The Buzz

America's Double Standard on Nagorno-Karabakh

One of the most important promises of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was to end the damage that special interest groups and lobbyists inflict on the United States’ national interests, and to pursue an “America first” policy in the best interests of the American people. It is quite well-known that there are groups that speak on behalf of non-U.S.-allied nations, and tend to promote policies that benefit their home nation with little regard for America’s best interests. One clear example is the promotion of this week’s visit by the so-called president of the separatist “Nagorno-Karabakh Republic” Bako Sahakyan to the United States, which was organized by the Armenian diaspora in the United States. This event has already had a negative effect, which is why Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has presented a note of protest to the United States.

Bako Sahakyan “represents” the Nagorno-Karabakh region (as well as seven surrounding regions), which is internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan that Armenian armed forces invaded during the 1988–94 Karabakh War. The putative “statehood” of Nagorno-Karabakh’s separatist regime is not recognized by any international actors, even by Armenia. Its unilateral institutional secession from Azerbaijan—through the referendum took place without the participation of Azerbaijanis living there—was conducted by both Armenian and Karabakh Armenians in between 1988 and 1992, under the thesis of “reunification” with Armenia and a “self-determination” clause. It was rejected by Azerbaijan, and the Supreme Soviet of the USSR did not authorize the proposed unification/secession without Azerbaijan’s consent.

Resolutions of the UN Security Council (822, 853, 874 and 884) and General Assembly—along with a commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan—articulate the inviolability of international borders and the inadmissibility of the use of force for the acquisition of territory. Those resolutions also condemn the occupation of Azerbaijan’s territories, and demand the complete and unconditional withdrawal of Armenia’s armed forces. Armenia has implemented none of the resolutions, and therefore Azerbaijan has territorially blocked Armenia in accordance with the United Nations Charter, Article 41. Armenia’s attempts to secede Nagorno-Karabakh from Azerbaijan through military methods clearly failed to meet international standards on self-determination. Azerbaijan has repeatedly voiced that changing the country’s internationally recognized borders could be decided through a nationwide referendum, in accordance with the requirements of Azerbaijan’s constitution.

Over the past few decades, Armenia has continued its military buildup (by deploying undeclared military hardware and military personnel) and illegal economic activities in Azerbaijan’s occupied territories. Nonetheless, Armenia tries to portray the clash that took place in April 2016 as an act Azerbaijani military aggression, although Azerbaijan’s military response was merely a counteroffensive operation in response to a large-scale military provocation by Armenian armed forces along the line of contact as reiterated by Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev. Although Armenia claimed that the country does not occupy or have armed forces in Azerbaijani territory, most of the soldiers and officers who died on the Armenian side in the April 2016 war were originally from the Republic of Armenia.