An end to smoke and mirrors in the Caucuses
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In his article curiously titled, “Time for Peace in the Caucuses,” Nasimi Aghayev wove an intricate tale of two countries, Armenia and Azerbaijan, locked in conflict.

The party directly affected by the conflict — Nagorno-Karabakh — was intentionally omitted. What most readers would not derive from the article's substance is Azerbaijan's large-scale offensive against Nagorno-Karabakh in April, 2016 — a calculated act of aggression accompanied by gross violations of international law.

The images of murdered Armenian civilians, beheaded and mutilated, were circulated in the Azerbaijani media with pride. The perpetrators were heroes in Azerbaijan, while the international community turned a blind eye.

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Mr. Aghayev refers to the norms of international law and selectively points out the principle of territorial integrity as the sole principle upon which the resolution of the conflict should be based. He fails to mention that the OSCE Minsk Group, internationally mandated to lead the peace process, declared non-use of force, right to self-determination and territorial integrity as the basic principles of the settlement.

 

There is no hierarchy among the principles of international law and it's disingenuous for Mr. Aghayev to claim otherwise. Moreover, Nagorno-Karabakh has never been part of independent Azerbaijan. Once handed over to Azerbaijan by Joseph Stalin, it remained autonomous until the dissolution of the Soviet Union and became independent in the exact same way as Azerbaijan when it seceded from the USSR.

The people of Nagorno-Karabakh democratically exercised their fundamental rights against the communist regime and the tyranny of Aliyev dynasty. Twenty-five years later Azerbaijan remains a country allergic to any manifestation of pluralism and civil rights. How can one expect the people of Karabakh to believe that suddenly Azerbaijan will respect theirs? 

The U.S. State Department warns Armenian-Americans against visiting Azerbaijan. How can Armenians of Karabakh expect safety under Azerbaijani governance?  How dare Mr. Aghayev inflict his authoritarian government onto others when it burns the books of the renowned Azerbaijani writer Akram Aylisli on the streets of Baku promising a reward to anyone who cut off his ear?

Anti-Armenianism, warmongering and continuous military provocations is their endgame.  Azerbaijanmistakenly believes that the country's oil revenues guarantee its superiority through military solution.

The United States and international community should adopt a resolute position with a clear message to prevent the renewal of hostilities: use of force will not be tolerated and violations of international obligations will result in real economic and political consequences. 

Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte is a refugee from Baku, Azerbaijan; she is a lecturer, human rights activist, city councilor and author of "Nowhere, a Story of Exile." 


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