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Why International Actors Are Responsible for Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh


From Blockade to Genocide

Based on the request of the de facto authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh), Armenia has asked to convene a UN Security Council meeting to address the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh. The authorities of both Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia have announced that Azerbaijan’s actions in Nagorno-Karabakh, constitute an attempt at ethnic cleansing and contains criteria of a genocide. Upon the request of the de facto President of Artsakh, the first prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Luis Moreno Ocampo has assessed the situation and produced an independent advisory opinion, “Genocide against Armenians in 2023” released on August 7. He suggests that “the blockade of the Lachin Corridor by the Azerbaijani security forces impeding access to any food, medical supplies, and other essentials should be considered a Genocide… Starvation is the invisible Genocide weapon… Without immediate dramatic change, this group of Armenians will be destroyed in a few weeks….” He also noted that it will “close a tragic circle” because “[t]he treatment of the Armenians by the Turkish rulers in 1915 provides the paradigm for the Genocide provision dealing with imposition of conditions of life.” Ocampo suggests that the UN Security Council should refer the situation to the International Criminal Court, because Azerbaijan is not a signatory to the statute that created the court.

Expectations and skepticism are both high from the discussion in the UN Security Council. A UNSC session was convened to address the situation in December 2022, two weeks after the blockade had just started. Despite significant criticism against Azerbaijan, it did not result in the adoption of a statement. While the failure of the UN Security Council to reach a consensus is not surprising in the current polarized global and regional situation, Azerbaijan presented the failure of a UN Security Council statement as its diplomatic victory and increasingly deepened and intensified it. Baku has been ignoring the legally binding orders of the International Court of Justice calling for the unimpeded movement of persons, vehicles, and cargo along the Lachin Corridor in both directions, statements of senior officials of the UN, EU, Council of Europe, OSCE, United States, France and Russia – former co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group still playing mediation roles in other formats, many other countries, international human rights watchdogs, resolutions of the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, petitions and calls by civil society organizations of various countries.

Instead, it replaced the pseudo eco-activists with state security services in April, banned the entry of food and basic supplies by the Russian peacekeepers and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in June, and systematically, humanitarian medical evacuations by the ICRC since July. It arbitrarily detained a patient who was being transferred to Armenia for medical treatment in July, after which many other patients, including the critically ill, started refusing medical evacuation fearing the same fate. In parallel, Azerbaijani Armed Forces continued to systematically fire on civilians trying to harvest their crops, launched small-scale military attacks resulting in casualties, and Azerbaijani authorities and public figures threatened to conduct a new military operation in order to eliminate the self-defense capacity of Nagorno-Karabakh. Eventually, in July, Nagorno-Karabakh ran out of fuel, most alimentary products and medicine.

As elaborated in previous articles, Azerbaijan has turned Nagorno-Karabakh into a large concentration camp, and is trying to carry out one of the following scenarios for Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians or a combination of their elements:

  1. Denial of not only external but also internal self-determination and subjugation under the cover of “integration” cutting the link with Armenia to deprive NK Armenians of their ethnic identity and dissolving their self-governance institutions.

  2. The scenario of the 1940-1944 evacuation of Finnish Karelia – if Armenians don’t want to become Azerbaijanis, then they should leave or be deported.

  3. Starvation genocide resembling those carried out by the Soviet authorities in Soviet Ukraine (Holodomor), Hitler in Austerlitz and through a Hunger Plan towards Jews, and other historical cases. It is already causing not only widespread malnutrition but also collective suffering of people, including children and pregnant women but has already resulted in deaths of unborn children, miscarriages and recorded the first direct case of death from starvation on August 15.

  4. Sarajevo siege scenario with elements of Srebrenica and Kosovo war – turning the blockade into a Milosevic-style military offensive to destroy the modest self-defense force of Nagorno-Karabakh. Since it is conscript-based and all fit men have served there, it will resemble a Srebrenica-like scenario of the possible targeting of all men, and if they fight back, it will resemble the third cycle of a Kosovo-like war since two similar wars already took place in 1988-1994 and 2020.

