Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

What Is the Solution to the Armenian-Azerbaijani Conflict? Azerbaijani View; Peace Depends upon Armenian Acceptance of a Modern Multi-Ethnic State

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

What Is the Solution to the Armenian-Azerbaijani Conflict? Azerbaijani View; Peace Depends upon Armenian Acceptance of a Modern Multi-Ethnic State

Article excerpt

What is the Solution to the Armenian-Azerbaijani Conflict? Azerbaijani View; Peace Depends Upon Armenian Acceptance of a Modern Multi-Ethnic State

By Ambassador Hafiz Mir Jalal Pashayev

In the long development of human history, mankind has struggled to maintain stability and reduce conflict between and among ethnic groups, nations and groups of nations. Often, it has appeared that whenever progress was made, it was quickly overtaken by new conflicts and animosities. One of the most significant advances since World War II has been a gradual acceptance, with the notable exception of the Soviet Empire, of the inviolability of international law with respect to state sovereignty and borders. This universal principle has been acknowledged repeatedly in the United Nations and other international agreements and conferences. Inherent in this principle is acceptance and recognition of multiethnic states, because almost no country is racially or ethnically pure, and any attempt to create such purity would bring nothing but chaos and endless conflict.

Under the Soviets, Russia dominated and ruled its neighbors in the "near abroad" by making them republics of the Soviet Union. In the process of doing so, Soviet rulers changed borders, played one republic and ethnic group against another and generally exercised a policy of divide and rule.

The collapse of the Soviet Empire led to the hope that this kind of division and ethnic fratricide could be replaced by democracy, respect for human rights and acceptance of internationally recognized law, sovereignty and borders. Since World War II, these international principles have pretty well held up throughout Western Europe.

As we know, the end of the Cold War has put these principles to new tests. Unfortunately, my country of Azerbaijan has literally become the battleground upon which adherence to these international norms is being tested. No sooner had the controls of the Soviet Union begun to loosen than Armenian ultra-nationalists began to act upon their decades-old vision of a "Greater Armenia." To achieve this dream required more land.

Since their territorial claims against Turkey and Georgia seemed unattainable, the ultranationalist Armenians turned to the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan. This option was attractive because Nagorno-Karabakh had an ethnic Armenian majority, Azerbaijan had an almost nonexistent military, and only a small strip of land separated Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh. No doubt if Armenians are successful in Azerbaijan, they will then turn to other neighbors in their quest for more territory.

In February 1988 the regional parliament in Nagorno-Karabakh, dominated by ethnic Armenians, voted to declare its independence from Azerbaijan. Armenia's parliament voted to recognize such independence and promptly forced the evacuation of 200,000 ethnic Azerbaijanis from Armenia.

Then began a spiral of violence and retaliation between ethnic Armenians and Azerbaijanis within Nagorno-Karabakh. In 1989, Armenia imposed a blockade on Nakhichevan, a non-contiguous region separated from the rest of Azerbaijan by Armenian territory. As a result, Azerbaijan severed economic ties with Armenia.

After a period of military stalemate, the Armenians launched a series of major offensives in 1993 which resulted in the capture and occupation of seven major regions of Azerbaijan, constituting some 25 percent of Azerbaijan's territory. These offensives created about one million refugees--one of every seven citizens of Azerbaijan. …

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