By Edmond Y. Azadian
As of this writing, the ceasefire breach on the contact line continues, despite worldwide calls for cessation of hostilities. Although ceasefire violations since May 5, 1994 are daily occurrences in Karabagh, the one that began on Saturday, April 2, was inordinate.
In fact, it was a blitzkrieg by the Azeri forces to send messages to their friends and foes. Two days after President Aliyev met with Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington, who had advised him for a peaceful settlement of the Karabagh conflict, the Azeri army launched a surprise attack on Karabagh (Artsakh), in defiance of Kerry’s advice.
The scope and the magnitude of the attack on Artsakh were unusual, especially in terms of the armaments used. Moscow had assured Armenia that the flame-throwing arms sold to Azerbaijan recently would not be used against Armenia and or Artsakh. Despite those assurances, Baku forces used the very same weapons with impunity, resulting in scores of deaths. Those assurances imply and reveal further the cynical fact that Moscow collaborates with Baku on which weapons are to be used against Armenia and which ones not.
The damages and the casualties are enormous. Statistics are being spun and denied from both sides, and a war of words continues louder that the bombs that are still falling on border villages and strategic sites.
Despite the fact that President Erdogan of Turkey has congratulated his colleague in Baku, Ilham Aliyev, for his “victory,” the results remain inconclusive or perhaps they mark the failure of the blitz. One fact has been proved incontrovertibly, that the aggressors, once again, were the Azeris.
Every time there is a summit meeting between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, it has been followed by violent clashes at the contact line. This time around, although there were speculations that Presidents Serge Sargisian and Ilham Aliyev would meet in Washington on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit, no such meeting took place but the violence erupted anyway.
Both Aliyev and Erdogan returned home from Washington crestfallen, despite the fact that Aliyev had released 16 journalists and political activists from jail, hoping to be rewarded by President Obama with a face-to-face chat in Washington. The most that Erdogan — as well as Aliyev — got was a meeting with Vice President Joe Biden after being snubbed by the president.
President Obama had supported Erdogan’s position after Turkey shot down a Russian military aircraft in November and after Erdogan began the mass slaughter of Kurds in the country’s southeast, by stating, “Turkey has the right to defend itself.” This time around, Obama shied away from his guest and did not seem happy with his repressive measures against Turkish journalists, academics and human rights activists. Also, he signaled his displeasure over mass atrocities against the Kurdish population.
The Nagorno Karabagh conflict once again captured the news headlines with the renewed hostilities. Most of the information and analyses are rehashes of previous statements. Many journalists, especially the investigate journalists ironically, fail to do their homework and they resort to the benign method of using and contrasting official news sources, especially when the story refers to a tiny enclave lost somewhere in the Caucasus Mountains. The New York Times had a story of that nature by Andrew E. Kramer, in its April 3 edition.
On the contrary, Al Jazeera carried quite an objective piece. Traditionally, every time Al Jazeera has a news story or commentary on the Genocide or any other Armenian issue, the content looks like a lecture by Prof. Ahmet Davutoglu. Not this time, though. The journalists were very knowledgeable and objective and did not buy into the Turkish-Azeri line of “territorial integrity.” The host of the program squarely blamed Stalin for the fate of Karabagh, as the late dictator had amputated that piece of land in 1922 from Armenia and placed it under Azeri rule, to win over Kemalist Turkey.
Sifting through the profusion of news media, one wonders why this flare up is taking place now and by whose provocation. The rhetoric, analyses and commentaries are confusing but when we follow the news trends, we can make some headway.
It is obvious that the sudden economic crisis in Azerbaijan, following the crash of oil prices globally, was one of the factors to divert the focus of politics somewhere else, away from the deterioration of daily miseries of Azeri citizens.
However, on a broader scale, the flare up is the localized reverberation of an emerging cold war, where Turkey can play a surrogate role for NATO in encircling Russia.
There has been a standoff between Russia and Turkey after the shooting down of the airplane in November 2015, with Ankara hiding behind the NATO shield, while Washington is avoiding the topic.