Since July 26, a convoy of humanitarian aid from Armenia with food, baby formula and medicine has been blocked by Azerbaijan at the entrance of the corridor, the latter denouncing it as a provocation against its territorial integrity and sovereignty. Still before the blockade and even still before the 2020 Artsakh War, it has been blocking any international assistance to Nagorno-Karabakh by default except those by the ICRC and Halo Trust Fund NGO. Azerbaijan strongly opposes the deployment of an international peacekeeping presence in Nagorno-Karabakh. In violation of its international commitments, Azerbaijan has prohibited any international humanitarian or fact-finding mission to Nagorno-Karabakh, whether by the UN, CoE or other organizations. While international actors and individuals could enter Nagorno-Karabakh before the war with the risk of being blacklisted by Azerbaijan, starting in February 2021, the Russian peacekeepers, most likely instructed by the Azerbaijani authorities, started blocking the entry of any foreign citizen, including diaspora Armenians, international NGOs and journalists, and starting in the summer of 2022, more and more frequently, creating problems for the entry of Armenian journalists and other citizens, thus finalizing the process of turning it into a locked-up gray zone.

Crossing Red Lines and Share of Responsibility

Azerbaijani authorities increasingly cross red lines of international order by military escalations, including occupation of around 200 sq/km of border areas of sovereign Armenia and additional areas in Nagorno-Karabakh after the ceasefire, coercive diplomacy, including ultimatums, maximalist demands and blackmail, explicit territorial demands to Armenia extending to its capital Yerevan.

Azerbaijan is continuing to arm aggressively, encircling both Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia with military infrastructure, gradually advancing military positions, deploying military technologies and equipment, and building dual-use airports. At the same time, Baku is trying to prevent Armenia from restoring its defense sector, while the UN Charter entitles each state a right to self-defense and even responsibility for the defense of its population. Azerbaijan presents false allegations accusing Armenia of “having military elements in Karabakh” while Armenia has ceased its role as its security guarantor since the end of the 2020 war, and its last contracted servicemen in the local defense force left Nagorno-Karabakh a long time ago. Azerbaijan is also demanding the demobilization and disarmament of Nagorno-Karabakh’s modest self-defense force that does not have the capacity to constitute a threat to Azerbaijan, calling its elements “occupants” and “terrorists” from Armenia and threatening to eliminate them, aiming to deprive Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians of the right to self-defense in the absence of internationally mandated peacekeepers and facing the explicit threat of ethnic cleansing by Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijani authorities adopted a state policy of historical revisionism, claiming that Azerbaijanis are an ancient native nation in both Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia (they have started using the term “Western Azerbaijan” for Armenia) and Armenians are newcomers, which contradicts universally documented historical facts. They are destroying or appropriating Armenian cultural heritage in the territories under their control claiming they are of any origin except Armenian. Since its military defeat in the First Nagorno-Karabakh War in the 1990s, Azerbaijan has been conducting a proactive campaign of false narratives against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh with the distorted history of the conflict. After its military victory in the 2020 Artsakh War, not only did Azerbaijan not stop the war of narratives but elevated them to a new and increasingly aggressive level accompanied by explicit disinformation and hate speech. Azerbaijani officials, diplomats, activists and bot armies target and harass not only Armenian officials and public personalities but also any foreign and international official, organization, human rights watchdog or defender, activist and journalist who criticizes Azerbaijan and supports Armenians, accusing them of corruption or being a victim of Armenian propaganda. After dismissing Luis Moreno Ocampo’s report on a genocide in progress in Nagorno-Karabakh, and trying to find controversies in his biography, Azerbaijan recruited Rodney Dixon, a British lawyer, to produce a counter-report. Dixon has defended Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s former President convicted in war crimes, and Gaddafi’s head of intelligence responsible for mass atrocities.

Azerbaijan is trying to revise the international law and order. Selectively using the notion of territorial integrity, Baku managed to legitimize its launch of its third war in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020, and reverse the dynamics of the conflict in line with its maximalist ambitions through a military force after two and half decades of refusing any solution proposed by mediators and preparing for a war, as admitted by President Aliyev during his latest interview to Euronews. By distorting the history of the conflict, Azerbaijan is responding to every accusation by claiming that Armenians have been the aggressor, presenting itself as a victim who now has a legitimate right of “revenge” against Armenians.

