Double Standard and Selective Sensitivity Team Editorial, 26 July 2010

Even before the ink had dried on the July 22 decision of the UN International Court of Justice that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence two years ago didn’t violate international law, the anti-Artsakh independence contingent was busy beating the drums that the court’s decision didn’t apply to Artsakh. Team Editorial, 26 July 2010

Even before the ink had dried on the July 22 decision of the UN International Court of Justice that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence two years ago didn’t violate international law, the anti-Artsakh independence contingent was busy beating the drums that the court’s decision didn’t apply to Artsakh.

The attack on the relevance of the Kosovo decision on other independence movements was led, in less than 24 hours after the court’s decision, by The Times (London) newspaper—a major voice of Western capitalist interests. The newspaper thundered that the Kosovo case was unique because “Kosovo’s vote for independence stemmed from clear injustice and mistreatment…Kosovo’s declaration of independence… reflected exhaustion at the abortive efforts to achieve a negotiated agreement on the province’s status.” The newspaper editorial assiduously avoided to mention that Kosovo is an anti-Serbian Western ally and that it was the Western armies which were instrumental in slicing off Kosovo from Serbia.

Count the falsehoods of The Times. The newspaper ignored that Artsakh’s wish for independence also stems from clear injustice and mistreatment by the Azeris. It also ignored that Artsakh Armenians and the government of Armenia have also exhausted efforts to achieve a negotiated agreement on the territory’s status. To exacerbate its hypocrisy, the London newspaper, the mouthpiece of the late and unlamented British Empire had the gall to claim “Western support for Kosovo’s independence underlines the sensitivity of free nations to demands for self-determination.” It seems that Artsakh is not entitled to such noble concerns.

Call it selective sensitivity.

Call it double standard.

Call it the shameless debunking of the wise proverb “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

Bruce Jones of the Washington-based think tank Brookings Institute pontificated that the formulation of the international court is restricted and does not affect any general principles. “We must in this case draw a clear dividing line between, on the one hand, international law and on the other the principles of international politics,” said Jones, adding that the court’s decision will not have any tangible political consequence, unless, we guess, it’s in the interest of Western nations–led by the United States and the oil lobby.

Peter Semneby, the European Union representative for the South Caucasus region, joined the nay saying chorus by claiming that The Hague court’s decision applied to a unique issue. Said Semneby, “The international court’s ruling on Kosovo has no impact on other situations, particularly on Abkhazia, and South Ossetian problems. I consider if it has an impact, it will be inconsiderable. These issues are different despite the comparison made with each other.”

A more honest reason for the difficulties Artsakh would face to gain legitimacy for its independence was offered by Alexandr Rahr, a German political scientist. He said, “In real politics, the countries see as a major priority not the international law, but the stability of the region…No country seeks to recognize the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh [Artsakh].” Mikhail Remizov, a Russian observer of the Caucasus, echoed Rahr by saying, “In a large degree, this was a political decision, but not legal.”

There you have it. International law takes back seat to international politics. Since 69 countries (most of them coerced by the US) recognize Kosovo, it’s O.K. to declare Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence legal. No country, not even Armenia recognizes Artsakh’s independence, while two other breakaway Caucasian statelets—Abkhazia and South Ossetia are recognized by Russia, Nicaragua, and Nauru in the South Pacific.

Reflecting on Artsakh’s chances to garner international backing for its independence, other observers said that the supporters of Kosovo’s independence had much more powerful political lobby [read the US and the UK] than the potential supporters of the claims of independence of Artsakh.

To drive the point that Artsakh’s chances for recognition of its independences were nil, Amanda Paul (Today’s Zaman, July 25) wrote: “…Without the backing of the US, they [Artsakh citizens] have nothing. It is political clout rather than international law that counts, and the chances that the US will ever recognize Nagorno-Karabakh [Artsakh], South Ossetia or Abkhazia must be zero or thereabouts.”

Most commentators, who rejected that the Kosovo decision set a precedent for Artsakh and other independence movements, didn’t even bother to remark on the concepts of self-determination versus the principle of territorial integrity. They hinted or insisted that politics takes priority over legality.

