Reacting to today's report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) on the increasing risk of war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, both Bloomberg and Reuters appear incorrect, and even sometimes biased. The Nagorno Karabakh conflict is not a land dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but rather an issue of people's right to self-determination, like in Southern Sudan, Kosovo and East Timor.
"Escalating frontline clashes, a spiralling arms race, vitriolic rhetoric and a virtual breakdown in peace talks increase the chance Armenia and Azerbaijan will go back to war over Nagorno-Karabakh," ICG reports today and calls on both countries to take measures to decrease tensions and to sign a document endorsing basic principles for resolving the issue peacefully.
Zulfugar Agayev writes for Bloomberg from Baku that "oil-exporting Azerbaijan and land-locked Armenia fought a war over Nagorno-Karabakh after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 that left tens of thousands of people dead and more than 1 million displaced." Reuters' Margarita Antidze writes "the two countries fought a war over Nagorno-Karabakh which broke away from Muslim Azerbaijan with the help of Christian Armenia during the collapse of the Soviet Union."
These reports do not correctly represent the situation because they cast the actual dispute, a people's right to self-determination, as a land dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan. We call these reports biased because no reporter from Armenia or Nagorno Karabakh was involved in preparing these stories.
Presenting the issue of Nagorno Karabakh as a land dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia equals siding with the former. Azerbaijan likes to present the issue in this manner. In reality, with Stalin's iron hand the enclave of Nagorno Karabakh was given to Azerbaijan in the beginning of the 20th century. At that time no one could say anything. While the issue is not of religious nature, the cultural, religious and human rights Christian Armeniain majority of Nagorno Karabakh were systematically abused by the authoritarian regime in Baku. At the break up of the Soviet Union, the people of Nagorno Karabakh conducted a referendum (to which the Azeri minority of the republic did not participate) and voted for Nagorno Karabakh's independence. Azerbaijan fearing its losing land, started the war and invaded Nagorno Karabakh. Armenia, which has strong cultural and linguistic ties with Karabakh, sided with the later preventing the humanitarian catastrophe.
A ceasefire was signed between Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan in 1994. Azerbaijan tebds to present the issue as a land dispute between itself and Armenia, yet it signed the ceasefire with Nagorno Karabakh in 1994.
Russia, France and the United States are mediating the conflict and have put forward basically principles one of which calls for a referendum to determine the final status of Nagorno Karabakh.
ICG is calling on the international community to intensify its peace efforts. For nearly twenty years the issue has not been solved, but it can be now, if we all come to respect people's right to self determination. The international community respected Southern Sudan's right, Kosovo's right and East Timor's right to self-determination and there is peace in these regions now. It is high time to bring peace and friendship for the people of Nagrono Karabakh, Azerbaijan and Armenia, this year.
Armen Hareyan is HULIQ's editor in chief
Image source: Wikimedia