INTEGRITY AND DETERMINATION – ALL ABOUT THE NATION
By Raffi K. Hovannisian
The Moscow Times, Russia
June 14 2006
With the purpose of keeping people informed, newspapers can and should
publish, side by side or in sequence, comment pieces offering points
and counterpoints concerning conflict situations that affect peace
At some juncture, however, partisan polemics must give way to the
consideration of hard facts in order to resolve contemporary divides
inherited from the ebb and flow of history. The truth is often harsh
and can cause pain to both the messenger and recipient.
None of us — Armenians, Azeris, Turks — can boast a spotless register
of state-building, mutual respect for human rights, or even regard
for the liberty and dignity of our own citizens. We must do better
in having our deeds match our words both individually and in concert.
With regard to Nagorno-Karabakh, understanding the following points
~U In no way discounting Azeri cultural affinities, Nagorno-Karabakh
has been historically and will be in modern times part of the Armenian
patrimony. Its forcible inclusion by Stalin in Soviet Azerbaijan had,
and continues to have, no juridical basis under international law. For
those who might argue that it does, then so should Nagorno-Karabakh’s
response to the aggression by Azeri forces, in the form of its 1991
referendum on independence from Soviet Azerbaijan. The referendum was
held not only according to universal principles of self-determination
and other standards of international practice, but also pursuant to
the Soviet Constitution and relevant law on secession.
The question at issue is not the indisputable right of today’s
Azerbaijan to its territorial integrity, but specifically the lawful
frontiers of that integrity. Nagorno-Karabakh’s legitimate quest for
decolonization and for sovereign control of its own identity, security
and destiny is anchored both in fact and in law. Whether acknowledged
or not, it is a precedent established in East Timor, Montenegro and
other places yet to come and requires no further foundation.
~U The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s 1992
mediation mandate and the tripartite 1994 ceasefire bear witness,
no matter how or how many times you slice it, to the fact that there
can be no enduring settlement to the conflict without the full-fledged
participation of the republic of Nagorno-Karabakh. That is the bottom
line. For its own reasons, the Azerbaijani government in Baku can
whip up militant xenophobia, raze the medieval Armenian cemetery at
Julfa to the ground and then try with a straight face to deny it. But
if it ever means to negotiate, it has to talk to the Nagorno-Karabakh
capital of Stepanakert just as much as the Armenian capital of Yerevan.
~U No comprehensive solution on Nagorno-Karabakh will ever be
achieved without a synchronized normalization of the Turkish-Armenian
relationship based on an honest and brave assessment of history and its
contemporary consequences. We cannot build a peaceful and prosperous
region, where all political actors are on the same page with regard
to security and cooperation, by seeking an escape hatch from the
record of genocide and its derivative legacy, however sensitive or
inconvenient dealing with this history may be. We’re all grown men
and women. It’s time to face the music.
~U Finally, we will be unable to forge a meaningful reconciliation —
one that touches the lives of all of the region’s nations and people —
without the victory of democracy and rule of law in every jurisdiction,
whether considered separately or taken together. There can be no
peace, security, realization of national interests or international
partnership where tyranny triumphs over liberty and where semi-feudal,
post-Soviet verticals of power prejudice the future of forward-looking
generations in Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia, Turkey, and
the world beyond.
The promise of freedom, justice and equity belongs to all of us,
but the long road to its fulfillment must start at home.
Raffi K. Hovannisian is the former foreign minister of Armenia and
director of the Armenian Center for National and International Studies.