The voice of pro-Artsakh independence was far muted to the point of being irrelevant in real politik. Ara Papian of Armenia-based think-tank Modus Vivendi repeated that the law of self-determination is included in the UN Charter [Article 1(2)] as one of the aims of that organization. Well-meaning Michael Kambeck, secretary general of European Friends of Armenia, had supportive words for Artsakh but his observations have no currency in the international corridors or power. He said, “Everybody who has ever been to Karabakh knows that the people there have been traumatized, they only trust themselves. They would all rather defend their security with arms than trust anyone to govern them. The conflicting parties and international players involved need to reflect these de facto and the de jure aspects in their actions.” True but of no consequence.

On Friday July 30 evening in Stepanagerd and other cities in Artsakh, Armenians will hold rallies in support of the UN International Court of Justice’s resolution on Kosovo and to appeal to the international community to recognize the independence of Artsakh. The public gatherings are worthwhile, but they will not sway the U.S. and Co.

By their very nature, states are inclined against secessionists wherever they may be. States rightly believe that if they approve of secessionists elsewhere, they would be hard put to reject domestic separatist movements. Every country—from China to Canada to Cyprus–disapproves of separatism for this very reason. If Spain said ‘yes’ to separatism beyond her shores, then Madrid would not be able to oppose Basque or Catalonian independence. Belgium is in the same boat because of Flemish separatism. Turkey welcomed the Kosovo decision because Ankara considers Kosovar-Albanians their historic Moslem brothers and because the decision opens the door to Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus to declare its independence. Apparently, Turkey doesn’t fear that the decision could impact its own separatist Kurds because militarist Ankara believes it can indefinitely suppress its Kurdish "minority" of 12 to 15 million.

Where does all this leave Stepanagerd and Yerevan?

It’s an impossible dream for Armenians to emerge with strong enough lobby to obtain the international court’s green light similar to the one Kosovo was granted. Since the interminable negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan are going nowhere, and since Baku keeps making bellicose statements on a regular basis, the Artsakh issue might not have a political solution, unless the Great Powers, through the Minsk Group, force an agreement upon the antagonists. The other possibility is war. While war would be disastrous for both sides, Ilham Aliyev, president of Azerbaijan, might be forced to attack Armenia and Artsakh to make good on his frequent threats. If Azerbaijan declares war, Armenians can’t expect Russian help/intervention, unless Armenian forces face imminent collapse.

If Azerbaijan declares war, the Kosovo precedence, the legality of Artsakh independence, international law, et al, will become irrelevant, pending the outcome of such a war. That said, it would be a blunder for Yerevan to recognize the independence of Artsakh. Such a declaration would be considered casus belli by Azerbaijan and other countries, and most probably precipitate war.

However, war might be averted if a report by sources familiar with the top-secret negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan is factual. According to these sources, Armenia has already agreed to withdraw its forces from regions surrounding Artsakh proper and that Armenia and Azerbaijan are now focused on the timing of the withdrawal of Armenian troops and the manner in which Armenian troops will be withdrawn. Supposedly, Artsakh will have a temporary status and its safekeeping will be ensured by an international peacekeeping force pending the final status of Artsakh to be decided by a referendum which will include the votes of Azeris. Artsakh citizens, who will participate in Friday’s rally, will certainly reject such an agreement.


  1. Well explained

    Many forces are involved in granting recognition to Nagorno-Karapagh (NK) as an independent state. Nonetheless, one important point is totally ignored in the editorial. I returned from Yerevan two weeks ago, where I discussed the important point referred to. My two articles in "Chorrort Inknishkhanutyun" (fourth sovereign state), issues 157-159, June-July, 2010, I stressed our equivocal approach to the NK conundrum by separating it from our MAIN ISSUE–our demand for justice for Genocide recognition by Turkey (inheritor of the Ottoman Empire) and reparations.

    It is not too late. The Republic of Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora should join forces in presenting our case to the international community,
    community, governments and the UN.

    Also of utmost importance are the steps to be taken for the re-population of the liberated territories, including NK and Armenia proper. In my article I dwelt upon the establishment of a "National Investment Trust Fund" which would spur the relocation of over a million Armenians who have left NK and Armenia in search of work. These people will return only if a well-organized repatriation is in place, and with ample sources.

    Since we are continuously hammered by talk that NK is the main issue (Himnahartz), the the impression is left that Armenians are ONLY concerned with the outcome of the NK conflict. It’s time to wake up and tie the issues together and then proceed, lest the politicians mentioned in your editorial think/imagine that we will not react appropriately.  

