Nagorno-Karabakh, the land-locked mountainous area in the south of Caucasus, has been a bone of contention between Azerbaijan and Armenia, the two erstwhile Trans-Caspian states of the defunct Soviet Union.
Armenians, mostly Nestorian Christians, claim a long historical dominance dating back to several centuries before Christ; Azerbaijanis are mostly Sunni Muslims and link their identity to the territory. It accuses the Armenians of driving out Azeris who lived nearby in 1990s.
The enclave has its independent administration, which was recognized through the peace treaty between the two trans-Caspian states after the short but bloody war of 2020. Russia kept a peace-keeping force in the enclave to ensure peace.
On 19 September, under the pretext of an “anti-terrorist operation,” Azerbaijan forces launched an attack on the enclave and demanded the “complete withdrawal” of ethnic Armenian forces as a condition for peace in the disputed territory.
No convincing proof of ethnic Armenian forces undertaking any disruptive and anti-Azerbaijan activities was forthcoming from Azerbaijan official quarters.
However, Azerbaijan adviser to President Ilham Aliyev said that Azeri forces had launched “local but limited counter-terrorism measures aimed at striking military targets.” Talking about the loss of human lives, he said that Azerbaijan is not targeting civilians, but collateral damage was almost unavoidable “as civilians were being used as human shields.”
Turkey had played a major role in the Azerbaijan-Armenia war of 2020. Turkey-made drones had wrought havoc on Armenian armor and forced it to ask for a ceasefire. Turkey’s foreign ministry has said Azerbaijan was forced to take measures on its sovereign territory in Nagorno-Karabakh after its concerns were not alleviated ted following the 2020 conflict with Armenia.
During the emergency session of the UNSC, the German Foreign Minister firmly condemned Azerbaijan's military attack on Nagorno Karabakh and called for a final cessation of hostilities: "We need a complete cessation of hostilities. Azerbaijan bears the responsibility to fully… pic.twitter.com/khrc1COegS
— Robert Ananyan (@robananyan) September 21, 2023
As a result of its rightful and legitimate concerns about the situation on the ground that it voiced repeatedly not being alleviated in nearly three years since the end of the Second Karabakh War, Azerbaijan was forced to take measures it deems necessary on its sovereign territory, the ministry said.
The official statement of Turkey cited above contradicts Turkey’s approach to identical or almost identical situations. It wants to rationalize the illegal action of Azerbaijan by putting forth the “rightful and legitimate concerns of Baku.”
This is the same argument that Moscow put forth when its troops marched into Donbas in Ukraine. Should Russia not be concerned when reflecting on the ground situation on its western border? Why did Turkey sign the condemnation statement of NATO against Russia? This is double-speak.
The reaction to Azerbaijan’s aggression by world powers has not been as vigorous and loud as was in the case of the Ukraine dispute. Is it because two Asian countries are involved, and it is not a matter of deep concern for world leaders?
UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric has called for all military activity in the Nagorno-Karabakh region to cease and sustained deep dialogue to begin. He added that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres would speak to both delegations currently in New York for the 78th session of GA.
This is a laconic statement and avoids calling it a serious issue that could jeopardize peace in the region. He does not suggest a condemnation resolution on Azerbaijan’s aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh. The aggressor will bring forth true or false allegations, but these have to be scrutinized.
Nevertheless, France and the EU have been forthright and decisive in their perception of the use of force as unethical and contrary to the needs of the times.
French foreign ministry has said that no pretext could justify the military operation Azerbaijan launched in Nagorno-Karabakh, adding it was calling for an immediate UN Security Council meeting following Baku’s move. In a statement, France also said it was working with its partners to prepare a “strong response” to this “unacceptable offensive.”
The EU has condemned the military escalation in Karabakh and called on Azerbaijan to stop its current military activities, EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement. This military escalation should not be used as a pretext to force the exodus of the local population.
Russia says it is in touch with both and has urged negotiations to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was concerned about the latest escalation and considered civilian safety the most important issue.
Earlier, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova had said Moscow was deeply worried about the sharp escalation of the conflict.
For two important reasons, Russia would not take a stand in the course of aggression by Azerbaijan. Firstly, Russia had the consent of both warring states to keep its peace-keeping force in the enclave, and secondly, Russia’s role in Ukraine would not lend support if Russia condemned the aggression.
Nearly 1,20000 Armenians live in the southern part of the enclave. What is shaping in Nagorno-Karabakh has a direct impact on Armenia. Voice is raised by the Armenians demanding the resignation of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
In a TV address, the Prime Minister said, “Azerbaijan has begun a ground operation aimed at ethnic cleansing of Karabakh Armenians. He emphatically declared that Armenia was not involved in armed actions and did not have an army in Karabakh.
Armenia has called on the UN Security Council and Russia to take action to end the military operation launched by Azerbaijan.” Unambiguous steps to end aggression are needed,” says a statement from Yerevan.
This is a clear case of aggression aiming at the ethnic cleansing of the ethnic Armenians from their homeland. The Security Council cannot turn a blind eye to the protests made by the EU, France, and others.
The aggression has the potential to spread to Armenia, where people are gathering in huge crowds in support of their ethnic fraternity in the enclave; the Armenian Prime Minister is already under huge pressure to quit because he has not been able to bring the aggression to the notice of the world powers to stop Azerbaijan’s adventure.
The Security Council must intervene without loss of time, failing which stakeholders and sympathizers measuring their national interests could jump into the fray, and the security and peace of the region will be jeopardized.