Will Violence Increase Between Armenia and Azerbaijan?

Will Violence Increase Between Armenia and Azerbaijan?

Armenia and Azerbaijan are locked in an unresolved dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast and surrounding occupied regions.

The Armenian diaspora has been lobbying U.S. foreign policy in hopes that the United States might demonstrate a “pro-Armenian” stance on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Due to those lobbying efforts, Congress restricted U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan through Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act. After Donald Trump came to the White House, he signed a decree banning administration officials from lobbying the United States on behalf of foreign governments. Those who would lobby for the interests of Armenia in U.S. foreign policy, as former senators Claiborne Pell, Robert Dole, John Kerry and Joseph Biden did, would simultaneously harm Washington’s interests.

Instead of increasing constructive proposals, the Armenian government is pushing a small scope of initiatives to gain time for the consolidation of its military-political position on the conflict. Armenia’s attempts to annex Nagorno-Karabakh at the expense of sovereign territories, its forcible displacement of Azerbaijanis, its altering of the demographic structure of the occupied territories (with the settlement of Syrian Armenians), and its demolition of Azerbaijan’s cultural and historical heritage will not bring prosperity, neither to Armenia nor to the Armenian community of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Self-determination implies neither an ethnic cleansing of Azerbaijanis nor a reorganization of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territories. Although the conflict has usually been portrayed as religiously motivated and has depicted Armenians as the victim, it should be noted that there are around one million Azerbaijanis who have had to abandon their homeland and seen their historical legacy destroyed. A peace agreement is unlikely, because it would threaten to breach the constitutional order and state sovereignty of Azerbaijan. Additionally, the continued military occupation of Armenia to counterbalance Azerbaijan’s military capacity promises a new threat of military escalation in the region.

None of these things have generated tangible results. Instead, they have merely misled negotiations and wasted time that could have been better spent on constructively engaging in a conflict settlement process capable of spawning sustainable peace.

Ilgar Gurbanov is a research fellow in the Baku-based Center for Strategic Studies.

Image: Members of the Azerbaijani color detail stand at parade rest during a recognition ceremony held by Regimental Combat Team 5 at Camp Ripper, Al Asad, Iraq, Dec. 3, 2008. Wikimedia Commons / DVIDS Images