Monday, August 15, 2016

War or peace: Armenia’s dead end


The game of chess is a very popular sport and entertainment in both Azerbaijan and Armenia. In Armenia, it is even a compulsory subject in primary and secondary schools. Yet, despite the fact that this game is so well mastered at a national level, Armenia finds itself in a very difficult position on the chessboard of regional politics in the South Caucasus, especially after the escalation in the area of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in April 2016.

With two out of its four borders with neighbouring countries closed and with no direct railway connection with Russia – the largest country in the South Caucasus neighbourhood, Armenia is by definition in a difficult geographical position. But the two closed borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey are solely the result of Armenia’s own actions. Military aggression and the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent regions of Azerbaijan led to the closure of these borders more than 20 years ago. Despite the recognition of these territories as belonging to Azerbaijan and condemnation of the aggression by the international community, Armenia is continuing its occupation while pretending to want peaceful negotiations.

It is this kind of policy from Armenia that has meant the protracted efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict peacefully have so far failed to bear fruit. The military escalation in April 2016 served as a reminder that this conflict is a very real threat to regional and international security. It attracted a lot of media attention and generated a political momentum for the larger powers to return their attention to the issue. What is more interesting is that Armenia’s post-escalation situation can be described in chess terms as Zugzwang. This is when a chess player finds themselves in the position that will be worsened by any possible move.

The April 2016 escalation clearly revealed the military capabilities of Azerbaijan, which delivered an asymmetrical response to the artillery shelling of its civilian population that lives along the front between the Armenian and Azerbaijani armies. This was the first time that Azerbaijan used its military power in a counter-offensive with the aim of pushing back Armenian artillery positions and securing its civilian populations. That operation was successful. Azerbaijan was even able to liberate some of its internationally-recognised territory. This was not the kind of mythical “failed blitzkrieg” that some analysts tried to paint it as. Had this been the case, the operation would be directed at very different geographical positions and would not have targeted artillery positions. Rather, it would be concentrated on “drilling in” deep into the hostile territory to establish positions there.

One of the results of April 2016 escalation was the end of the myth of the ‘impregnable’ Armenian defence on the line of contact. It showed that Armenia will be unable to hold its military positions on the occupied territories should Azerbaijan choose to use Article 51 of the UN Charter and exercise its inherent right to self-defence to liberate the occupied territories using force. The moves now available to Armenia can only weaken its position. Going into the military standoff with Azerbaijan and choosing war will only lead to bloodshed that will end with Armenia’s military defeat. This would deprive the country of the scarce resources it still has. On the other hand, choosing peace and still trying to maintain control over the occupied territories of Azerbaijan through the continued pretence of peaceful negotiations will worsen Armenia’s already dreadful economic situation and may weaken its internal situation to the point of making it an altogether failed state.

It is clear that whichever move Armenia chooses, be it war or peace, its situation will only deteriorate. On the other hand, withdrawal from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan may give Armenia the chance to abandon its hopeless chess game and bring peace and economic development to the region.
Kamal Makili-Aliyev
Doctor habilitatus of Laws


Monday, June 20, 2016

New book: "Essays on International Security and Geopolitics"


My new book that embodies the collection of articles published during my first five years of work as an analyst in the Center for Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The digital version can be found here.

Kamal Makili-Aliyev
Doctor habilitatus of Laws

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Pakistan-Azerbaijan Economic and Defence Cooperation


My joint article with a Pakistani colleague called Pakistan-Azerbaijan Economic and Defense Cooperation that we wrote on the topics of bilateral cooperation between our countries can be found here.

Kamal Makili-Aliyev
Doctor habilitatus of Laws

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Nagorno-Karabakh Isn't Disputed Territory — It's Occupied


It is actually very simple. Contrary to the statements made in the mass media when it covers the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, this mountainous region of Azerbaijan is not disputed in any way. It is occupied. So says the international law and recently that same opinion follows from the ruling of the international judicial body - European Court of Human Rights.

