The annual Munich Security Conference held a significant session for South Caucasia this year on February 15th 2020. As part of the 56th Munich Security Conference, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev came together in a special session about the problem regarding Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region and surrounding areas invaded by Armenia to discuss the 30-year long issue face to face for the first time before international public opinion. Almost everyone, including Armenian writers, analysts, and diplomacy experts confirmed President Ilham Aliyev’s overwhelming superiority over N. Pashinyan during the session in terms of statesmanship, basis and consistency of the advocated theses, body language, and fluent English. In fact, this legitimate superiority was not only over Pashinyan, but also over the extreme difficulty of advocating for an invasive and artificial state’s foreign policy. Clearly, it is impossible to advocate for invasion and injustice using reason, logic, and information before public opinion. President Ilham Aliyev started his speech by reminding that a similar open forum was organised years ago with Armenia’s former President Serj Sarkisyan, but Sarkisyan changed his mind at the last moment. Aliyev stated that understanding the Nagorno Karabakh issue was only possible by understanding its historical background. He said the territory occupied by Armenia was part of Azerbaijan in light of the historical facts; stated today’s Armenia had been established over lands that belong to Azerbaijan and Armenia has been carrying out a policy of ethnic cleansing against the Azerbaijani people over the last 30 years in plain sight of the modern world, through credible sources and bases. Meanwhile, Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan mentioned that there was a Great Armenian Empire called the Kingdom of Tigranes in ancient times and there were no nations during this era in the region except for Georgians and Armenians. He claimed the Khojali Massacre of February 26th 1992 was carried out by Azerbaijan itself and stated that this claim was based on former Azerbaijani President Ayaz Mutallibov’s interview with the Russian Argumenti i Fakti newspaper. Pashinyan interpreted the binding resolutions issued by the UN Security Council regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh issue (822, 853, 874, 884) in a distorted manner; claimed that similar to Azerbaijan and other former Soviet countries, Nagorno-Karabakh also had the right to declare its independence during the USSR’s fall. He said he did not represent Nagorno Karabakh, while the problem was between Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh, therefore Nagorno Karabakh should also be a party during the peace negotiations and that Azerbaijan had accepted this by signing two different documents in 1992 and 1994. Pashinyan frequently mentioned that he had come to power through a bloodless revolution in Armenia and the talked about the necessity of mini and macro revolutions in terms of domestic and regional problems.
It should be mentioned first that the inaccuracy of the theses mentioned by N. Pashinyan have been proven multiple times in international literature, major conferences and forums and were all debunked. In fact, advocating for these ideas was repeatedly interpreted and recorded as a lack of knowledge regarding history and the law. Pashinyan’s insistence to advocate for these mistakes at a significant platform such as the Munich Security Conference can be evaluated as a political move targeting his country’s domestic politics. The Pashinyan Government has decided to hold a referendum in Armenia on April 5th 2020 to change the constitution in order to eliminate the parliamentary and judicial “obstacles” standing in his way. Therefore, his unfounded, contradictory theses and discourses frequently forced Aliyev to start speaking with “we came here to tell the truth”. In reality, not only Pashinyan, but also former advocates of these injustices, wrongs and invasions, S. Sarkisyan and R. Kocharyan knew that they were advocating for ideas that had long been proven wrong. Looking at the history of international relations, occupying and guilty parties always want the status-quo to continue and try to buy time. Nobody can say that the Armenian side is not aware of the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact, which aimed to remove war as a tool for national policy, the Charter of the UN and numerous other significant international documents that followed. Looking at the theses pursued by Pashinyan at the panel, his attempts to trivialise the Khojali Massacre, which took place in plain sight in 1992 and was proven to be a major violation of the international law by many international organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Memorial Human Rights Centre, but claiming that there was a “Great Armenian Empire” 2000 years ago could only be considered a laughable attempt and an act of disrespect. At the very least Pashinyan, should have steered clear of Serj Sarkisyan’s and Zori Balayan’s statements about the Khojali Massacre, which amount to confessions. It is another unfortunate matter the Armenian Prime Minister lied by referring to former Azerbaijani President Ayaz Mutallibov’s interview with the Russian newspaper Argumenti i Faktı about the Khojali Massacre. Because as President Aliyev also mentioned at the panel, Ayaz Mutallibov is still alive and these claims made by Armenia were refuted by him time after time. Why this repetition? If this repetition is not for buying time, what is it for? Regarding the decisions of the UN Security Council about Azerbaijani territory, it can be said with certainty that all four binding resolutions clearly confirm that the occupied regions belong to Azerbaijan and demand an unconditional and immediate end to this occupation. Since there were no members of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces or Azerbaijani citizens in the occupied region (or they were withdrawn from the region) at the time these resolutions were issued and that 85 per cent of the occupying forces consisted of soldiers and individuals who are Armenian