Misinterpretation leads Azerbaijani diplomacy

The Oct. 24 op-ed by Nasimi Aghayev on The Hill's Congress blog, related to Artsakh’s (Nagorno Karabakh’s) conflict with Azerbaijan, is intended to mislead the readers.

Joint resolution AJR 32 that supports Artsakh Republic’s independence, self-determination and democracy was passed in an overwhelming bipartisan vote both in the California State Assembly (72 vs 1) and California Senate (24 vs 0). This clearly shows overwhelming support for Artsakh in California, rather than some narrow lobbying effort, in spite of the years of efforts and millions spent by Aghayev’s Consulate in lobbying to sway this legislature’s views in his regime’s favor.

Aghayev has the right to be upset about the failure of his country’s “caviar diplomacy” in California, but should still be taken to task for his misrepresentations.

Artsakh used peaceful, democratic means to accomplish its people’s long-cherished dream of independence from Soviet Azerbaijani abuses. The war was Azerbaijan’s choice, not Artsakh’s, and was a result of the failure to grasp the logic of de-colonization by Azerbaijan’s leaders.

Our goal today is to prevent future tragedies and find a way forward for peaceful resolution of Nagorno Karabakh Republic’s conflict with Azerbaijan. We regret that this goal is not shared by the Aliyev regime. The massive military spending, the daily hate rhetoric against ethnic Armenians, the harassment of Azerbaijanis who want peace and their treatment as traitors, do not augur well for the future.

Now on to some of Aghayev’s arguments:

The UN Security Council resolutions were intended to establish peace rather than prop up Azerbaijan. They called upon the conflicting sides (Azerbaijan, Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia) to restore a cease-fire and lift blockades. Unfortunately, even 20 years later, Azerbaijan has failed to implement these core requirements. Azerbaijan has disregarded repeated calls by the international community, including the U.S. government, to pull back snipers from the Line of Contact and begin building mutual trust. Azerbaijan’s irresponsible actions result in frequent deaths of soldiers and civilians on both sides.

The Azerbaijani diplomat’s attempts to portray the Karabakh conflict as a territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan contradicts the cease-fire agreement of 1994 signed by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh that clearly reflected its trilateral format. It also runs counter to the logic of the Karabakh peace process under auspices of OSCE Minsk group that applies three equal principals of international law– non-use of force or the threat of force, territorial integrity, and peoples' right to self-determination - for the final settlement of Karabakh conflict. The lack of any progress in negotiations derives not from mediators or both Armenian sides, but from aggressive and “ostrich” policy of Azerbaijan that refuses to restore prior 1998 negotiations format with direct participation of the NKR, and continues relying on military settlement of the conflict.

Aghayev’s praise of his country “an example of post-Soviet success” is both ridiculous and typical of his regime’s rhetoric. A corrupted regime benefitting from oil wealth that punishes its citizens for Facebook comments, holds about a hundred political prisoners, cracks down on human rights activists and NGOs including U.S. and international organizations despite critics from global community including President Obama is hardly an example anyone would want to follow. Recently, Baku’s poor human rights records have launched discussions about possible sanctions against Azerbaijan

Unless the Aliyev regime is clearly held responsible for its misbehavior both in its domestic and foreign policy, its transgressions are likely to continue opening opportunities for greater instability.

We thank California for recognizing these realities, by joining a number of other U.S. states as well as the U.S. Congress, in extending support for Artsakh and its democracy.

Avetisyan is counselor at the Office of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic (NKR) in the USA.