Despite the allegations of Armenia (that have in fact occupied sovereign territory of Azerbaijan) that the remaining ethnically Armenian population of the region has exercised the right to self-determination, it has been proven false again and again. For once, Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh are not "people" in the meaning of UN Charter to enjoy such a right. Armenians have already exercised that right in Armenia, where they have an internationally recognized state. Thus, making them a national minority on the territory of Azerbaijan and not some kind of "Nagorno-Karabakh people". Otherwise, Armenians would have a right to self-determination in U.S., Russia, France and other countries where they have  large communities, creating a horde of small states. This is simply illogical.

No state have recognized the separatist entity in Nagorno-Karabakh, including Armenia. No state have recognized Armenian claims on this region as well. So basically there is no dispute on the attribution of the region.

The European Court of Human Rights have actually engraved all of the above into the international jurisprudence.  On 16 June 2015 Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights have come up with two judgments on the reciprocal cases Chiragov and Others v. Armenia and Sargsyan v. Azerbaijan.

Both cases seemed to have very close and even balanced judgments and  that Court intended not to stir political side of the question. However, closer examination shows that this is far from reality and it was impossible for the Court to escape some very serious issues related to the status quo in Nagorno-Karabakh.

For example, in Chiragov v. Armenia case, Court addresses the separatist entity "Nagorno-Karabakh Republic" specifically in brackets to show that it is not in any way recognized officially. It also establishes the fact that there are no Azerbaijanis left in the occupied territories of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast' as well as in the adjacent seven regions. Thus, basically acknowledging that Armenians were able to carry out complete ethnic cleansing on those territories. Those ethnic cleansings resulted in around 750.000 internally displaced persons living in Azerbaijan now and additional 250.000 refugees of Azerbaijani origin expelled from Armenia itself.

Moreover, the Court recognizes Armenian military and financial control over so-called "Nagorno-Karabakh Republic" and comes to the opinion that Armenia has "effective" control in Nagorno-Karabakh. Thus, Armenia have been found in violation of the corresponding articles in the aforementioned case. Precisely due to the effective control it has over Nagorno-Karabakh.
So if one state has an "effective control" over the recognized territory of the other state there cannot be any doubt of the occupation. Therefore there cannot be any dispute over the attribution of the Nagorno-Karabakh region per se. Occupation of someone's sovereign territory does not make that territory disputed in anyway.

The conflict itself being a territorial can be resolved. Even ethnic complication can be lifted given the right attitude towards the resolution. The rights of the Armenian minority to culture, language and religion can be guaranteed without violation of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity. Armenians can be equal citizens of Azerbaijan enjoying minority rights and largest possible autonomy there is. Azerbaijan have already expressed this proposal many times through its government.

Interestingly, mass media is somehow following up on twisting the real discourse and disregarding all of the international legal data on the subject. Basically trying to be "neutral" when reporting on the conflict. However, neutrality does not in any way mean objectivity. And objectivity is what the image of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict really lacks today. So the discourse that mass media shapes now,  instead of playing in favor of conflict resolution actually helps the hostilities escalate.

If mass media will continue to shape its "neutral" discourse and will not begin to lean on the facts, it will only embolden the Armenia's position of staying on their grounds of occupation, lack of will for resolution, preservation of status quo and destructive stance on violence as opposed to the compromise that would allow Armenia to ensure the rights of its minority in Azerbaijan as true caring kin-state.

Bryant McGill very sharply pointed out that: "Where wise actions are the fruit of life, wise discourse is the pollination". In order for the resolution of the conflict to bring some fruits, the discourse should first of all turn to the wise one. While the Nagorno-Karabakh is not a disputed region of Azerbaijan, the discourse around it should become the subject to a very profound change.

Kamal Makili-Aliyev
Doctor habilitatus of Laws
        The National Interest 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Happy New Year - 2016


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

BitzPol Affairs Review


My article on legal status of Caspian Sea in ‘The Caspian Sea Chessboard: Geopolitical, geo-strategic and geo-economic analysis’ - reviewed in BitzPol Affairs and can be found here.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year - 2015


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

New article on Caspian 'Sea' and Its International Legal Status


The Caspian Sea Chessboard

Please read my new article on Caspian 'Sea' and Its International Legal Status published  in new book by ISPI (Italy) and Center for Strategic Studies (Azerbaijan) - "The Caspian Sea Chessboard: Geo-political, geo-strategic and geo-economic analysis" Carlo Frappi and Azad Garibov eds. that can be found here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