Azerbaijan is basically implying that forcibly subjugating or ethnically cleansing 120,000 Armenians, whether through starvation, depopulation, or a new military offensive, is its sovereign right, and preventing it to freely exercise it is an intervention in Azerbaijan’s internal affairs by Armenia and the international community. This is taking place despite the recognition of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, including Nagorno-Karabakh as part of it, by the Prime Minister of Armenia on May 22, 2023, crossing a long-term red line for Armenian society, and even using it to justify its behavior.

Has the conflict been black and white? Do Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh have their share of responsibility in the dramatic deterioration of the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh in the last three years? Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh have committed mistakes, too. It is difficult to find any inter-ethnic conflict in the world that is black and white, where only one party has violated human rights and international law. Armenians have not been effective in their efforts in foreign policy, diplomacy, defense institutions building and conflict resolution since the victory in the First Nagorno-Karabakh War. In spite of its declared policy of multi-polarity and attempts to balance between Russia and the West, Armenia had become increasingly dependent on Russia for its security, economy and energy, and Russia turned out to be not only an unreliable ally but also began aligning itself with Azerbaijan, and was stigmatized on the international arena due to its war in Ukraine. Armenia had conformed to the status quo in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and was neither preparing for a potential new war, nor making sufficient effort towards the resolution of the conflict. The latter would also include the return of the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh, the holding of which was illegal from the point of view of international law, damaged Armenia’s international image and enabled Azerbaijan to stigmatize Armenia as an “occupant”.

Forgotten Historical Aspects of Conflict Dynamics

However, let’s look at some neglected or rather forgotten aspects of the conflict dynamics since the 1990s to understand how Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh ended up in the current situation, and what is the responsibility of the international community.

The roots of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict date back to the 20th century when historically Armenian Artsakh, populated predominantly by Armenians, was integrated into Soviet Azerbaijan as the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast/Region (NKAO) in 1920. Throughout the 70 years of the Soviet period, Nagorno-Karabakh had its local self-governance institutions. However, the Azerbaijani SSR conducted oppressive policies against the Armenian population.

When the dissolution of the Soviet Union started in 1991, the NKAO’s regional parliament claimed self-determination, declaring the right to break away from Azerbaijan, which it was entitled to in line with the Soviet constitution. In response, Azerbaijani authorities started the massacres of Armenians in Azerbaijani cities of Sumgait, Baku and Kirovabad (later renamed Ganja), and in the village of Maragha in Nagorno-Karabakh, and launched large-scale military operations, at times in collaboration with the Soviet army, such as in the case of “Koltso” (Operation Ring), deporting Armenians from several regions of Karabakh. In 1991, the parliament of the Azerbaijan SSR abolished the autonomous status of the oblast. These developments resulted in a war between Armenian armed groups and Azerbaijani armed forces that lasted until 1994, killing thousands of people on both sides and considerable material damage.

Does this story resemble another conflict? In fact, it is almost identical to the dynamics of the Kosovo conflict in the 1980-1990s. Kosovar Albanians had a special autonomy status in the former Yugoslavia. They were marginalized by Yugoslav authorities, which led to inter-ethnic tensions throughout the 1980s. In 1989, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic reduced Kosovo’s autonomous status within Serbia and started cultural oppression of the ethnic Albanian population. Kosovar Albanians responded with a non-violent separatist movement and proclaimed independence in 1991. Then the war between the Kosovo Liberation Army and the Yugoslav armed and security forces started. War crimes were committed by both sides, but predominantly by Yugoslav and Serbian forces against Kosovo Albanians, resulting in the mass displacement of both ethnic Albanians and ethnic Serbs from Kosovo.

However, international humanitarian intervention in the Kosovo conflict and its lack in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resulted in very different subsequent dynamics of those two conflicts. While NATO intervened in Kosovo to stop the massacres and protect civilians, there was no actor to prevent the ethnic cleansing of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, except Armenia. In the heat of the war, and when Azerbaijan was blocking the Lachin Road and bombarding Stepanakert from Aghdam, Armenian armed groups took control of not only Nagorno-Karabakh but also the surrounding regions creating a buffer zone, which resulted in the depopulation of Azerbaijanis from those areas.

