February 20, 2021

After President Aliyev protested against the visit of Armenian officials to Karabakh, several other ministers and leaders of many political parties also visited Stepanakert. The first and foremost factor that facilitates these trips is that we cannot control our state border and our territorial integrity is not yet fully ensured. It means that everything depends on the protection of the state border.

 

The following factors are the factors that complement it but the sum of all of them complicates the issue. One of the leading factors is the free operation of anti-Azerbaijani separatist forces, who were accused of war crimes and who took refuge in peacekeeping forces under the guise of “status quo status” and, in fact, continued their pre-war activities.

 

The third and important factor that fully determines the future of the region is the issue of non-determination of the status of the Armenian-controlled part of Karabakh and the reconstruction of the structures of the Azerbaijani state on these territories.

 

Today, although the Armenian side gives a lot of space to propaganda, the realities in the field do not allow the Armenian forces to change the situation in their favor from a practical point of view. But Azerbaijan is able to solve the above-mentioned issues in the near future. If this happens, there will be certainty in the region and it will lead to economic prosperity and security for all people living here. This is what the Azerbaijani society expects too.

 

First of all, the issue of establishing a border checkpoint between Armenia and Lachin must be resolved. If Russian peacekeepers control the road, Azerbaijan must also control its state border. The establishment of the Lachin border checkpoint is an inevitable and urgent issue and is the number one security problem in Azerbaijan today. The second issue regarding Lachin is the immediate return of Lachin residents to the center of Lachin, who are looking forward to returning to their lands.

 

Second, in any post-war period, military-political and legal issues arise, the process of detecting war crimes and bringing war criminals to justice begins. If the process of building justice and peace does not go in parallel, the process of long-term peace and development will not take place. In this regard, the arrest and punishment of military and civilians involved in war crimes should be an integral part of the legal process. Such steps are a way to separate the civilian and criminal elements in the region in the post-war period, as well as to reconcile in society. As a result, as a state, we look after both the territory and the Armenian population living there.

 

Third, we say that status is thrown into the dustbin of history. Such statements should be consistent with the situation in the field. If we do not control all these territories, including Stepanakert, and the current status quo remains, such an approach can work against us and lead to a greater status over time.

 

Now Azerbaijan is the strongest and Armenia is the weakest. At present, the resolution of the status will, of course, be in the interests of Azerbaijan. By status, we do not mean, as it has been said before, the models of “autonomy, high-level autonomy, or self-government”. Such a status has been thrown into the dustbin of history, I agree with it. Azerbaijan has always offered such a status to the Armenian side in 28 years of negotiations. The late President Heydar Aliyev said, “Armenians do not like the word autonomy, and I offer the highest level of self-government.” In fact, a local mini-state model was proposed. Instead, the Armenian side declared not only Nagorno-Karabakh but also all the surrounding occupied districts as “Armenia’s unified security space”.

 

Faced with the post-war situation, the people of Azerbaijan are demanding a fair trial for the war crimes committed by the Armenian separatist forces, not any different status. The destruction of the occupied territories, the destruction of the graves of the people lying under the ground, the removal of their bodies from the graves, and the scattering of the remains of their bodies in the air shocked the whole nation. What high status do these forces, who have destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives and ruined our cities and villages over the years, have a moral or legal right to? The consensus in Azerbaijani society is that no territory-based status is possible. The period!. The rights and obligations of all citizens of Azerbaijan are the same and are not determined by ethnic origin!.

 

First, to put it mildly, autonomy did not justify itself. It became a source of the conflict itself. Armenian ideologues resorted to separatism, claiming the territory of autonomy. So, autonomy can still be a source of conflict in the future.

 

Second, when Azerbaijan joined the Soviet Union in 1922, there was no Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast. It was established in 1923 by the decision of the Azerbaijani government. After leaving the Soviet Union, it was abolished, and it was not the choice of Azerbaijan. The models of autonomy were more widely used in Russia 100 years ago on the basis of Lenin’s principle of national self-determination, but now they have lost their significance and bear only geographical names.

 

Third, in a country transitioning to a market economy, what is the logic of establishing new superstructures and financing their bureaucratic structure from the budget to manage an area with a total population of less than 60,000? On the contrary, it would make sense to spend the same budget on the development of those districts.

 

As for the undesirable development of the status issue, if Azerbaijan does not take a concrete initiative on the status, i.e. does not take a state decision on the power and executive structures of the region, then within the Minsk Group in the near future, autonomy status talks that we do not accept may be on the agenda. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already announced that the OSCE Minsk Group will start working on the status issue. The 28 years of activity and approaches of the co-chairs and the “absence of disagreements on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue” give us an argument that they will not oppose giving the former Nagorno-Karabakh a high status in the status issue. Although Russia has a great reputation in the region, it will try to determine the status issue by the international community. Russia will prefer to work with the co-chairs in order not to grow away from Azerbaijan and will not try to take responsibility alone in this matter. Given the well-known consensus between the co-chairs on this issue, Russia’s control over the region and mediation mission will create favorable conditions for the efforts of the other two mediators, which are sympathetic to the Armenian side.

 

On the other hand, the prolongation of discussions on the status issue will serve the long-term stay of Russian peacekeeping forces in Karabakh. As a result, both moves ultimately serve the purpose of the Armenian side, while keeping Azerbaijan excited. Why? Because now there are no mechanisms in the hands of Armenia to influence the course of events. Any provocative step, as President Putin said, would be equivalent to suicide. But if the “status quo” of the former Nagorno-Karabakh, which is not under our control, remains the same in the coming years, then the Azerbaijani state may face a de facto Nagorno-Karabakh mini-state under the auspices of peacekeepers. Although Armenia’s role is reduced to a minimum, the co-chairs will discuss the final status of the “de facto body” in Nagorno-Karabakh within the framework of the Minsk Group. Then a status reflecting political autonomy based on the current “status quo status” will be required. This is a possible problem. Therefore, it is incorrect to say that we do not have such a problem now.

 

Ilham Aliyev’s statement that “there will be no status during my presidency” is a statement we do not want to hear. Because all these talks were held under the leadership of President Aliyev. And if he does not finish the job, which he talks about and manages, and leaves it to the next generation, then this work will be incomplete and, most frighteningly, will become a big problem again.

 

You could say that this is the worst-case scenario. But we must always keep such scenarios in mind and act accordingly. The interests of the Azerbaijani state demand that the above-mentioned issues be resolved as soon as possible.

 

Elkhan Mehdiyev has long been engaged in issues of international security and conflict studies in Azerbaijan and abroad. After receiving a Soviet higher education, he completed Higher Diplomatic Courses in England at the University of Leeds (Leeds University) and courses in international law in the state of Texas in America (Academy on American and International Law). He worked as a researcher at the University of Maryland at College Park on the topic “Ethnic conflicts”.

 

In the Fulbright program ,he worked at the School of Foreign Service at the American University in Washington(Fulbright scholar, School of Foreign Service, American University) and on security and security sector reform at Duke University in North Carolina (Duke University, NC). As a NATO research scientist, he worked at the Johns Hopkins University Institute for Foreign Policy in Washington (NATO Fellow, Foreign Policy Institute,Johns Hopkins University).

 

He has organized and participated in numerous conferences on peace and security issues and has written dozens of papers on these issues.

 

Source: Turan News Agency

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