By Khajag Aghazarian, Montreal, 23 December 2022
The future of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) and consequently the future of the Republic of Armenia (RoA) are at stake. Armenians in Southern Caucasus had not faced such existential threat since the establishment of Russian domination in the region in 1864. Armenians do not have the luxury of different choices or reclaiming mistakes. Political, military, and diplomatic blunders that were committed since 1987 must be averted. With that in mind, Armenians should focus on supporting the core demand raised by the people of Artsakh since 1991: the right to self-determination.
Defeatist, fearful, skeptical, and confused attitudes and behavior will not help the Armenian cause. Since November 2020, Armenians in RoA and Diaspora have displayed these negative attitudes and failed to present their ‘righteous’ demands along with clear roadmaps. The people of Artsakh, on the other hand, have shown resilience, prowess, patriotism and determination to realize their centuries-old aspiration for a safe and lasting homeland. They have also not shown vulnerability towards their aggressive next-door enemy. Instead, they have shown the willpower to persist on the homeland of their ancestors and defend their basic human right of physical and cultural safety.
In this very difficult period, Armenians need to define their respective roles and act accordingly. The people of Artsakh are at the frontline and threatened by ethnic cleansing. Their main thrust is resistance, persistence, and endurance on their land while reiterating their demand to self-determination. RoA should be active diplomatically to raise the ongoing dangers against Artsakh and, of course, it must continue being the lifeline of the besieged enclave. RoA diplomats should present the cause at the highest political levels such as the United Nations and international courts. The Diaspora Armenians bear the responsibility of lobbying for Artsakh independence. Lobbyists in different countries can gather momentum in support of the Artsakh people. It is, however, necessary to collaborate and complement each other’s efforts.
Despite what Armenians wrongly reiterate, the conflict with Azerbaijan has received increased attention from influential countries and authorities. Internationally, the Armenian side is gaining more political support for the Artsakh issue and RoA-Azerbaijan conflict. Two global powers (U.S. and France) have endorsed the Armenian demands. The U.S. recently followed France’s suit and named Azerbaijan aggressor in an unprecedented shift in attitude. Russia has failed to support Armenians in the Azerbaijani-engineered crisis. Russia has serious limitations in South Caucasus that exponentially multiplied after the Ukraine War in February 2022. Unable to play a central role in the region, Russia is trying to preserve the balance of power vis-à-vis other actors. This policy, however, means Armenians have a devious ally.
According to international law and global powers’ view the position of the Armenians in the decades-long conflict had shifted drastically: from being occupier of Azerbaijan territory to defender of RoA sovereign territories and the Armenian minority in Artsakh. Armenians should realize the shift, highlight it, and try to maximize their gains and benefits in supporting their causes.
Based on the above developments, Armenians should support the principle that the Artsakh issue and the RoA-Azerbaijan conflict should be resolved only through negotiations. New military conflict will only inflict further and irreversible damage to the Armenian nation. Armenians have an interest in reaching a final settlement through negotiations. This has also been the demand of international and regional actors. Negotiation is not a choice for Armenians; it is the only option.
It is clear after 35 years of bloody struggle that Artsakh Armenians do not want to live under Azerbaijan sovereignty. They want to practice their basic right of self-determination. It is the duty of Armenians in RoA and the Diaspora to make sure Artsakh Armenians attain their just demand. It’s an aspiration that cost very dear to all Armenians and especially to Artsakh Armenians.