The international community made some positive efforts in Nagorno-Karabakh during the First Nagorno-Karabakh War. In contrast to the current situation, the CSCE (the former name of the OSCE) chairperson-in-office, co-chairs of the Minsk Group and observers were visiting Nagorno-Karabakh between 1992 and 1994. In 1992, the Minister of Social and Humanitarian Issues of France Bernard Kouchner arrived in Stepanakert for the opening of the humanitarian corridor and personally delivered humanitarian aid to people in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Between the two major wars over Nagorno-Karabakh, major international actors have recognized Armenians’ right to self-determination and the threat of their ethnic cleansing by Azerbaijan. However, they tried to accommodate irreconcilable principles through a compromise between parties, referring to the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. The OSCE Minsk Group, the official mediating body of the conflict, offered several solutions to resolve the conflict, including deploying international peacekeepers to ensure the security of civilians, granting an interim status and anticipating a referendum for the final status.

As first President Levon Ter-Petrosyan claimed, after the discovery of oil and gas reserves in Azerbaijan, he felt a change in attitude by Western countries in favor of Azerbaijan, and after the launch of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipelines, Azerbaijan started investing their profits in the defense sector and preparing for a new war. The failure to reach a negotiated resolution eventually led to the 2020 Artsakh War. Azerbaijan emerged with a military victory, Russian peacekeepers were deployed without an international mandate instead of international peacekeepers, Azerbaijan refused any status for Nagorno-Karabakh, continued its explicit policy of ethnic cleansing of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, and deepened its military blackmail and territorial claims against Armenia.

Where Are We Now?

Because of the collective mistakes of the conflict parties and international mediators, currently Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians are facing forced subjugation without any guarantees of security and rights, with ultimatums to dissolve their governance institutions and deny them their link with Armenia, which ultimately means their deprivation of civil and political rights and ethnic identity, evacuation, death by starvation or a new Milosevic-style military offensive against them.

Aliyev continues to push the red lines of international order. Taking advantage of its current role as an energy supplier for Europe and serving as a channel to launder Russian gas to Europe, unconditional support by Turkey based on the “one nation, two states” slogan, it has been successfully navigating between the West and Russia, having strategic partnership with both, manifesting ambitions of a middle-size power and increasingly talking to even major international actors from the position of power. There are strong indications that Aliyev has turned into a combination of a new Milosevic and Saddam Hussein. Azerbaijan is widely recognized as one of the most autocratic countries in Eurasia with an abysmal human rights record. So far, it has not offered any governance models and guarantees for political rights and civil liberties to Nagorno-Karabakh that has been recognized as more democratic than Azerbaijan – (37/100 vs. 9/100 in Freedom in the World 2023 Report) even in light of its increasing isolation since the 2020 war. It doesn’t even hide the intention of their forced subjugation, deportation or destruction.

Azerbaijan has made it a taboo to talk about the right of self-determination of the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians. Self-determination is one of the fundamental principles of the UN Charter (Article 1.2), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 1), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 1), the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the OSCE Helsinki Act and other legal instruments. International legal documents and the theory of international relations don’t determine independence or secession as the only way for self-determination as they conflict with the principle of territorial integrity. External self-determination has been exercised in the context of decolonization, the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Former Yugoslavia, or remedial secession (Kosovo, South Sudan), in some cases – a mixture of the elements of decolonization and remedial treatment (Bangladesh, Eritrea, Timor-Leste). At the same time, internal self-determination, which is manifested through autonomy, or a special status has been considered a mostly uncontroversial inherent right. In the Western democracies, there are well-known entities with various degrees of autonomy or a special status. While most metropole states have opposed the independence or secession of entities considered under their jurisdiction or being disputed territories, only few of them attempted to deny an autonomous or special status to them. Milosevic was one of few who simply reduced, although not fully abolished, Kosovo’s autonomous status, and started the oppression of the ethnic Albanian population, which led to the armed conflict, international humanitarian intervention and remedial secession of Kosovo. Azerbaijan is denying any autonomy or special status to Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians.

