Armenia’s Message and Mission at the World Forum


 

By Edmond Y. Azadian

The world is in turmoil. The Middle East is once again a powder keg and new alignments are taking shape.

The brutality of ISIS has captured the world attention and has upset the political agenda in many countries. The emergence and the advances of that evil force have pushed many of the world problems to the back burner.

In this background, it would have been unrealistic to expect the world to dedicate any capital to our 100-year-old wound, still festering and to Armenia’s plight under Turkish-Azeri blockade, as well as the rising militancy of our immediate neighbor, Azerbaijan. Armenia’s voice would have been drowned out in this overcrowded political landscape. However, it was the task and the mission of Armenia’s leaders to rise above the complex and conflicting noises and to enunciate its agenda, its mission and its message. That is what Armenia’s President Serge Sargisian did at the recent General Assembly of the United Nations.

President Sargisian’s speech at the UN forum represented the most comprehensive and assertive agenda that defines Armenia’s destiny in a world of indifference. That speech brought to light Armenia’s predicament and the factors exacerbating it.

On the eve of the Genocide Centennial, the president thanked all the countries which in one form or another have recognized the Armenian Genocide. By the same token, he blasted Turkey for its contrived denial of that historic tragedy. It was also a built-in response about the Zurich Protocols of 2009, which Turkey has failed to ratify, despite international pressure. It was a little undiplomatic challenge to Turkey but very appropriately phrased when he said: “To hell with your ratification.”

Because of recent political developments in the Middle East, the Genocide issue had become a relevant topic with the bombing of the Martyrs’ Church in Deir Zor, reminding the world that ISIS not only had startled the major powers by its beheadings but it had committed a major crime by bombing the remains of the Genocide victims.

Azerbaijan, with the help of some Islamic nations, had been able to pass three non-binding resolutions at the UN, prompting some critics of Armenia’s government to portray these resolutions as the failure of Armenia’s foreign policy. Azerbaijan, in its turn, had been trumpeting that Armenia was ignoring that world body’s resolutions (UN Security Council Resolutions 853, 874 and 884). That was providing Azerbaijan’s apologists to hold Armenia in contempt of international law.

Therefore, it was the most appropriate forum to settle the scores once and for all that Azerbaijan itself has not complied with those resolutions by meeting its share of responsibility in those very same resolutions.

President Sargisian once more reiterated that there is no alternative to ending the Karabagh conflict than the peaceful settlement through negotiations. And the proper vehicle remains the Minsk group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which has a good command of the intricacies of the conflict.

All in all, it was a powerful message, which found a positive resonance in the media and political circles because the two demons that are threatening Armenia have their own problems with the international community. To begin with, Turkey has not been responsive to President Obama’s call to join the coalition to fight ISIS, which has been threatening not only the regional countries, but also the interests of world powers. President Obama’s appeal has fallen on deaf ears in Ankara. While the civilized world is struggling to contain and destroy ISIS, Turkey has been arming them and helping that group to attain its selfish agenda, a top priority of which is to destroy the Kurdish enclave in Syria, which may pose a potential threat to Turkey, whose large Kurdish minority is agitating for more rights.

After being elected president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s former prime minister, he made his first foreign trip to the US and he was expecting better treatment than what he was accorded. He received a cold shoulder in diplomatic circles when the most he received was a meeting with Vice President Joe Biden. It is also rumored that he was infuriated at a reception when the protocol had been downgraded.

Despite its caviar diplomacy, Azerbaijan is in worst shape and it has almost become a pariah state because of its human rights abuses. The UN subcommittee on Prevention of Torture recently suspended its visit to Baku because the latter was found to be uncooperative with that world body.

Human rights groups and the international press have been extremely critical of Azerbaijan’s repressive regime. Even President Obama, in one his recent speeches, castigated the leaders in Baku for their authoritarian rule.

Europe’s foremost human rights body came out with a very damning statement, which says, “The Azeri government’s systematic crackdown on human rights defenders and other perceived government critics shows sheer contempt for its commitments to the Council of Europe. To let the relentless repression go on unanswered threatens the very credibility of the institution.” (Giorgio Gogia, senior South Caucasus researcher at Human Rights Watch.)

Recently Armenia emerged ahead of Azerbaijan in the index of media freedom in the Eastern Partnership countries.

Thomas De Waal, a senior associate in the Russian and Eurasian program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, is no friend of Armenia by any measure. But he warns western countries about the potential danger that Azerbaijan poses to the region and to the interests of the Western powers.

In a paper released on September 26, here is how De Waal defines Azerbaijan’s dangerous political trends: “In recent months, Azerbaijan’s leaders have embarked upon the biggest human rights crackdowns in wider Europe and have taken a more bellicose line on their number-one domestic and foreign policy issue: the protracted conflict with their country’s longtime foe, Armenia. Western policymakers need to pay more attention and ask themselves what this new hard line means to both Azerbaijan and its neighbors.

De Waal’s conclusion is even more alarming when he writes at the end of his paper: “This is a dangerous dynamic. It seems only a matter of time until a combination of Azerbaijan’s domestic insecurity, its military build-up and the instability of the ceasefire live push Baku to abandon peace talks and embark on a campaign to reconquer Karabagh by force — a move that all outside experts on the conflict predict would end in a catastrophe for all sides.”

When Armenia warns of the situation, many world leaders ascribe it to self-interest. But when experts bring out the potential danger, Armenia’s warning becomes more meaningful.

It is in this backdrop and context that President Sargisian raised his voice, hopefully for a more attentive audience.

The irony of the situation is that after this gripping performance, the president is heading home to face the opposition, which is asking for his resignation. Armenians are living in an unreal world. When the country is at war against poverty, against depopulation, against the blockade while its destiny still hangs in limbo, between the European Union and the Customs Union, it behooves all forces to rally to win the war and then settle domestic scores. This position does not absolve the government of its corruption, nor does it justify actions such as the reappointment of a criminal kingpin Liska (Souren Khachatryan) as the governor of Syunik province. All in the opposition ranks today, however, have taken their turn at the helm of power and they have not fared any better.

Historically, our petty quarrels have cost the loss of our homeland. Let us win the war and then settle the scores.