On 12 July, the Armenian army attacked the positions of the Azerbaijani armed forces along the border between the two countries with heavy artillery, killing four Azerbaijani soldiers and blatantly violating the established ceasefire for years.
The objective of this new military escalation, the worst in several years, but not the only one, is to take strategic positions in Azerbaijan.
At the time of writing this report, fighting along the border continues with the bombardment by the Armenian army of military and civilian structures and the situation risks escalation to levels that put the civilian population at risk. .
In a statement, the Defense Minister of Armenia, Davit Tonoyan, threatened Azerbaijan to invade him to obtain “new positions”. This follows another declaration by Tonoyan a year earlier, in which he announced that Armenia would occupy new territories in the event of a new war with Azerbaijan.
The Armenian government under Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has been struggling with a plethora of internal problems that have damaged his reputation. Among these problems are the poor management of COVID-19, which, with more than 32,000 confirmed cases and 573 deaths, has made Armenia the country with the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the southern Caucasus.
To this must be added a serious economic crisis and attempts to repress political opponents, with the arrest and persecution of two former presidents of the country and the introduction of constitutional amendments that eliminate the independence of the judiciary, which has been the subject of numerous international criticisms. .
Obviously this military operation serves the interest of the Armenian government to divert attention from difficult internal issues.
The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan remains the most dangerous in the former Soviet Union and continues to greatly threaten peace and security in the southern Caucasus region, strategically located between Russia and Iran, in one of the energy and transport corridors of greater world importance.
These latest clashes show once again the vulnerability of the current status quo and the need for the conflict to be resolved as soon as possible.
The facts of the conflict are very clear: in the early 1990s, Armenia invaded around 20% of Azerbaijani territory, expelling more than 800,000 Azerbaijani civilians from the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts. Along with the 250,000 Azerbaijanis expelled from Armenia, Azerbaijan has more than 1 million refugees and internally displaced persons, making Azerbaijan one of the countries with the largest population of forced displaced persons in the world.
For comparison, the territory of the lands invaded by Armenia in Azerbaijan is larger than the state of Connecticut in the United States.
The illegal military occupation continues to this day despite the vigorous condemnation of multiple United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions demanding that Armenian troops withdraw from the occupied regions of Azerbaijan.
In addition to the UNSC, the United Nations General Assembly, the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, NATO, the OIC, the NAM and many other international organizations have condemned the occupation and have expressed their support for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.
Even the European Court of Human Rights, in its 2015 ruling, confirmed the acts of ethnic occupation and cleansing of the territory of Azerbaijan.
However, the occupation continues, without being disturbed by the complaint.
Which is the reason?
The lack of international pressure on Armenia to force compliance with international law.
The current international legal system was established after World War II to guarantee peace and security in the world, prohibiting the use or threat of the use of force for territorial acquisitions and making it unacceptable to continue with the appropriations of land in the style medieval.
The principles of territorial integrity and inviolability of state borders are, therefore, the most important foundations of this legal system. However, what we have been observing for the past decades is a dangerous trend to overturn these principles and erode international law, in favor of illegal territorial expansions and invasions, which are inevitably accompanied by ethnic cleansing and tremendous human suffering.
It is the responsibility not only of international organizations, but, more importantly, of the world’s major powers, to ensure compliance with international law and to halt this devastating erosion of the international legal system that they themselves helped establish 75 years ago.
For almost 30 years, the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has been entrusted with the task of finding a peaceful solution to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, although without tangible results. The Minsk Group is co-chaired by the United States, Russia and France.
The Minsk Group must make it very clear to the leaders of Armenia that peace is not only important, but also vital to address the serious economic, social and political problems facing Armenia and the region.
In addition to the internal challenges already mentioned, Armenia has also been experiencing a serious demographic decline as tens of thousands of young people, who lack opportunities in their country, have migrated in search of a better life.
Around 1.5 million citizens, almost half of the country’s population, have left Armenia permanently since 1991.
According to the United Nations, Armenia could lose another million people by 2050. With the highest poverty rate in the southern Caucasus, the country’s social infrastructure is gradually eroding. The economy is highly dependent on foreign assistance and remittances.
Azerbaijan, for its part, has become the largest economy in the region, establishing strong alliances around the world, executing multimillion-dollar energy and continental transport projects between Asia and Europe, contributing to global energy security and economic development.
As the United States ‘strategic partner in a critically important region, Azerbaijan has strongly supported the United States’ efforts to fight international terrorism and diversify energy supplies. Most importantly, Azerbaijan is a country that has guaranteed freedom of religion and where Muslims, Christians and Jews coexist in peace, harmony and mutual respect, breaking stereotypes that such religions cannot coexist.
Peace with Azerbaijan would have an effect of great importance in Armenia because it would open the borders to investments and integrate it into the vast energy and transport network that is being developed in this region.
The time has come for Yerevan to put aside belligerence, stop military provocations and participate constructively in negotiations to resolve the conflict.
Given that California has a large concentration of Armenians, I hope that those who want a prosperous and peaceful future for their homeland can dedicate more effort to encouraging Armenia to restore peace with its much-needed neighbors.
* Nasimi Aghayev is the Consul General of Azerbaijan in the western United States, based in Los Angeles.