Artsakh In The Geopolitical Agenda Of The Middle East: DEFENDING THE RIGHT TO EXIST

 

Probably, I'm the only Muslim Turk who supports Armenia and Republic of Artsakh : armenia

  1. The conflict in Nagorno Karabakh according to the Armenian prism

For centuries Artsakh (the Armenian name for the Nagorno Karabakh Republic) was a part of Armenia and, what is probably more important, populated by Armenians.

Particularly, during the Urartian era (9-6th centuries b.c.) Artsakh was known as Urtekhe-Urtekhini. Thereafter, according to the Armenian Historian of 5th century AD Movses Khorenatsi, by 5th century BC Artsakh was part of Armenia under the Orontid Dynasty. It continued to be part of the Kingdom of Armenia under the Artaxiad Dynasty, under which Armenia became one of the largest realms in Western Asia.

In the meantime, the first mentioning of the name “Artsakh” goes back to 2nd century BC. According to the British historian David M. Lang, the name of Artsakh possibly derives from the name of King Artaxias I of Armenia (190–159 BC), founder of the Artaxiad Dynasty and the kingdom of Greater Armenia[1].

Artsakh as an integral part of Armenia is mentioned in the works of Strabo, Pliny the Elder, Claudius Ptolemy, Plutarch, Dio Cassius, and other ancient authors[2].

After the division of the Greater Armenia in 387 AD, Artsakh became a part of the Eastern Armenia, which later on was conquered by Persia. During the Persian rule Artsakh remained a part of the Armenian viceroyalty. Thereafter, Artsakh was part of the Armenian kingdom of Bagratids (9-11th centuries), then – part of Zakarid Armenia (12-13th centuries).

By the 17th century Artsakh became part of the Persian Empire as a semi-autonomous region, where it received its name Karabakh. Especially, it is worth mentioning that the five Armenian kingdoms of Artsakh by mid-18th century received autonomous status under the Persian rule.

However, according to the Gulistan Treaty of 1813, which followed the Russian-Persian war, Artsakh became part of the Russian Empire.

After the disintegration of the Russian Empire in 1917, Artsakh received independence. However, during the bolshevization of the South Caucasus, the Bolsheviks in face of Stalin decided to grant this piece of land (with approximately 95 percent of Armenian population) to Azerbaijan, expecting in return Turkish leader Kemal Ataturk to join the “global communist revolution”.

This triggered an approximately 70 years of latent conflict, when the Armenians of Artsakh were permanently (but without any success) appealing to the Moscow officials to include then-Nagorno Karabakh autonomous región (the name of the Republic of Artsakh during the Soviet rule) into the Soviet Armenia.

The situation has changed in the late 80´s of the 20th century with weakening of the central power in Moscow and disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Armenians of Artsakh again raised their voice to join Armenia. Azerbaijan reacted with Armenian pogroms in Sumgait, Baku, etc., which triggered a full-scale war between Azerbaijan and Artsakh Armenians. Armenia supported Artsakh’s fight for freedom and security.

The war ended in 1994 with Bishkek ceasefire protocol, signed by Azerbaijan, Artsakh, and Armenia[3], which de facto recognized Artsakh as an independent part of the conflict. Since then it has been functioning as a de facto independent state.

Since 1994 the sides have been negotiating a peace deal under the OSCE Minsk Group mandate. Since 1997 the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs in face of Russia, US, and France are leading the negotiation process.

However, we witness a stalemate in that process, provided the maximalist position of official Baku, which demands Artsakh to be under his jurisdiction, using force, provocations, and involving Turkey to reach its goals.

The Soviet government and Turkey’s new nationalist government signed the Treaty of Moscow, on March 16 1921.
  1. Ethnical and territorial status background: Building an effective statehood

Speaking about the reasons of the conflict and current state, it is worth mentioning that the end of the 2nd decade, and beginning of the 3rd one, of the 20th century was not only a period of formation of the Soviet empire, but also active promotion of Bolshevik’s idea of “global communist revolution”.

