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AZERBAIJAN: RISING STAR OF CAUCASUS

Kamer KASIM, Assoc. Prof. Dr.
10 January 2008 - Turkish Weekly
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.Yö="justify">The conference titled, “Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict: The Role of Youth in Conflict Resolution” was held in Azerbaijan, on 18-20 December 2007. The participants came from various several countries, from Slovenia to Ukraine and from Kyrgyzstan to Jordan in the Conference. For us, the conference was a chance to learn more about Azerbaijan, 20 % of its territory was under the Armenian occupation, and to conduct lucrative discussion with the participants from various countries. After the opening speeches of Mr. Azad Rahimov, Minister of Youth and Sport and Mr. Firudin Sadigov, Head of working group of State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons, presentations were made by the officers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan. Kamala Imranly talked about the “Historical Aspects of the Armenian-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict”, Tofiq Musayev presented “Legal Aspects of the Armenian-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict” and Qalib Israfilov talked about “The process of the Settlement for the Armenian-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict”. After these speeches the conference continued with three panels titled Causes of the Armed Conflict, Legal Aspects of Armed Conflict Resolution and The Role of International Community In Armed Conflict Resolution. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict started before the collapse of the Soviet Union and continued after its end. The Armenian side demanded either incorporation of the Nagorno-Karabakh into Armenia or the establishment of an independent “Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.” Azerbaijan argued that the Nagorno-Karabakh was inseparable part of Azerbaijan and the Armenian secession of Nagorno-Karabakh was unacceptable for Azerbaijan. A ceasefire agreement was signed in 1994 and the problem has not been solved yet. As a result of the war, 20 % of the territory of Azerbaijan remained under the Armenian occupation and about one million people became refugees, which created great problems for Azerbaijan. Despite this, Azerbaijan could not get enough international support and an international attention to the problem. However, the Hocali massacre in which 1000 civilians were killed by the Armenian militias turned international media’s attention to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. 

A Commonwealth Treaty guaranteed the territorial integrity to each member state. Thus Karabakh’s secession from Azerbaijan contradicted the Treaty. Armenians’ use of force in order to change the recognized borders of Azerbaijan was also violating of the Helsinki Final Act, the UN Charter, Charter of Paris and the CSCE. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed several resolutions regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The UNSC resolution 882 was passed on 30 April 1993 and called for an immediate cease-fire and the prompt withdrawal of all occupying forces from Kelbajer district and other occupied areas of Azerbaijan. Following the UNSC resolutions of 853, 874 and 884 reaffirmed the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and the inviolability of international borders.  Among the regional powers Turkey supported Azerbaijan and tried to activate the diplomatic channels to stop the occupation. Russia supported Armenia particularly to force Azerbaijan to be a member of the Commonwealth of Independent State. As a super power, the US’s main objective in the region was to guarantee the safe transportation of energy resources to the world market and in their perspective a regional conflict like the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict threatened the regional stability. There were differences between the Congress and the State Department with regard to the Karabakh policy. In October 1992, the Congress passed the Freedom Support Act Section 907, which prevented the US government from sending humanitarian assistance to Azerbaijan. Section 907 blamed Azerbaijan for blockading the Armenian territory and for its offensive use of force against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan was in no position to do that type of blockade or to use offensive force. The Congresses allegations of offensive use of force was quite odd since 20% of Azerbaijani territory was under the Armenian occupation. The State Department tried to pursue more balanced policy. However, it took long time to lift the restriction to Azerbaijan imposed by section 907. The Armenian lobby impacted on the US policy. However, Azerbaijan was a very important state with its rich energy resources for the US’s east-west energy corridor strategy. After the occupation of Azerbaijani territory of Lachin and Shusha, the US State Department stated that “The US will not accept the unilateral changes in the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, Nakhichevan and any other territory by military actions or violence”. Although it was forbidden to change of borders with the use of force in the international law, international community has not taken the decisive action to end the occupation of the territory of Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict prevented the realization of regional cooperation and the Armenian uncompromising and irredentist policy in the region caused the isolation of Armenia. Armenia became excluded from the energy transportation corridor and it will also stay out of the railway connection between West and the Caucasus and Central Asia, after the railway construction is completed between Azerbaijan-Georgia and Armenia. Armenian foreign policy damaged its relations with Turkey. Armenia’s relations with Turkey are problematic. Despite the fact that Turkey recognized the independence of Armenia in 1991, the normal diplomatic relations between the two countries could not be established for three reasons: 1) Armenia does not openly recognize the territorial integrity of Turkey and the inviolability of Turkish borders. The term “Western Armenia” that is mentioned in the Armenian document of Declaration of Independence indicates that Armenia claim rights on a part of the Turkish territory. 2) Armenia made the international recognition of the “genocide” allegations as one of the major foreign policy objectives. 3) The Karabakh conflict and Armenian’s continous occupation of the territory of Azerbaijan.     

Armenia’s policy towards the Nagorno-Karabakh problem prevented Armenia from developing its relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan. As a result, Armenia felt politically insecure, which turned Armenia to Russia in order to receive military support and presence which made Armenia also become more depended on Russia. Further its economic dependence from Russia reached a stage in which Armenian enterprises handed over to Russia. 

Azerbaijan recently achieved economic growth and run a successful foreign policy while 20 % of its territory under occupation. With the operation of Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, Azerbaijan became an important state in the oil industry and it is becoming one of the important actors in the natural gas trade as well. This will make Azerbaijan an attractive partner in the region.  Many construction sites in Baku indicate the economic growth in Azerbaijan.  With the economic growth, Azerbaijan will be able to show the world its rich culture and potential for different subjects of art. The destruction of the cultural heritage of Azerbaijan in the occupied territories is particularly stressed by the authorities of Azerbaijan. 

During the conference, Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict and the role of the youth in the conflict resolution was discussed. At the end of the conference, the Baku Declaration was published. Participants decided to set up a Task Force entitled “OSCE youth for peace and conflict resolution”, which will be responsible for establishing working contracts with the leadership of the OSCE and other European institutions and promoting appropriate and decisive initiatives. 

Azerbaijan has still hope that the international community will support an end the occupation of its territories. However, in the case of international community failing to solve the problem with diplomatic means, Azerbaijan is ready to use military forces. With its growing economy, modernizing army and diplomatic support, Azerbaijan is now more powerful than in the1990’s.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Kamer KASIM•

• Abant Izzet Baysal University, Department of International Relations and Advisor of International Strategic Research Organization,  E-Mail: kamerkasimãyahoo.com

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