Armenia-Azerbaijan flareup, just a reminder
From last Sunday until Tuesday, for three days, Armenia and Azerbaijan were again exchanging fire. How it started? Each country has its own story, but apparently the latest flareup started with an Armenian ambush with heavy artillery and drones killing 11 Azerbaijani soldiers, including a general and a civilian. Azerbaijan claimed it killed over 100 Armenian soldiers in retaliatory attacks, but so far Yerevan has confirmed four deaths.
It might be difficult to accept, but if a diplomatic way out from the continued occupation of Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabagh and surrounding regions by Armenia is not found sooner or later, the two countries might indulge in a full-fledged war. Obviously, Azerbaijan cannot be expected to remain idle to continued occupation of its territory by an Armenia spoiled by both the West and the Russians.
Post-independence Azerbaijan was poor. Under Soviet occupation, many concepts, including nation, homeland and patriotism were so seriously subdued that there was confusion among Azerbaijanis when Armenian forces, supported by “Russian elements” and disguised as Nagorno-Karabagh fighters trying to unite the territory with Armenia started attacks on Azerbaijan.
As a journalist working at the time for Turkey’s Anadolu Agency, I was one of the handful of reporters covering the developments in Baku, as well as at the warfront. Those were very painful years for the people of Azerbaijan. And excluding Turkey – whose assistance was limited as well – the Azerbaijani state was alone. The Armenian state, though, was the aggressor party disguised behind the Nagorno-Karabagh rebels and was enjoying political backing from the West, as well as political and military support from the Russian state.
Travelling in Nagorno-Karabagh and surrounding territories from where people were fleeing towards Azerbaijan’s inner parts, particularly towards Beylegan, we were witnessing not only immense pain of the people uprooted from their homes and forced to flee for an obscure future, but more so revival of their determination to fight back.
At Beylegan, a huge displaced people center was created and some old train cars were converted into temporary homes. Many Azerbaijani people, throughout the country, allocated their second homes, farmhouses to the resettlement of the displaced. Thus, without intending so, Armenia, with its attack and occupation of Azerbaijan’s
Nagorno-Karabagh area and surrounding regions, helped the revival of the nationhood concept, the feeling of solidarity.
Years later I found the opportunity to visit not only Yerevan but also the Hankent (or Stepanakert) – the main city of Nagorno-Karabagh territory, where I interviewed the head of the local government there. It was an empty city, very much like the rest of the region I was allowed to visit.
Hatred against Turks and one-sided genocide claims along with the invasion and continued occupation of Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabagh region and the surrounding regions by Armenia did no good for the Armenian state or the people. Not only because of the COVID-19 tens of thousands of Armenians can no longer work at Turkish houses in Istanbul and elsewhere in Turkey, because of the closure of the border gates by Turkey as a consequence of the Nagorno-Karabagh situation, made Armenia not only a landlocked country, but also a lockout territory. Not only the population of Nagorno-Karabagh – which was depleted to less than a few hundred thousand after over one million Azerbaijanis were made displaced – but the entire population of Armenia considerably reduced since the 1990s, despite immense support from the diaspora as well as the West in various forms.
The normalization of Turkish, Armenian and, of course, Azerbaijan, Armenia relations require Yerevan take some bold steps which even though might be painful, would serve best the Armenian people. Azerbaijan declared at many occasions over the past years that although it would not accept any territorial concession in Nagorno-Karabagh it was ready to grant the region advanced autonomy. Since the early 1990s Turkey made many offers, including one supporting the Azerbaijani offer with a twin-corridor proposal, one linking Nagorno-Karabagh with Armenia and one linking Nakhichevan with Azerbaijan.
If a settlement is wanted to come through diplomacy, obviously Armenia must be told in clearest terms that its occupation of Azerbaijani territory will never be accepted and as long as it stayed there it will continue to suffer from the consequences.