Time for the objective stance of EU on Nagorno-Karabakh

Monday, November 07, 2016

The EU-Azerbaijan relations have seen a progressive development throughout the years. Economic relations have seen a lot of growth in terms of hydrocarbons trade and major energy projects. Political side of relations is also steadily developing with EU and Azerbaijan working on the framework agreements on strategic partnerships that will indicate the high levels of relations. Readiness of EU to work on major projects with Azerbaijan, liberalized visa regime and blooming bilateral relations with most of the EU-states are the indicators of the high level of interaction of sides,  common interests and values.

Since Azerbaijan have regained its independence in 1991 it is facing a protracted armed conflict with neighboring Armenia around Nagorno-Karabakh that have led to disastrous consequences for the region in terms of humanitarian catastrophe of around 1 million of Azerbaijani refugees and IDPs that were forced to leave their homes. The aggression of the Republic of Armenia and its occupation of internationally recognized territories of Azerbaijan are undisputable and have been recently confirmed by the judgment of European Court of Human Rights in Chiragov and others v. Armenia case. Yes, the European international judicial body with a very high global authority and regard.

Despite the unsubstantiated arguments of Armenians that Nagorno-Karabakh's Armenian population constitutes "peoples", that these "peoples" have voted on the referendum in accordance with Soviet legislation and international norms, that these "peoples" have right to self-determination, the European Court of Human Rights acting within the norms of international law have passed a proper judgment. Of course there are no "peoples of Nagorno-Karabakh" and there have never been such "peoples". Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh are the national minority on the territory of Azerbaijan and that minority have expelled all the Azerbaijanis not only from former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast' but from the seven adjacent regions of Azerbaijan, which is clear from the aforementioned judgment. National minorities do not have a right to self-determination in broader sense - so there is no right to secession for them. Otherwise any minority in any country would be able to establish a new state.

Not a single country or entity from the 15 former states of Soviet Union have used Soviet legislation to leave the Union or have fulfilled all the legal criteria for that. Instead the Union dissolved at the end of 1991 and all the former Soviet Republics were recognized in accordance with the principle uti possidetis juris in the same borders as they have had them in USSR's administrative boundaries. Nagorno-Karabakh have been an integral part of Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic, that in its own turn, was an integral part of Soviet Union. Nagorno-Karabakh was not a historical part of Armenia. In XIX century Karabakh khanate have been incorporated into Imperial Russia and later was a part of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic for a short period of time, when that Republic became a part of Soviet Union. Due to the fact that this territory had a Armenian minority living there compactly, in 1923 the decision was taken by the Soviet authorities to grant the mountainous part of Karabakh status of Autonomous Oblast'. It has to be pointed out that the same was not done for the Azerbaijani minority leaving compactly in Zangezur of Armenia. Those Azerbaijanis have been expelled during war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 1990-s and constitute main bulk of refugees from Armenia. Thus all the arguments about Nagorno-Karabakh "never being part of Azerbaijan" are quite false. Even XIX century documented accounts of UK Foreign Office indicate Karabakh as part of country of Azerbaijan inside of Imperial Russia.

Despite all that, EU instead of adopting an objective stance on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and condemn the occupation of Azerbaijani territories by Armenia, have chosen to stay "neutral" and sacrifice the objectivity for the good relations with both sides of the conflict. Such approach does not reflect neither the level of cooperation, nor the developments in relations between EU and Azerbaijan. It has also jeopardized the view that EU is governed by the democratic values, international law and objectivity. Being neutral and being objective are not the same. It is high time for EU to show objectivity and openly condemn the occupation of Azerbaijani territories by aggressor and show support for the just position of Azerbaijan in accordance with international law.

Kamal Makili-Aliyev
Doctor habilitatus of Laws

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