A Palestinian family reacts after Israeli bulldozers demolished their home in the Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, Feb. 5, 2013. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Newly elected Israeli Knesset member Yair Lapid (l), leader of the Yesh Atid party, speaks to Naftali Bennett, head of the hard-line national religious party the Jewish Home, during a Feb. 5 reception in Jerusalem marking the opening of the 19th Knesset. (URIEL SINAI/GETTY IMAGES)
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April/May 1993, Page 13
Armenia and Azerbaijan: Two Views
The Conflict Over Nagorno-Karabakh: An Azeri Perspective
By Alec Rasizade
Western readers have learned of the Nagorno (Upper) Karabakh controversy through reports from that remote area by Western correspondents and from commentaries by members of the long-established Armenian-American community. Azeri views on this dispute have appeared rarely if at all in the Western news media. Therefore let me present Washington Report readers with some basic truths about the origins of the conflict.
Armenian leaders claim that Azerbaijan was the first to oppress and expel the Armenian minority from the Azerbaijani Republic. Actually the initiative to banish the Azeri minority and convert the Armenian Republic into a homogeneous state began in the winter of 1987-1988, when 165,000 Azeris were driven out of Armenia. Following that move, there were massacres of Armenians in the Azerbaijani cities of Sumgait in February 1988 and, two years later, in Baku in January 1990.
Azeri parliamentary committees have compiled evidence indicating that both events were inspired from Moscow to secure Russian imperial rule in the Transcaucasus, according to the Roman principle of "divide and rule." Similar conspiracies are evident throughout the five-year history of the conflict.
Each time the parties have been about to reach an agreement (in Zheleznovodsk, Moscow, Tehran, Rome, Geneva and Alma-Ata), an invisible hand provoked further bloodshed. Those interested in maintaining the Azeri-Armenian conflict, as well as the Georgian turmoil, are imperialist forces in Russia, and probably in Iran.
The Armenian offensive last spring created more than 100,000 new Azeri refugees from the captured towns of Upper and Lower Karabakh and adjacent rural districts. Today 500,000 Azeri refugees throng the city of Baku and environs, providing more problems for the newly elected Popular Front government, which is opposed by the rigidly nationalistic National Independence Party.
How can a Western-style democracy survive in a small Muslim country where 1 million of the 7 million inhabitants are unemployed? In the absence of any international effort to help Azeri refugees, as Kurdish and Bosnian refugees have been helped, how can the Azeri government reject the demand of these exiles to recapture their lands, homes and possessions?
Such simple realities must be understood in the West. Misunderstanding Caucasian politics leads both Western and Russian public opinion to imagine a permanent, and therefore irreversible, ethnic and religious rivalry in the Caucasus.
I think Western reluctance to interfere derives from this idea. Meanwhile, continuation of the war could draw both Eastern and Western states into the conflict through activation of various security alliances. These include, on the Armenian side, the Moscow-led Commonwealth forces under the Tashkent mutual security pact, signed May 15, 1992. On the Azeri side, should Turkey get involved as the guarantor of Nakbichevan autonomy through the Kars Treaty of Oct. 13, 1921, these include the North Atlantic Treaty forces.
Upper Karabakh generally is described in Western press reports as an "Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan.'' The truth is that Armenians began to appear there only in the middle of the last century.
A few years ago they celebrated the 150th anniversary of their resettlement from Persia to Karabakh, after it came under Russian rule. At the same time the Russian colonial administration also drew in Russian and German settlers, who were welcomed by Azeris. How would Americans react if the large numbers of Armenians living in southern California suddenly claimed it as an Armenian homeland, and demanded separation from California?
Armenian historians insist that before the Armenian resettlement Karabakh was inhabited by aboriginal Christians. That is correct. The people of medieval Caucasian Albania adopted Christianity in the fourth century. But those ancient residents had no link to and nothing in common with Armenians. Azeris would have a better claim to be successors of Albania, since Azeris have for centuries inhabited, dominated, and developed the Karabakh part of the Azeri nation.
Both Armenia and Azerbaijan last year signed the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe of 1975, and the Paris Charter for New Europe of 1990, confirming their mutual adherence to the principle of the inviolability of existing borders. This principle means that the borders and the territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan are to be guaranteed by all of the signatory nations, not just by Turkey.
This is one key to intervention on behalf either of the U.N., the CSCE, the Commonwealth, NATO or Iran. The second key to untying the Caucasian knot is to determine who is the aggressor, according to the U.N. definition of 1974.
When that is accomplished, the international community can and should apply to the aggressor in the Caucasus international sanctions such as those presently being employed against Serbia and Montenegro in the former Yugoslavia. Such decisive collective international action can halt further aggression in Karabakh, and prevent the Armenian-Azeri conflict from growing and spreading.