  2. Let’s focus on what really matters.

    Dear Dr. Abrahamian,

    I understand and appreciate the concerns brought forth in this editorial, but I do not understand why our people have not understood the nil value of international courts, the UN Charter and similar pieces of internatioal law junk. You can flush them down the toilet, as far as I am concerned. When it comes to reality, all is decided by force, whether it be political-economic pressure or blood spilled on the battle field. Just have a look around you and try to interpret the cases of Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Cyprus and others in the frame of those same international laws. Do they fit? How are they being applied? Would you call Saddam Hussein’s trial an example of law and justice or simple murder and revenge (to shut his mouth before he could expose US misdeeds)? Enough is enough. Why are we fooling ourselves with these hypocritical volumes of paper? Let’s drop the mask and accept humanity for what it is… the same beast as it was in Stone Age or earlier.

    Regarding Karabakh, I have no doubt that the superprostitutes (no offense, but prostitutes have incomparably more dignity) will trample on all the rights and wishes of the people of the land. They will even be willing to exterminate whole nations for their interests. What do you expect of such states when they are prepared to sacrifice thousands of their own ciizens for the sake of creating an excuse for intervention here and there? I have not eaten my brains with cheese to believe that 911 or the Moscow bombings were the work of Al-Qaeda or Chechen rebels. Even if by some miracle Azerbaijan and Turkey are pressured to accept the reality of Karabakh, how long do you think their recognition will last? I am sure that as soon as they feel the moment is in their favour, they will put aside all the treaties and fulfill what they have been dreaming of for a thousand years: Wiping out all non-Turkic nations on the lands Turks have invaded. In my view, we have nothing to lose. It’s an existential matter for us. I am sure that their appetite will not end upon swallowing Karabakh. The more you give the more they will demand. It has been like that for ages, and I have no reason to believe that it will be any different in the future.

    The only thing that could make them and their "super" friends think twice is our capacity to generate havoc and inflict serious pain. That’s where we should focus all our efforts. We should make it clear to them that in our addition to the military, our primary targets would be the interests of the international whores–the petroleum and gas infrastructures. I do not look at the Azerbaijani people (except its blood-sucking elite) as enemies. I feel sorry for them since they are pawns in this dirty game and as usual whenever hostilities break out ordinary civilians suffer most. If things turn bad, the elite has its fortunes safely tucked in banks abroad and is always prepared to flee.

    What concerns the so-called international community is our capacity. They can repeat the Turkish proverb "Sen salla bashini; ben bilirim ishimi" (wave your head as much as you like; I know what I’m doing). They kill millions of people around the world to rob their resources, but blandish slogans of freedom, civilized values–democracy, human rights and other BS. This is their mode of action. If they care for justice, let them come and face us on the field, instead of the poor Azerbaijani soldier who does not know what he is fighting for and who will end up as the loser in all cases.

    A. Z. Davidian MD

    1. WOW!  How True
      WOW! How true. My sentiments exactly. "Iravunke mishd zoravorin eh" (might is always right). I hope every Armenian feels this way. "Meyayn kaghakaganoutiamp gah hayots pergutiun" (Politics is the only salvation for the Armenian people). Let us learn from the Jews (anonk perteh nercen kravats en); let us encourage our youth to get involved in politics and help them become future Congressmen and Senators, and only then can we make our government do the right thing. Recognize the Armenian Genocide and make Turkey pay for its crimes.  BRAVO!

    2. Dr. Davidian’s letter
      Dear Dr. Davidian,
      Definitely you have focused on what really matters.
      I agree with your letter 100%.
      Best regards from an "active" friend of Artsakh.
      Migirdic MIgirdicyan

  3. What Did the Court Say?

    I am sure few of us have read the full text of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision re Kosovo and Serbia. Someone who has is Milan Markovic, New York-based lawyer and teaching fellow at Temple University in Philadelphia. In Toronto’s Globe and Mail (July 31), he wrote an article ("What the Kosovo ruling means for Canada:trouble"), where he said, "What the court [ICJ] did find was that secessionist groups are not obligated to respect the territorial integrity of the country from which they are trying to secede. Nor are they prohibited from unilaterally declaring independence against the will of that country…"

    The above, of course, is good news for Artsakh, especially since Artsakh and Nakhichevan were illegally wrested from Armenia and given to Azerbaijan by Stalin to appease the Turks and to keep Southern Caucasus off balance on a permanent basis.

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