Mr. Erdogan is also betting on the outcome of the US presidential elections, since all the candidates, on both sides of the isle are nurturing trigger-happy policies, the essential fuel to intensify the new cold war.
Ankara has consistently marked Armenia as a scapegoat in its war of words with Moscow. That consistent trend began when Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu blamed Selahattin Demirtas for visiting Moscow to set up a Kurdish office in the Russian capital.
To justify the massive war against the PKK and the Kurdish population, Davutoglu put the blame on the Kurds for cozying up to the Russians “like Armenian gangs did during World War I.” Next came Erdogan’s accusation that Russia was using Armenia to fight NATO.
Yournewswire.com reports on April 4 that according to Russian intelligence sources, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has voiced concerns that Armenia, a nation with a population of 3 million population, has become the “greatest threat to world peace” and has vowed to “do something.”
The above report is corroborated by the statements Erdogan made in a lecture at the Brookings Institute during his last trip to Washington, once again waving Armenia’s scarecrow and even resurrecting the specter of ASALA.
The above report ends with a very explosive conclusion as it states: “And as to exactly why Erdogan, and his son, Bilal, who fund ISIS are intent on igniting a war in Nagorno Karabagh, is due to ongoing talks between Russia and the Obama regime to coordinate their attack on the Turkish-supported Islamic State capital of Raqqa (in northern Syria) which the US is preparing for a massive increase of Special Forces troops to conduct and if successful — would destroy Turkey’s dream of Middle East dominance and cost them millions of dollars.”
As the news broke, calls for restraint were heard from almost all capitals of the world. What was unusual was that Secretary of State Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, had a phone consultation which was followed by their resolute call for immediate cessation of hostilities. However, in their joint call, the two statesmen condemned the attempts by “certain external players” without identifying them.
Lavrov’s enigmatic announcement, following that joint appeal, threw some confusion in the situation. He stated that Russia is not blaming Turkey for provoking the situation in Karabagh and he continued, “I cannot judge what role Ankara has played or not played or is continuing to play, but for the sake of all parties concerned, and even for people in Turkey, it would be more preferable if Ankara concentrated its efforts in stopping its support to terrorism.”
We can realize that all fingers are pointing to Turkey, which has the added incentive to provoke unrest in the neighborhood to divert the attention from the civil war it is waging in Eastern Turkey. Incidentally, the Kurdish leader Demirtas has blamed Erdogan and Davutoglu for the recent flare-up in Karabagh.
As far as Armenia is concerned, there is one provocateur.
On April 3, during a meeting at the presidential palace in Yerevan with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) ambassadors, President Sargisian announced, “While the international community condemns the use of force in Nagorno Karabagh through words only, Turkey is the sole state that demonstrates indubitable support to Azerbaijan’s adventures. The announcements by Ankara before and after the developments, by which that country seems to compete with Azerbaijan on anti-Armenian rhetoric, can create a new regional hot spot, the experience of which has accumulated in the Middle East. All those who once wished to see Turkey as a mediator in the Nagorno Karabagh conflict, realize today that the country having adopted ‘blood related security’ approach must be kept away from the Karabagh settlement process.”
The president has also announced that if hostilities continue, Yerevan might recognize Arstakh’s independence.
President Sargisian is heading to Berlin, the heart of NATO, to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel. The trip is significant in its symbolism and content. Not postponing this long-planned trip indicates that the Armenian government is in control of the situation. The visit also affords the opportunity for Armenia to elaborate on the effects in the region of continued German support for Turkish aggression.
In the meantime, war is continuing in Karabagh. Volunteers are heading from Armenia to the frontlines to sacrifice themselves for their homeland.
The diaspora Armenians cannot remain indifferent and continue business as usual. There is a tremendous challenge to counter the Turkish-Azeri news and disinformation. Also, it is time for legislative action. The least that the Obama administration can do is to reactivate Article 907 of the Freedom Support Act to warn Baku. We need to sensitize our legislators and ask them to act.
This challenge does not involve any blood sacrifice on our part, which is being spilled in Armenia and which the volunteers continue to provide.