the conflict, first in the Nagorno-Karabakh - Azerbaijan format, later exclusively Armenia-Azerbaijan, of which the longest, and with the only actual mandate for a peaceful settlement, was the OSCE Minsk Group format, represented by the co-chairing countries Russia, United States of America and France. However, diplomats of the co-chairing countries, limiting themselves to duty visits to the region, border observations and formal recommendations for a settlement, essentially froze the conflict for three decades and misled the Armenian people by their own ignorance of the growing military imbalance in the region, until September 2020, when Azerbaijan, having neglected all the approaches of the OSCE and the world communities on the non-use of force, decided to solve the problem by military means, which ended with the events of September 2023.

The world responded to all this with declarative statements and small humanitarian aid as compensation for the genocide.

The UN, designed to maintain peace and security throughout the world, prevent and eliminate threats to peace, suppress aggression or other actions that disturb the peace, ignored the arguments of its predecessor organization, the League of Nations, that Azerbaijan's application for membership was rejected because of territorial problems and illegitimacy of grounds proclamation of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and in the context of disputed borders and ethnic conflict, approved Azerbaijan's application for membership in the international family. Meanwhile, the League of Nations at one time documented Azerbaijan’s territorial conflicts with neighboring Georgia and Armenia. With the latter over Karabakh, Zangezur and Nakhichevan.

Thus, the international community gave the green light to clear violations by Azerbaijan of the principles and goals of the UN, other international obligations, failure to comply with UN Security Council resolutions regarding Nagorno-Karabakh and legally binding decisions of the International Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights, for carrying out ethnic cleansing in NK and other crimes against humanity․

Azerbaijan should have long ago been subjected to international economic and political sanctions for actions committed against the Armenian population of NK and Armenians, who have ever lived on the territory of Azerbaijan. Instead, the EU Commissioner for Human Rights simply summarizes that leaving their homes was the only logical option for the people of NK in the absence of reliable guarantees of safety and protection from any side.

It is completely unacceptable that NK has become a bargaining chip in the process of dragging Armenia into geopolitical chaos. Did the ambassadors of the co-chairing countries of the OSCE Minsk Group, officials of the EU and other countries who visited Stepanakert at various times, who met with the President and Parliament of the Republic, who were elected by the people of Artsakh, as well as those who met with members of the government and civil society, returning to their countries, be careful not to say Stepanakert, instead of imposed now Khankendi, or the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic instead of Karabakh? The people of Artsakh are not powerless stepchildren of the world․ It, like other peoples, has the right to exercise its natural rights.

Russia shows complete inaction, as follows:

The assignee of the Russian Empire and the USSR, politically responsible for the formation of the Karabakh problem in Armenian-Azerbaijani relations, as well as for the restoration of historical justice; Permanent member of the UN Security Council and co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, as well as a mediator in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict;

Actual mediator and participant in the Tripartite Statement of November 9/10, 2020, as well as the party implementing the peacekeeping mission in NK, in accordance with this declaration.

Using the Karabakh problem and hiding behind peacekeeping activities, Russia, in fact, settled in NK, inviting its Turkish ally to Agdam and calling it “joint monitoring.” With the connivance of Russia, in 2020 Azerbaijan established control over a territory of ≈5.000 sq. km., and after hostilities another ≈ 4.400 sq. km (Lachin, Agdam, Kelbajar) were transferred to Azerbaijan with the expectation of receiving in return the 5-kilometer Lachin corridor under the control of the RF. However, later the NK-Armenia road was transformed first into the Lachin humanitarian corridor, and then into the Stepanakert-Goris highway, which is under the jurisdiction of Azerbaijan. This was followed by the installation of a checkpoint on this only road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia and the outside world, and soon after this - the blockade of the Lachin corridor, followed by an absolute blockade of NK, during which the population of 120 thousand was doomed to starvation for nine months, then literally within 24 hours the entire ethnic population was deported through military and genocidal actions.

Today Russia demands facts of ethnic cleansing confirmed by an authoritative international organization. Meanwhile, the genocide took place in the authoritative presence of Russia, and the demand for facts exposes devaluation of the no less authoritative Russian peacekeeping, since the absolutely pro-Russian population of NK, after the difficult realities of 2020, entrusted its continued existence on the territory of NK to the Russian side.

Official representatives of the Russian Federation, however, do not accept accusations of inaction. They claim that with the responsible and active participation of Russian peacekeepers, the safe withdrawal of the Nagorno-Karabakh population from the territory of NK was ensured. That is, the Russian peacekeeping mission, in essence, achieved its goal: NK - without the Armenian population. And the presence of Russian peacekeepers in NK after the deportation of the Armenian people is nothing more than legitimization of the genocide and division of responsibility.