The notion of territorial integrity has not given a green light to any state to oppress an ethnic group under its jurisdiction. In accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution 2625 (XXV) adopted in 1970, “every State has the duty to refrain from any forcible action which deprives peoples […] of their right to self-determination and freedom and independence […] The use of force to deprive peoples of their national identity constitutes a violation of their inalienable rights and of the principle of non-intervention.”

The instances of the failure to prevent genocides and ethnic cleansing by the UN Security Council and international community are well known – the genocides in Rwanda and Srebrenica, of the Yezidis by ISIS and the Rohingya in Myanmar. The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the 2020 UN Human Rights Council Resolution on Prevention of Genocide urge the international community not only to punish the crime of genocide retrospectively, but most importantly, prevent it. The notion “Responsibility to Protect” was endorsed as a global political commitment by UN member states at the 2005 World Summit in order to address its four key concerns: to prevent genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Further demonstration of this determination was reflected in the 2009 UN SC Resolution 1894 on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict.

Armenia continues to be committed to the peace process facilitated by the EU (at times with France and Germany), the United States and Russia within various mediation formats. However, the mediation efforts by the EU, U.S., France and Russia have not been effective due to the coercive tactics and obstructionism by Azerbaijan. It seems that international mediators and other major actors feel powerless to change the current dynamics; they mostly continue the policy of balanced statements and false equivalence, and avoid condemning Baku for its use of force and attempts at ethnic cleansing, urging both sides to make concessions knowing that Armenia has nothing else to concede. It only emboldens Aliyev further, maximizes its threats and demands to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians, makes it believe that its current military dominance entitles it to ignore the international order and to hijack peace talks facilitated by the United States and the EU. Thus, the use of force or threats and the collapse of international order globally are normalized and legitimized further.

Armenia’s verbal recognition of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan doesn’t give it a green light to carry out ethnic cleansing and genocide of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh anddiplomatic support for them doesn’t mean to have territorial claims to Azerbaijan. It can be recalled here that The Gambia, a Western African nation, filed an application to the ICJ regarding Myanmar’s violation of the Genocide Convention against its Rohingya group in 2019, without even having any ethnic commonality with it, and the Court confirmed its jurisdiction and the admissibility of The Gambia’s application in 2022. UN Security Council Resolution 1244 adopted in 1999, acknowledged Kosovo as part of Yugoslavia, at the same time establishing a UN peacekeeping operation there. Armenia cannot refuse its moral obligation to support Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia’s recognition of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity also increases the responsibility of the international community, in particular that of mediators, for the dignified life, security and human rights of Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians in their indigenous homeland.

Recommendations to International Actors

The reasons for the divergent approaches of international actors to similar inter-ethnic conflicts are a complex combination of geopolitical interests, the extent of the threat for ethnic cleansing; foreign policy choices, alliances and aspirations of conflict parties, their governance systems – democracy vs. autocracy, and the consistency and intensity of the diplomatic strategies and narratives applied by them.

On July 25, Freedom House urged “democratic governments to exert pressure on Azerbaijan, calling for an end to the deliberate starvation of innocent civilians.” With the failure of Russian peacekeepers to protect Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, and losing their role as a responsible actor of international relations, the United States and the EU have the primary responsibility to protect Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.

President Biden recognized the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman empire in 2021. Globally, Biden has committed to putting human rights back at the center of American foreign policy and holding accountable perpetrators of human rights abuses. Blinken has announced that human rights are universal, without any hierarchy amongst them, and opposed the claim by some governments that they need to be applied based on the local context, calling those governments the worst abusers of human rights. The Biden administration has recognized the genocide of Rohingya, spoken out against the genocide of the Uyghurs in China, atrocities committed in Syria and Ethiopia’s Tigray region. It has worked with the Congress to pass laws to sanction human rights violators through the Global Magnitsky Act. At the same time, the United States continues to waive Section 907 every year to allocate military assistance to Azerbaijan.