This idea was well accommodated and manipulated by Turkey’s leader Kemal Ataturk, promising Vladimir Lenin to join that revolution. As a consequence, in one night Moscow without any legal basis took a decision to grant Artsakh to Turkic Azerbaijan, hoping by this to please Turkey and attract it into the communist “camp”. However, as we know from history, Turkey very soon betrayed Bolsheviks.

Nowadays, during approximately thirty years of independence the Republic of Artsakh has developed well-functioning institutions of statehood, based on separation of powers. This is guaranteed by free and fair regular elections, independent Media, open internet space. Even during this war, in contrast to Azerbaijan, all Media recourses and social networks are operating without any restrictions. The above guarantees the level of legitimacy, the Artsakh authorities enjoy both these days and before. Moreover, according to Transparency International, for many years, the Republic of Artsakh is classified as “partially free”, while, for instance, Azerbaijan  is label as “not free”[4].

UN urges immediate end to Armenia-Azerbaijan clashes

  1. United Nations, Azerbaijan, and Nagorno Karabakh conflict: myths and reality

Nowadays, Azerbaijan very often refers to the international recognition of its borders, as well as the four UN Security Council Resolutions of 1993, claiming that Armenia is violating them.

However, the truth with regard to both issues is that it is not the UN or UN resolutions, which claim anything like that, but Azerbaijani propaganda, which manipulates public opinion and presents the reality as they wish it to be.

First of all, in difference to the League of Nations, the UN does not raise the issue of borders, when it accepts new members. As a consequence, Azerbaijan was accepted to the UN without any clarification of its international borders. Additionally, the Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Region left Azerbaijani Soviet Socialist Republic in September 1991, before than Azerbaijan became a UN member (March 1992).

However, what is more important is the fact that the right of peoples for self-determination is a dynamic right and can be applied before, during or after a metropole joins the UN, as happened for instance with Kosovo or South Sudan.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that not the UN, but the OSCE Minsk group, co-Chaired by three UN Security Council permanents members – US, Russia, and France, has received the mandate to facilitate the negotiations and provide peace in the region. In this regard, the OSCE Minsk group does not recognize Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan, as currently the issue of the status of Artsakh is under negotiations.

When it comes to the so called “occupation” and the UN resolutions of 1993, in reality, when you read those resolutions, you see that they ask Armenia to apply all its influence to provide peace and security in the region[5]. And this is basically what Armenia is doing for the last 25-30 years by protecting Artsakh and its Armenian population from the Azerbaijani aggression and atrocities of civilian population, which they did, for instance, during the April war of 2016 and continue these days by shelling civilian targets not only in Artsakh, but also in Armenia.

In fact, it is the Azerbaijani side, which violates those resolutions. The resolutions demand immediate stop of fire and exclusion of use of force or threat of use of force by all the sides[6]. In violation of those resolutions, Azerbaijani leadership permanently states that they are going to occupy Artsakh by use of force. And during the April war of 2016 they clearly demonstrated that approach on the ground. They are doing the same at the moment.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that after Armenia joined the UN in 1992, it enjoys full participation in that universal international organization, being an active member and reliable partner. As stated above Armenia is strictly following the UN Security Resolutions of 1993, applying all its influence and potential to bring peace and stability in the region. Moreover, Armenia is contributing also to peace and stability globally by, for instance, participating in the UN peacekeeping operations in Lebanon and Mali[7].

Paradox of power: Russia, Armenia, and Europe after the Velvet Revolution |

  1. Velvet Revolution in Armenia: economic development and fight against corruption

In two and a half years after the Velvet Revolution, we can state two, even three main things. First of all, the systemic corruption in Armenia is defeated. Of course, it is impossible to totally eliminate corruption in two year. However, the new authorities are demonstrating the will and competence to do that. A vivid example of the above is that in 2019 Armenia progressed in Global Corruption Review for 28 points in comparison to 2018 (from 105th to 77th position)[8].

When it comes to the economic development, the Covid-19 pandemic became a strong impediment to that development. However, during 2019 Armenia enjoyed robust GDP growth in 7.6 percent, followed by the improvement of the labor market, rise of salaries, and low inflation (according to the World Bank)[9].

New Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan leading protests (photo credit: Reuters/Gleb Garanich)

  1. Two years after the Velvet Revolution: Peace and war in Nagorno Karabakh conflict

When Nikol Pashinyan came to power in April 2018 after the Velvet Revolution, he brought a new formula for conflict resolution. It had two main components – the idea of micro-revolutions or small steps and acceptability of the conflict resolution for all three sides – peoples of Artsakh, Azerbaijan, and Armenia.

However, very soon it became clear that Azerbaijan is not going to look for a compromised solution and reject its “zero-sum game” policy, following its policy inherited from late 80´s of the 20th century, threatening to use force, and leaving no room for the implementation of Artsakh’s right for self-determination.

As a consequence, a new escalation was just a matter of time.

At the same time, current escalation has several reasons. First of all, it is about the Covid-19 pandemic. It triggered rather tough economic and political crisis in Azerbaijan. I mean, being authoritarian in nature and lacking popular support, Aliyev used “old, but gold” trick to redirect the social attention from domestic problems to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, as they usually do.

At the same time, for about thirty years the Aliyevs (Heydar Aliyev and then his son Ilham) have been feeding its population that they are going to conquer Artsakh. And now, given the situation with Covid-19, when the whole world, including Armenia, is busy fighting with Covid-19, I assume, Ilham Aliyev and his advisers thought, that it is a good time to wage a war.

Additionally, Azerbaijan initiated a military attack against Armenia’s Tavush region this July but failed to succeed. And Aliyev might wish to use this chance to take a revenge, especially, provided that the July’s lose was fostering political crisis in Azerbaijan and weakening his positions at home.

Finally, I would like to mention the role of Turkey, which, in my understanding, encouraged Aliyev to start this war to increase its influence over Azerbaijan or in better scenario over the whole South Caucasus. At the same time, by doing this, Turkey redirects the attention of Russia and international community in general from Eastern Mediterranean, Libya, etc.

South Caucasus Engaged in Heavy Fighting - Geopolitical Club | Newswire

  1. Energy geopolitics in the South Caucasus: Artsakh conflict and regional security in the South Caucasus and beyond

Energy resources (oil and gas) are one of the most important geopolitical factors in the South Caucasus. However, the current war is hardly about the fight for energy resources, as such. However, two aspects can threaten energy security in the region.

Firstly, it is about Turkey’s massive involvement in the conflict. Given, its dependence on Azerbaijani oil and gas, Erdogan’s desire not only to provide its energy security, but also to become a regional energy hub, as well as rising Turkish influence in Azerbaijan because of the conflict, this conflict might lead to the redistribution of the energy market with greater Turkish share. Provided the Erdogan’s unpredictability and international hooligan behavior, this influence might be transformed into another leverage over Europe.

At the same time, the relocation of the Syrian jihadists to Azerbaijan[10] to fight against Artsakh, might lead to domestic conflict in secular Azerbaijan threatening, inter alia, oil and gas infrastructure in Azerbaijan and beyond.

Nagorno-Karabakh conflict could spiral into regional war

  1. Third parties of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict: alliances, neutrality, and the future of the region

In a week after Azerbaijan waged a war against Artsakh, it is obvious that Turkey is clearly and unilaterally supporting Azerbaijan. From the first day Erdogan declared a full support to its political and military ally – Azerbaijan. The launch of military operation by Azerbaijan followed a wargame by Turkey and Azerbaijan. Turkish instructors and military advisors are directing the Azerbaijani army in the current war.

The international community accused Turkey in sending a couple of hundreds of Syrian jihadists to Azerbaijan to fight against Artsakh. According to the Armenian sources, the quantity of Syrian terrorists is over four thousand.

Not less important is the Pakistani support to Azerbaijan, which is possible only with Turkish interference, as Pakistan does not have much direct interests with Azerbaijan, but strong ties with Turkey.

A clear evidence of the above is that In a recent interview to a Russian news outlet RBK, the Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Moscow Polad Bulbuloglu stated that in case if Russia or Russia-led military alliance Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) interferes into the conflict, Turkey will also have a direct interference[11].

