UN General Assembly Resolution Seeks To Fill Gaps In The Karabakh "P

By Vladimir Socor

Eurasia Daily Monitor
March 18 2008

On March 14 the United Nations General Assembly adopted an
Azerbaijan-authored resolution, calling for:

~U "immediate, complete, and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian
forces from all the occupied territories of Azerbaijan"; ~U "respect
and support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan
within its internationally recognized borders"; ~U support for the
"inalienable right of the population expelled from the occupied
territories of Azerbaijan to return to their homes"; ~U international
assistance for "comprehensive rehabilitation of all conflict-affected
territories"; ~U refusal by all states to "recognize as lawful the
current situation in Karabakh" or to "provide aid or assistance to
maintain that situation"; ~U creating "normal, secure, and equal
conditions of life for the Armenian and Azerbaijani communities
in Karabakh," so as to build "an effective, democratic system of
self-governance" there; and ~U support for the mediation efforts by
the OSCE’s "Minsk Group" (UN News Center, March 14).

The General Assembly approved the resolution by a recorded vote of
39 in favor, seven against, 100 abstentions, and some other countries
not voting. Irrespective of the margin of its approval, the resolution
becomes, ipso facto, a reference document in the negotiations toward
settling the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. Since 1992 those negotiations
have been mediated, without any results, by the "Minsk Group" co-chairs
— Russia, the United States, France — under a nominal OSCE umbrella.

The breakdown of the voting in the General Assembly reflects above all
the Western countries’ unfocused, dilatory approach to settling this
conflict, notwithstanding Azerbaijan’s significance as a strategic
partner to the West. The United States and France joined forces with
Russia and Armenia in voting against the resolution.

Twenty-six countries of European Union — that is, all the member
countries excepting France — abstained.

Azerbaijan’s fellow-members of the GUAM group — Georgia, Ukraine,
and Moldova — voted as could be expected in favor of the resolution.

Not a single CIS country joined Russia and Armenia against the
resolution. A large number of Muslim countries — with Pakistan
speaking on the collective behalf of the Organization of the Islamic
Conference (OIC) — voted for the resolution, mainly in solidarity
with Azerbaijan. However, Iran seems not to have voted at all,
reflecting Tehran’s periodic tilt toward Armenia. The U.S.-supported
governments of Afghanistan and Iraq were among those voting in favor,
thus distancing themselves from the United States on this issue. By
the same token, Serbia distanced itself from Russia by voting for
the resolution.

Most of these countries rallied to the resolution because of its
strong reaffirmation of the principle of the territorial integrity
of states. The resolution’s timing underscores its relevance,
in the immediate wake of Kosova’s declaration of independence and
international recognition.

Moreover, from Azerbaijan’s viewpoint — as well as Georgia’s —
the value of the resolution also resides in its strong call for the
return of expellees to their homes, so as to reverse the ethnic
cleansing operations of the 1990s. Reversal of such an operation
became a moral and political basis for the solution in Kosova. Given
this backdrop, the March 14 resolution underscores in a timely manner
the responsibility of the UN and other international organizations
to address this issue effectively in Karabakh.

Explaining the negative U.S. vote in the General Assembly, U.S. Deputy
Permanent Representative Alejandro D. Wolf claimed that the resolution
was weighted toward issue of interest to Azerbaijan, thus diverging
from the Minsk Group co-chairs’ latest proposals, which are described
as a "balanced package of principles." U.S. and Minsk Group co-chairs’
statements during the debate also claimed that the resolution was
ill-timed and risked "derailing the peace process" (U.S. Federal News
Service, March 15). The argument about timing seems to ignore, instead
of addressing, the perception among many countries that the outcome
in Kosova necessitates a reaffirmation of the territorial-integrity
principle at this particular moment. The argument about the "peace
process" also proved ineffective, given the widespread perception that
there is no process leading to a resolution of the conflict after
16 years of negotiations handled by the Minsk Group’s co-chairing

In its comment on the resolution, Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign
Affairs argued that the demand for withdrawal of Armenian armed
forces would create a security vacuum endangering the population of
Karabakh. Minister Vardan Oskanian and other officials also claimed
that Azerbaijan had "forfeited its right to govern Karabakh" by having
used force in a "savage war" there 20 years ago. And they accused
Azerbaijan of having itself created the problem of refugees and
territories (Press and Information Department of the MFA of Armenia,
March 14, 15).

For its part, Baku focused on continuing a better-focused diplomatic
process in the wake of the UN vote. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs
Araz Azimov expressed "indignant surprise" over the co-chairs’
critique and their reported efforts to dissuade countries from
supporting the resolution. Noting the "nebulous character" of what
the co-chairs term the "peace process," Azimov called for "clarity
on the principle of territorial integrity." Thus the resolution helps
to introduce such clarity: "The co-chairs should be in no doubt that
our work with them would proceed on the basis of principles adopted
as part of this resolution" (APA, Day.Az, March 15).