citizens, to which state do the forces occupying Nagorno-Karabakh and its vicinity belong? What is the reason for anti-government protests organised in Yerevan and other regions of Armenia for years by the mothers of Armenian soldiers who died in Azerbaijani soil? Which state maintains the artificial life created in occupied Azerbaijani soil with its limited resources? What does the phrase “Occupied Azerbaijani territory is controlled by the Armenian Armed Forces and the Armenian Government is responsible for all violations of rights in the region” in the decision given by the European Court of Human Rights in 2015 regarding the case “Chiragov and others against Armenia”, mean? Is it not enough that numerous international organisations including the UN General Assembly confirm that Armenia has occupied Azerbaijani land through several decisions? The following should be noted regarding the matter of accepting Nagorno-Karabakh as a party in peace negotiations and the said “independence” of Azerbaijan’s occupied region: (1) Nagorno-Karabakh’s status as an autonomous province within the Azerbaijan SSR was established in the USSR’s 1936 and 1977 constitutions. (Before that, the Russian Communist Party’s Caucasia Bureau made a decision to retain Nagorno-Karabakh within the Azerbaijan SSR on July 5th 1921.) According to the said constitution, borders of a member country could not be changed against its will. In addition, the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union (the parliament) also agreed upon a decision that separatist attempts and activities supported by Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh were not legal and inacceptable. (2) After the fall of the USSR, Azerbaijan became a member of the UN with its borders maintained from the USSR period, in light of the UtiPossidetis principle of international law and was recognised by all countries in the world. (3) The Soviet Constitution and relevant laws allowed member countries to leave the union. However, there was no piece of legislation that allowed the same right to a region or unit of a country. Therefore, Azerbaijan declared its independence as a whole by using its SSR legal rights. (4) Both Azerbaijan and Armenia were among the 11 countries which signed the Almaty Agreement on December 21, 1991 regarding the goals and principles of the Commonwealth of Independent States. In line with the said document, all USSR member countries agreed to show respect to each other’s territorial integrity and refrain from any attempts to change existing borders. (5) The document which Pashinyan referred to was signed in Helsinki in 1992 and stated that Nagorno-Karabakh communities (both Azerbaijani and Armenian communities) could take place in peace negotiations following the progress towards ending the occupation in the future, while the other document dated 1994 was not an agreement in terms of international law of treaties, but an expression of consent. That is to say, the said document had no legal binding effects for a ceasefire but acted as a political appeal and call for peace, and was sent to Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. Therefore, claiming that the Azerbaijani side recognized Nagorno Karabakh as a party towards ending the occupation without any further steps based on this document betrays, to put it mildly, a lack of legal knowledge. In addition, as stated by I. Aliyev at the panel, after Armenia has ended its occupation, stopped its financial funding to occupied regions and more than a million Azerbaijani Kachkins returned to their own lands, Nagorno-Karabakh can definitely attend the peace negotiations as a bi-communal entity. N. Pashinyan’s contradictory stance, attitude and discourse since the day he took office is common knowledge among those interested in the region’s politics. His constant mentions of peace and public diplomacy while using phrases such as “Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to Armenia” or “returning the territory is out of the question” are just a few examples. Similar contradictions were also seen during the panel. For example, after his speech about how Armenia had minimal relevance to the Nagorno Karabakh, him saying that his son has been doing military service in Nagorno-Karabakh can also be considered as self-contradiction. This contradiction was also reflected in Pashinyan’s body language throughout the panel and caused him to misspeak frequently due to anxiety. In fact, Pashinyan’s “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” attitude caused I.Aliyev to explain the facts in a manner which anyone can understand. President Aliyev said “If Nagorno-Karabakh is a part of Armenia’s historical land, why does it not have a capital with a historical name? Stepanakert is related to a Bolshevik named Stepan Shahumyan. But Hankenti means ‘The Khan’s City’. Do you get it?” Meanwhile, in order to compensate for his unjust position and earn the support of certain parties in the West, N. Pashinyan chose to frequently use the term “revolution”, which they like very much. However, it is impossible to say that this attempt was successful. Because although it might sound “pleasant”, the word puts its owner into a laughable spot if hollow discourses and terms do not materialise rationally. That is to say, former regimes almost completely isolated Armenia through wrong policies and it is a known fact that the leading factors which allowed Pashinyan to come to office were the mistakes and failures of former leaders. Therefore, it is unreasonable for the “revolutionary” Pashinyan, who has been leading his country for two years, to continue advocating for a policy of occupation that is based on lies and excludes his country from all regional projects that have economically strategic importance. Unfortunately, during the said panel organised within the 56th Munich Security Conference, due to the vicious cycle Armenia has been locked in for years, the main topics were history and the status quo instead of the future and rationality. It is a separate and significant question if Pashinyan will choose to follow rational policies by breaking the vicious cycle and thick walls of the status quo.
Dr. Elsevar SALMANOV