On the other hand, Russia is considered to be the Armenia’s closest political-military ally. However, in contrast to Turkey, with Russia the situation is different. Russia tries to balance between Armenia and Azerbaijan, having strong interests with both countries. For instance, it is a major arms provider to both Armenia and Azerbaijan. As a result, these days we do not see unanimous support from Russia to Armenia. However, given that Armenia is a full CSTO member, Russia has its only military base in the region in Armenia, and Russia considers the South Caucasus as a region of its major interests, the growing Turkish influence in this region might lead to another proxy between Russia and Turkey.

However, today we see, that Armenia is working closely not only with Russia, but also with European partners, such as France, Germany, Greece, and so on, to stop Turkish aggression in the region. It was very symbolic, that Germany and Estonia brought the issue to the UN Security Council’s extraordinary meeting.

Provided the recent statements by the European countries (particularly, France) and Russia, we see that gradually international community is getting united to stop the Turkish expansionism, this time on the South Caucasus direction.

Armenia - Thinking Beyond Borders - KPMG Global

  1. Building scenarios: Future of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

There are several scenarios the conflict can develop through: back to the initial state with a new stalemate, Artsakh moves its positions forward, Azerbaijan moves its positions forward, and a direct Turkish intervention.

In the first scenario, either the international community negotiates, or the sides understand the necessity to stop the conflict and return to the initial positions, where the conflict erupted on September 27. However, given the current domestic situation in Azerbaijan and geopolitical reality in the South Caucasus, this scenario is not likely to happen. The thing is that Aliyev is using this war to consolidate the Azerbaijani society during tough Covid-19 and low-oil-prices times. So, recognizing a draw will make his positions even more shaky at home. Additionally, Turkey’s massive involvement in the conflict will be an additional impediment to a peace scenario.

As a consequence, Azerbaijan needs at least a small but a victory to feed his society. This will work in case of the third scenario. Moreover, Turkey is also betting on this one, as its assistance during the war will be transformed into political dividends and influence in Azerbaijan and South Caucasus after the war is over.

The second scenario is the worst for Aliyev and Erdogan, but best for Artsakh and Armenia, as will enforce the adversary to agree on peace. Moreover, this option is the most optimal for security and stability not only in the South Caucasus, but in the Middle East, as will calm down the Erdogan’s appetite and further expansionism.

At the moment, it is early to say which scenario will prevail. However, what is definite, the international community should make its best to stop the Turkish adventurism and safe the South Caucasus from being another spot of proxy warfare, instability, and rise of terrorism.

However, currently for the seventh day Artsakh and Armenia alone are leading a peace enforcement operation against Turkey and Azerbaijan, becoming the bastion against geopolitical ambitions and adventurism of Erdogan, as well as movement of Syrian terrorists to the north and east.


[1]  Lang, David M.The Armenians: a People in Exile. London: Unwin Hyman, 1988, p. X.

[2] Strabo, https://www.mfa.am/filemanager/Statics/GeographyStrabo.pdf

Pliny the Elder, https://www.mfa.am/filemanager/Statics/NaturalHistoryPliny.pdf

Claudius Ptolemy, https://www.mfa.am/filemanager/Statics/PtolemyGeography.pdf

Plutarch, https://www.mfa.am/filemanager/Statics/PlutarchsLives.pdf

Dio Cassius, https://www.mfa.am/filemanager/Statics/DiosRomanHistory.pdf

[3] http://vn.kazimirov.ru/doc10.htm

[4] https://www.transparency.org/en/countries/afghanistan?redirected=1

[5] S/RES/884, 12 November 1993, http://unscr.com/en/resolutions/doc/884, paragraph 2, p. 2

[6] S/RES/822, 30 April 1993, http://unscr.com/en/resolutions/doc/822 paragraph 1, p. 1

[7] http://providingforpeacekeeping.org/2015/12/14/peacekeeping-contributor-profile-armenia/

[8] https://www.azatutyun.am/a/30393305.html

[9] https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/armenia/overview

[10] https://www.france24.com/en/20201002-macron-reprimands-turkey-accusing-erdogan-of-sending-jihadists-to-azerbaijan

[11] https://www.rbc.ru/politics/30/09/2020/5f7449ea9a79475d079eb4fe

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