New article on Security Sector Reform Action Plan for Azerbaijan

SSR Action Plans - CENAA

Please read my new article on Security Sector Reform Action Plan for Azerbaijan written in cooperation with Czech colleague Vít Střítecký  in new book by Centre for European and North Atlantic Affairs - "Security Sector Reform Action Plans for the South Caucasus Countries" B.Padrtová ed. that can be found here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

New book: "Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict in International Legal Documents and International Law"


Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict in International Legal Documents and International Law

My new book called "Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict in International Legal Documents and International Law" was just published by Center for Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan (SAM). For those interested in reading it's digital copy can be found here.

Kamal Makili-Aliyev
Doctor of Laws (LL.D)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Why NATO can play a role in resolution of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict


It is well understood that NATO presence in South Caucasus is very limited due to the geopolitical factors of presence of such regional players such as Russia and Iran. Reluctance of NATO to engage South Caucasian states more closely after the events of 2008 during the Russian-Georgian war is understandable, however it may seem overcautious. At the same time if the situation changes and there will be expectations of some sort of agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh problem, security guarantees will play one of the major roles in stabilizing and negating possible tensions that the process of resolution may bring to the region.
NATO has considerable experience when it comes to peacekeeping operations and maintenance of peace and security. Balkans, Libya and Afghanistan are some of the examples of such activities. Positive and negative aspects of these experiences maybe still debatable, however it is undeniable that they have showed that NATO is capable of carrying out such operations even in the large scale missions like Afghanistan. These situations are also indications of the changing role of NATO as security organization. The threats to North Atlantic area do not originate from “state-actors only” anymore. Non-state actors are the new challenges to the global security – terrorism, cyberwarfare and weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) are the new threats that NATO faces. The ability of organization to acknowledge and adapt to new realities will play crucial role in the future of NATO. NATO will have to redefine the approaches to deadlocked conflicts and non-conventional threats to be able to address the pressing issues of regional and international security.
Arguably as the situation changes with the nature of threats, so does the situation change with their scope. In the new age of security frameworks, conflicts in non-member states bordering NATO, start to become new security challenges for the NATO as the possibility of unconventional warfare spill-over into territories of NATO members is a reality and not a myth anymore. One such example is the situation in Syria.
Nagorno-Karabakh is another conflict that is on the border of NATO. Though far from the active phase it still remains a threat to the international peace and security, and thus to the NATO as well. Ultimately, NATO should be interested in the resolution of the conflict and engagement in the situation with intent to help. However geopolitical realities do not allow for such a close engagement and presence.
What can be done in such a situation? First of all there is a lack of understanding and compromise in terms of strict “red lines” drawn between NATO and major regional power in the region of South Caucasus – Russia. Naturally, given the changing nature of threats to the international security NATO and Russia should cooperate to address unconventional threats from non-state actors that affect both parties. The same goes to protracted unresolved conflicts on their borders. At the same time it is understandable that both NATO and Russia have their separate political and security agendas that may be in conflict with each other.
Nonetheless, when it comes to Nagorno-Karabakh conflict the compromise needed that may satisfy all the interested parties. One such compromise may be a joint peacekeeping operation of NATO with Russia-led CSTO. In that way both organizations would have equal amount of participation to keep each over in check and balance. To satisfy parties to the conflict, namely Armenia and Azerbaijan, the participation of troops from the countries of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs as well as from the conflicting states should be excluded to ensure impartiality of forces. At the same time all these aforementioned states may provide financial assistance to NATO and CSTO troops respectively thus ensuring their own participation and interests in the peacekeeping efforts after some kind of agreement reached around Nagorno-Karabakh. 
Such concept may seem futuristic; however, the only way to address the new era of threats to international peace and security is cooperation between military alliances of different political allegiances. If a proper understanding could be reached, these prospects may not seem fictional anymore. In any case, compromise over common security concerns may lead to the transition in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and stabilize the security situation in the South Caucasus.

Kamal Makili-Aliyev
Doctor of Laws (LL.D)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014




Copyright 2011-2014 All Rights Reserved Kamal Makili-Aliyev