The Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict turns 30 this month, but unfortunately, it is yet too early to speak about its settlement. Why? For what reason do the parties to the Karabakh conflict, which resulted in occupation of 20% of Azerbaijani lands and turned nearly a million people into refugees and displaced persons, fail to come to a solution?
Reacting to the occupation of the territories of sovereign Azerbaijan by Armenia in 1993, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted four resolutions – 822, 853, 874 and 884. These resolutions confirmed that the Nagorno-Karabakh region is an inseparable part of Azerbaijan, decisively called to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan and its internationally recognized borders, and stressed inadmissibility of use of force to capture territory.
The UN resolutions demanded the immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of all occupation forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan and the creation of conditions for the safe return of displaced persons to the places of their permanent residence. But Armenia never fulfilled any of these resolutions.
The destructive stance of official Yerevan in the negotiation process, violation of the cease-fire regime and shooting at civilians in frontline villages may cause escalation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict at any time, as happened in April 2016, when Azerbaijan managed to liberate a part of its territories within a very short period. The world community did not take long to respond: influential international organizations including UN and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), as well as the United States, Russia and other states, called on both parties to suspend hostilities.
Why did the world community react so promptly to the escalation of the conflict? Because Europe understands that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is a threat to security of not only the South Caucasus region but also Europe. Why Europe? Azerbaijan has successfully implemented the global energy projects of Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum, it supplies oil to the world market and has recently launched the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad. In addition, once the TANAP and TAP export gas pipelines are commissioned, Europe will also be supplied with Azerbaijani gas. Due to rapidly depleting hydrocarbon reserves Europe is currently in need of stable energy supplies and in this respect Azerbaijan is among the most reliable and stable suppliers.
Thus, the world community should pay greater attention to the Karabakh problem, since the economic interests of the European states will suffer in case of a full-fledged war. The war in Nagorno-Karabakh is a direct threat to the energy security of Europe. And while Europe realizes it well, it still does not pay increased attention to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The OSCE, European Parliament, European Commission and European politicians should ponder this seriously and spare no effort for the resolution of the Karabakh conflict. There is only one way out of this situation – liberation of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan – Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding regions as required by the four resolutions of the UNSC.
The OSCE Minsk Group is represented by a group of OSCE member states leading the search for ways to peacefully resolve the Karabakh conflict. It includes Belarus, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Finland and Turkey, as well as Armenia and Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, efforts toward a diplomatic resolution of the conflict, with OSCE mediation, produced no effect. Since the start of Minsk Group’s activity to resolve the Karabakh conflict, the status quo around Nagorno-Karabakh has remained unchanged.
The trust of Azerbaijani public in the Minsk Group was undermined on March 14, 2008, when Minsk Group co-chairing countries (the US, Russia and France) declined Azerbaijan-initiated resolution 62/243 demanding “immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of all Armenian forces from all the occupied territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan.” Thirty-nine states voted for the resolution, seven voted against and 100 abstained.
Is there any prospect of resolving the Karabakh conflict within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group, whose co-chairing states voted against the Azerbaijani resolution? Azerbaijan is now skeptical regarding the Minsk Group, since the co-chairing states remain passive in the resolution of the Karabakh conflict. Today the voices in favor of reconsideration of the Minsk Group format are growing louder in Azerbaijan. Therefore, it is not ruled out that the composition of this group may be expanded in the future.
IT IS separatism, not terrorism, that represents the main threat to stability in the world. Yes, separatism. Each region faces the threat of separatism and the fact of violation of the states’ territorial integrity. Great attention was paid to this topic at the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2017. From the UN rostrum, world leaders repeatedly called for the unconditional respect and protection of the territorial integrity of member states. It should be noted that Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev also spoke at that session, drawing attention to the occupation of Azerbaijani lands by Armenia and its disastrous consequences.
Today the whole world is infected with the virus of separatism and it is necessary to intensify the struggle against this evil for it not to take over the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. Azerbaijan faced this threat and lost part of its lands. Today separatism is shaking Europe. The powers of Spanish Catalonia recently held the so-called “referendum on independence,” which was not recognized by the Spanish government. Italy’s Veneto, Belgian Franders, as well as Bavaria, Switzerland, could have also taken this path had the Spanish government not dismissed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and his government. The leaders of European countries and, certainly, the EU government in Brussels are well aware of the unpredictable consequences separatism may have if no preventive measures are taken.
Separatism is a very serious challenge and threat to the UN, too. If the wave of separatism embraces the whole of Europe, it may call into question the future of this organization. Today most countries are skeptical about the UN due to its lack of a strong will regarding ensuring the prescriptions of international law. Everyone knows that not all countries fulfill UN resolutions. As mentioned earlier, Armenia, for example, is rudely ignoring them.
So why do UN resolutions work on some countries and not on others? Why can’t the UN bring the matter under control? After all, every country is responsible for upholding international law prescribes, isn’t it?
The issue is that today there is actually no system of international law. The system collapsed after the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999. Since then the world has plunged into chaos, in which not all countries observe the UN rules. And there is a great possibility that international chaos may last for decades, since the problem of separatism in Europe and other parts of the world has been left unattended, with some countries, including Armenia, continuing to ignore the requirements of the UN Security resolutions. And unless a global restructuring takes place, the situation will not improve.
By Seymur Mammadov - the director of the International expert club “Eurasia-Azerbaijan”, editor-in-chief of the Azerbaijani news agency Vzglyad.az.