Law Is On Armenia’s Side in Nagorno-Karabakh
All realistic options other than independence have failed. Nagorno-Karabakh meets all legal criteria to be an independent state that has earned the right to be recognized.
Azerbaijan has also shown the futility of negotiations. In 1992, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, since renamed the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, created the Minsk Group to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Initially, the OSCE expected the mission to take only a few months but from the beginning Azerbaijan has refused to discuss the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, arguing that Azerbaijani control is non-negotiable. In September 2020, negotiators appeared to be close to an agreement that would have allowed Scandinavian peacekeepers to monitor the situation while both sides worked towards a land-for-peace deal.
However, on September 27, 2020, with Turkey’s support, Azerbaijan attacked Nagorno-Karabakh seeking to conquer it and put an end to its autonomy. Even after a ceasefire, Azerbaijan sought to catalyze a population transfer by cutting off electricity and water and terrorizing civilians with sniper attacks. In addition to Aliyev’s dehumanizing references to Armenians as “dogs,” these actions fulfill the international criteria of incitement to genocide.
Baku may believe it can impose its will on the region but Nagorno-Karabakh’s people continue to reject Azerbaijani rule. Ironically, many of the Azerbaijani people who Aliyev claims to be protecting have refused to move to desolate portions of Nagorno-Karabakh administered by Azerbaijan after the 2020 war.
International law is on Artsakh’s side. To ignore its case is to encourage Azerbaijani aggression and allow military force to trump the constitutional, legal, diplomatic, and democratic precedents upon which Artsakh’s sovereignty rests. Azerbaijan bases its legal case to rule Artsakh on history and the principle of territorial integrity but an independent Azerbaijan has never ruled Artsakh. That Azerbaijan seeks to impose by force what it cannot alter through peaceful means is an indication of the bankruptcy of its diplomatic case.
All realistic options other than independence have failed. Artsakh meets all legal criteria to be an independent state that has earned the right to be recognized.
Timothy Jemal is president of Global ARM.
Nerses Kopalyan is associate professor-in-residence of Political Science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.