Baku, Azerbaijan, April 4
By Fikret Dolukhanov – Trend:
The internationally-recognized territory of Azerbaijan is illegally occupied by Armenia and the entire generations of Azerbaijanis grew up in exile, Azerbaijani Ambassador to US Elin Suleymanov wrote in his Washington Times article about the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
He reminded that these Azerbaijani lands are not, as once described by Armenian leaders, “bargaining chips” but the homeland of nearly 1 million very real human beings.
“Even as the Minsk Group-mediated negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan continue, no real progress has been made in the talks lasting for a quarter of a century. Perhaps because of this lack of any real progress, some tend to describe the occupied Azerbaijani lands and a generation-long displacement of the Azerbaijani civilians in abstract terms,” Suleymanov wrote.
He noted that solution of the conflict is not as simple as finding the right mathematical combination and piecing together different parcels of land, that’s why for some the convenient term “compromise” allows for drawing no distinctions between a perpetrator of aggression and a victim.
“In order to be lasting, any peaceful solution should consider not just a snapshot of the unsustainable status quo but the region’s long-term prospects as well. For the Azerbaijanis, this means recognition of their strong attachment to Karabakh as well as return of the displaced communities to their homes. For the Armenians in Karabakh, this is the need to feel secure and an opportunity for self-government,” the ambassador wrote.
According to him, when speaking of potential compromises, it is important to recognize each side’s right for life and dignity, and while Azerbaijan acknowledges that all of its citizens are entitled to equal rights regardless of religious and ethnic affiliation, Armenia is yet to demonstrate that it has a vision beyond narrow and simplistic lines of ethnicity.
“Naturally, this stalemate continues to breed popular frustration in Azerbaijan. The nation’s political leadership is well aware of this. So should be the Armenian leaders and international mediators. Both because, unless some progress is achieved, such sentiments will only deepen and because Armenia’s own progress depends on how soon the conflict is resolved,” Suleymanov noted.
He added that Karabakh is an integral and, perhaps, the most acutely painful part of Azerbaijan’s identity and that is very much a reality of the region.
He reminded that many Armenians rightly call Karabakh home as well and yet, territories under Armenian occupation are today mostly empty because the numerous Azerbaijani natives have been ethnically cleansed.
“They [Azerbaijanis of Karabakh] cannot be kept away forever. Both communities should learn how to live side-by-side again and, for Armenians, the first important step is to realize that the very real people they violently chased from their lands are not abstract statistical numbers,” Suleymanov concluded.
Follow the author on Twitter: @FDolukhanov