A number of previous historical and political events that occurred in NK under the responsibility of Russia are given without comment.

In 1813 According to the Gulistan Treaty, Persia recognized Karabakh, which had an autonomous status within it, as part of Russia.

After the establishment of the Soviet system, taking into account the legal and political status of Karabakh, Russia recognized it as a disputed territory between Azerbaijan and Armenia and in 1920 stationed its troops in Karabakh.

In 1921 The Caucasian Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist (Bolshevik) Party of Russia took up the solution of the Karabakh issue. This local party body of a third country, not having the authority to resolve such issues, especially outside the territory of Russia, annexes Karabakh to Azerbaijan, and then instructs Azerbaijan to determine the boundaries of the autonomous region. According to the logic of this decision, the territory of the Karabakh autonomy should have been about 8.000 sq. km. However, in 1923-24 Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region (NKAR) was formed only on part of Nagorno-Karabakh, with an area of about 5․000 sq. km. In subsequent years, the authorities of Soviet Azerbaijan successively separated another 600 sq. m. from the NKAR, leaving areas of only 4․400 sq. km area. Among other things, the autonomous region was artificially isolated from Soviet Armenia through the “Lachin Corridor”. Already in 1924, the Constitution of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region was approved, where, as in an official document, the territory and settlements of the region were clearly indicated.

On August 30, 1991, the Supreme Council of Azerbaijan adopted the Declaration on the restoration of state independence of Azerbaijan as the legal successor of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, which existed in 1918-1920. On September 2, 1991, and in accordance with the law of April 3, 1990 “On the procedure for resolving issues arising in connection with the withdrawal of the Union Republic from the USSR” within the borders of the NKAR and the adjacent Shaumyans region, Nagorno-Karabakh Republic was proclaimed. In response, Azerbaijan adopted the law “On the abolition of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region of the Azerbaijan Republic,” according to which the creation of autonomy in 1923 is defined as a factor contrary to the national interests of the Azerbaijani people. However, this decision was recognized by the USSR Constitutional Control Committee as contrary to the USSR Constitution.

In 1991 Azerbaijan launched military actions against the self-determination of the people of NK. But in 1994, at the request and direct guarantee of Russia, a ceasefire agreement was signed by the military leadership of the NKR, Armenia and Azerbaijan until a major political agreement, was concluded. And this is the case when the NKR Defense Army, which at that time liberated “the territories around the former NKAR” (as the Russian side likes to say), by continuing its victorious offensive, could force Azerbaijan to capitulate in a short time.

It turns out that in Islamic Persia, Karabakh not only had an autonomous status, but also experienced economic and demographic growth, in contrast to the period of rule of Christian Russia.

Such active inaction of Russia led to unprecedented human (≈14 thousand victims on the Armenian side), humanitarian (≈6 thousand disabled people on the Armenian side, ≈600 thousand forcibly displaced persons and refugees) and material losses, impeding the economic development of the parties to the conflict and sustainable development of the region.

Now, on the one hand, we have the population of NK, who has taken the path of emigration, with undisguised disappointment in human rights, democracy, the international community, allies and peacemakers, on the other hand, the international community and its interested members who are trying to maintain an imaginary reputation. The latter, after almost a hundred years of ongoing genocide of the former, opened a new discourse; discussion with the Azerbaijani side regarding dignified return and the rights of Armenians NK.

Armenia, of course, must avoid this trap. Artsakh is not a tool, it is a decisive factor. It is this simple truth that Armenia must comprehensively analyze and, as soon as possible, withdraw its signature on the Tripartite Statement of November 9/10, 2020 (and other derivative agreements). Otherwise, the geopolitical centers, forgetting about paragraphs 1-8 of the same document and considering the Nagorno-Karabakh issue closed, as we already see, refer only to paragraph 9, demanding voluntary concessions of sovereignty from Armenia. Azerbaijan simultaneously talks about the construction of a new road through the Meghri region and transferring it to them in the format corridor, forgetting that the entire regional infrastructure is blocked by him and his ally Turkey. Therefore, steps to unblock the regional infrastructure should be taken by Azerbaijan and Turkey, not Armenia.

The fact that the Republic of Armenia did not recognize the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic at one time was not right approach. However, blaming Armenia for not recognizing the sovereignty of Artsakh is the same as blaming the Armenian people for trusting the Minsk Group and the co-chairing countries, the international community and faith in international law. And the recent history of independent Armenian statehood proves that international law works when the army is combat-ready. Otherwise, the fate of Artsakh threatens the Republic of Armenia ...

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