Recognition of past genocides, whether that of Armenians or others, loses its value if it is not accompanied by efforts to prevent a new genocide and ethnic cleansing. As a global leader, the U.S. administration has a responsibility to act in line with its declared values of democracy and human rights and prevent a new genocide, as well as ensure dignified life of Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians. The U.S. should consider applying sanctions on Azerbaijan for its policies of ethnic cleansing and collective punishment of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh,

As another normative actor with declared values of human rights and democracy, the EU shares that responsibility. The EU should examine whether Azerbaijan has the energy resources it has committed to the EU member countries and the infrastructure to deliver them or is it partially laundering Russian gas for a higher price. It should balance its geopolitical, economic, and energy interests with its core values and principles of human rights and democracy. It should apply conditionality in its relationship with Azerbaijan, which would include the collective punishment of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan should understand that its energy resources and the offer to deliver them to Europe do not entitle it to use military force and coercion against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians to achieve its goals. If Azerbaijan continues to cross the red lines, the EU should consider sanctions. It is understandable that it is not easy to reach consensus on applying sanctions among the EU’s 27 member states, especially considering that Azerbaijan has strategic partnership agreements or is supplying gas to some members. However, at least as a supranational organization, the EU should reassert its values and principles in its dealings with Azerbaijan.

The US and the EU cannot expect Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians to accept forced subjugation by autocratic Azerbaijan without any security guarantees and rights while they have enabled remedial secession to Kosovan Albanians in a very similar conflict. It will only reinforce the notion of double standards applied to different conflicts. It is understandable that in light of the Ukraine crisis, the current geopolitical environment is different from that of the 2000s when humanitarian intervention and liberalism was prevailing. However, it doesn’t mean that the scenarios resembling the Ukrainian Holodomor under Stalin, the evacuation of the Finnish population upon the demand of Soviet Russia, or Milosevic-style oppression of ethnic entities should become the renewed normal.

International actors should ensure that Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians are able to survive, remain and have a dignified live in their indigenous homeland, with security guarantees and rights, which essentially leads to the following conditions:

  • Urgently send a humanitarian convoy, whether by airlift or by land accompanied by senior international figures. It can be done by the UNWFP or USAID. If Bernard Coucher had taken up that role in 1992, the Administrator of USAID Samantha Power seems the most suitable global leader in the current circumstances.

  • Urge Azerbaijan to abolish the checkpoint and implement ICJ orders, ensuring free movement between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia with the understanding that the Lachin Corridor is not only a humanitarian road but is necessary to ensure the preservation of the link with Armenia and the ethnic identity of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.

  • Send a fact-finding mission to Nagorno-Karabakh by international organizations such as the UN and Council of Europe, to conduct a needs assessment, covering aspects of security, human rights and development.

  • Granting Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians with a special status, which cannot be limited to symbolic cultural rights. Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians should have at least an autonomous status, political rights and civil liberties, and preserve their self-governance institutions.

  • Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians should be able to defend themselves as long as Azerbaijan hasn’t stopped the policy of ethnic hatred and military coercion and is threatening them with ethnic cleansing. It means that they should have a civil self-defense capacity.

  • To resolve mutual claims of human rights violations and crimes committed since the First Nagorno-Karabakh War, impartial international legal and transitional justice mechanisms need to be established.

  • Finally, it is time to deploy an international peacekeeping mission in Nagorno-Karabakh. While international peacekeeping is undergoing a global crisis, and its missions are closing or downsizing in Africa and the Middle East, it has still proven to be more effective than unilateral peacekeeping without a UN mandate. This is also an opportunity for UN peacekeeping to revitalize itself and find a new role. It should be a civil-military mission to provide security and protection in line with the “Responsibility to Protect” principle, to tackle political, governance and human rights issues toward sustainable peace, and humanitarian and development issues in line with the UN’s “Leave No One Behind” principle. The international presence should be deployed based on a UN Security Council resolution based on its Chapter VIII and Azerbaijan should not have the right to obstruct it.

If the international community fails to stop the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, this will become yet another embarassment and a dangerous precedent for the international order, and the members of the UN Security Council, especially its permanent members, as well as the mediators, such as the United States, the EU and Russia, will be deemed responsible for it. Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh should not become the collateral victims of the current complex geopolitical realities.


(c) 2023, EVN


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