Armenian-Azerbaijani Territorial Relations and Self-Determination

11.11.13

Armenian-Azerbaijani Territorial Relations and Self-Determination

11.11.13
via Wikimediavia Wikimedia

The prominent American astrophysicist, Carl Sagan, wrote in The Varieties of Scientific Experience, “When you look at it (Earth) from space, I think it is immediately clear that it is a fragile, tiny world exquisitely sensitive to the depredations of its inhabitants. There are no national boundaries visible. They have been put there by humans. The planet is real. The life on it is real, and political separations that have placed the planet in danger are of human manufacture.”

Most of us, even politicians will not dispute Sagan’s conclusions. Privately, however, when the issue is presented in the social arena the reaction is more controversial. These patterns apply to a recent speech given by Armenian president, Serzh Sargsyan, in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on October 2nd titled “Nagorno-Karabakh’s remaining part of Europe.”

Initially, these words would sound ambiguous, if an ordinary Armenian said them. Sargsyan’s speech sounded ambiguous. It is surprising that, on the one hand Armenia doesn’t recognize the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic as a sovereign state but on the other hand Armenia’s president makes a statement on behalf of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. The Armenian state contrives to send Armenian citizens for military service to Nagorno-Karabakh without any international legislative basis, which is rightly opposed by Armenians. Of course, Sargsyan concludes his speech by emphasizing the principle of self-determination.

However, as we address self-determination we must not forget the prevailing principle of international law, uti possidetis (territorial integrity), which states that, “territory and other property remains with its possessor at the end of a conflict, unless otherwise provided for by treaty.” An analysis of recent international treaties reveals that this concept must be understood in the framework of “internal self-determination.” “Internal self-determination” generally means that the people of a sovereign state ‘‘can elect and keep the government of its choice,’’ or that ethnic, racial, or religious minority groups within a state have ‘‘a right not to be oppressed by the central government.”

The 1975 Helsinki Final Act came to be regarded as an instrument, which contains one of the most explicit references to the internal dimension of self-determination. Principle VIII (Equal Rights and Self-Determination of Peoples) states:

By virtue of the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, all peoples always have the right, in full freedom, to determine, when and as they wish, their internal and external political status, without external interference, and to pursue as they wish their political, economic, social and cultural development.

Azerbaijan is consistent with this principle and considers the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh to be its citizens, who can fully exercise their rights along with rest of the citizens of Azerbaijan.

Another issue is the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. This fact can be proven by several international documents such as UN SC Resolutions 822, 853, 874, 884, UN GA Resolution 62/243, PACE Resolution 1416, and last, but not least, the European Parliament Resolution on October 23, 2013 on the European Neighborhood Policy, which mentions “the occupation by one country of the Eastern Partnership of the territory of another violates the fundamental principles and objectives of the Eastern Partnership and that the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should comply with the UN Security Council resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884.”

None of the above mentions the relation of these territories to Armenia. In addition, the Armenian government does not dispute the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. On October 2nd Serzh Sargsyan in his press-conference at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe stated, “We agree that Azerbaijan should struggle for its territorial integrity; we have no territorial claims to Azerbaijan” Obviously, Sargsyan’s statement would be interpreted by pro-Armenian political analysts from their favorable perspective.

Another interesting opinion was recently opined by Aram Avetisyan and published in Foreign Policy Journal titled as “Azerbaijan’s Interpretation of Article 41 of the UN Charter: Rhetoric vs. Facts.” In the article, attention is paid to “Azerbaijan’s rejection of any international proposal that envisaged confidence-building and peace-enforcing initiatives, which, as agreed by the rest of parties involved, constitute a prerequisite for effective negations.” However proper it is to demand from the injured party, in the case of Azerbaijan, not “rejecting any international proposal” is vague. Where are the international proposals? Prerequisite for further negotiations is the execution of instructions of international documents, which were adopted by international organizations, to which Armenia is a member. After recognizing this duty by Armenia, can Azerbaijan be condemned for not contributing to confidence-building and peace-enforcing initiatives?

In conclusion, where do such statements lead us? Does the world thirst for separatism or is it the only way of ruling the world? Ideally, why not move towards a prosperous future in the evolutional flow of globalization. Humanity’s survival depends on collective action. In today’s world this concept is called “globalization.” To move forward societies and politicians have to rid themselves of the prejudices that prevail.

0 comments
0 comments
  • Greg Webb

    The Nuclear Narrative

  • Reuters

    Libya: When an Agreement Isn’t

  • Screengrab

    The Almost Indomitable Islamic State

  • Reuters

    U.S.-Turkish War on ISIS: Disaster in the Making

  • Gijs Klooster/FAO

    Climate Change and Destabilization in the MENA Region

  • Screengrab

    The Dual Threat to Tunisia’s Democratic Transition

  • Jeroen Akkermans

    The Problems with an MH17 Tribunal

  • Screengrab

    Balancing Hope and Leadership: A Lesson from the Colombian Peace Process