Helsinki Principles Ignore Artsakh’s Right To Independence

By Michael Mensoian

June 27, 2013

In an aside to the June 17-18 meeting of the Group of Eight (G8)
Industrialized Nations in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, Presidents
Barack Obama (U.S.), Vladimir Putin (Russian Federation), and Francois
Hollande (France) reaffirmed their support of the Helsinki Principles
as the basis for a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabagh
conflict. The three leaders lamented the fact that “…the parties
have continued to seek one-sided advantage in their negotiation
process,” adding that “the use of military force…will not resolve
the conflict.”

They then appealed to both sides “…to refrain from any action
or rhetoric that could raise tensions and lead to an escalation of
the conflict.”

To make such statements while ignoring the continuing build-up of the
Azerbaijani military into the largest offensive force in the South
Caucasus shows a serious disconnect from reality. The three leaders,
and their respective co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group monitoring the
negotiations, continue to ignore the constant threats by President
Ilham Aliyev to use force to resolve the conflict, as well as the
virulent anti-Armenian rhetoric and actions coming from Baku.

Against this backdrop the leaders have the temerity to stress the
importance of the Helsinki Principles as the basis for continued
negotiations, especially those principles “…relating to territorial
integrity, and equal rights and self-determination of people.”

Territorial integrity, which is the key principle, nullifies the
principles of equal rights and self-determination if these principles
properly refer to the right of a people to declare their independence.

If not, then the only way by which equal rights and self-determination
can co-exist with the principle of territorial integrity is
by interpreting these principles to mean the granting of local
autonomy to the Karabagh Armenians under the political jurisdiction
of Azerbaijan. This solution would ignore the independence that
the Artsakh people have (1) unanimously declared, (2) defended in
a war brought on by Azerbaijan, (3) maintained for two decades, and
(4) have the right to be recognized. Maintaining that Azerbaijan’s
territorial integrity negates the legal right of the Karabaghtsis
to their independence, as well as their moral and inalienable right
to free themselves from the oppressive rule by a government that has
discriminated against them and their culture for 70 years.

The Helsinki Principles are supportive of Azerbaijan’s interests.

Using these principles as guidelines leaves nothing substantive to
be negotiated, nothing that would advance the needs and interests of
our brothers and sisters in Artsakh.

PRINCIPLE 1 requires the return of all liberated territories to
Azerbaijan. These liberated territories are absolutely vital to
Artsakh’s security and its ability to function as an independent
state. The occupation of these liberated territories by Azerbaijan
would make the Nagorno-Karabagh districts of Artsakh an enclave,
isolated from Armenia and shorn of its security zone. The districts
of Artsakh comprising Nagorno-Karabagh will have lost their defensive

PRINCIPLE 2 addresses the right of displaced people and refugees
to return to their original place of residence. This is an internal
issue that Baku has refused to ameliorate. The abysmal human rights
record of the Azerbaijani government has been citied time and again by
international watchdog organizations. Given the Azeri government’s
long-standing discrimination of its Armenian citizens and its
actions to destroy Armenian cultural artifacts, few Armenians would
be interested in returning to any former places of residence under
Azerbaijani jurisdiction. Those Azeris who have been displaced-their
numbers inflated by Azerbaijan-are victims of a devastating war
initiated and sustained by their own government, which is using them
solely for political purposes vis-a-vis a Karabagh solution.

PRINCIPLE 3 would address the need, which is presently unnecessary,
to put in place safeguards to guarantee the security and the right
of self-government by the Artsakh Armenians during an interim
or transitional period. Essentially, the Armenian negotiators are
expected to negotiate away Artsakh’s present ability to protect itself
in return for a guarantee of protection by a third party as provided
for in Helsinki Principle 4. How much sense does this make? Artsakh
is already providing for its security through its own military force
and support from Armenia. As it is, Azerbaijan continually flaunts
the ceasefire they agreed to by repeated incursions along the Line of
Contact (LoC), which has resulted in the murder of multiple Armenian
military personnel. To trust Azerbaijan would be beyond foolhardy;
its record during the past two decades is confirmation enough of
its duplicitousness.

PRINCIPLE 4 would address the security issue made necessary if
the Helsinki Principles govern the negotiations. An international
peace-keeping force under the aegis of the United Nations or the
OSCE would be responsible for maintaining Karabagh’s security. This
is as ludicrous as it comes. Peace-keeping forces have no authority
beyond reporting violations by either side. They purposely are not
given the authority to intervene, nor do they have the capability
to prevent violations. Should Azerbaijan move forces into areas
prohibited to it, the peace-keeping force would simply move aside,
observe, and file a useless report that would change nothing on the
ground. Confrontation and prevention are not within the scope of their
responsibilities. Why the Minsk co-chairs would expect the Artsakh
Armenians to render themselves defenseless and then dependent upon a
peace-keeping force for their protection defies logic. How can this
be offered as a viable option?

PRINCIPLE 5 would address the need to guarantee a secure corridor
linking Karabagh with Armenia. This presumably would be the present
Lachin Corridor that is already secured by Karabagh’s military forces.

Principle 1 requires the occupation by Azerbaijan of the liberated
territories; this means that the already secured Lachin Corridor
highway that passes through Armenian liberated territory would
become an unsecured corridor that will need to be protected by an
international peace-keeping force. How senseless is this? As it is,
this solitary link is already vulnerable to Azeri missile and air
attack. Its vulnerability would only increase if Azeri forces occupied
the liberated territories through which the corridor passes. Presently
a second highway will be expanded and improved beginning in 2014
that links Vartenis in Armenia to the Martakert district in northern
Karabagh. Sections of the road are currently a morass of mud and
impassible during the rainy season. This northern road will pass
through the liberated Kashatagh region and be secured by Armenian
forces. It will be economically and militarily significant to Artsakh’s
security and future development. This much-needed second highway would
be impossible if the Azeri are occupying the liberated territories.

PRINCIPLE 6 will presumably set up the mechanism for a plebiscite to
be held sometime in the future to determine the political status
of the Artsakh districts (excluding Shahoumian) that comprise
Nagorno-Karabagh. If the Helsinki Principles have determined the
course of negotiations, the liberated territories have already been
occupied by Azerbaijan. What remains to be negotiated with respect
to the plebiscite is when it will take place; who will be eligible
to vote; how will it be administered; and what the options are to be
voted on. For the Karabagh Armenians, the best option they can hope
for is being granted limited local autonomy as an enclave within
Azerbaijan. If this is where negotiations will ultimately lead us,
then we have already turned a hard-won victory into defeat.

This was an objective analysis of the Helsinki Principles, as they
would affect Artsakh if applied. Yerevan is either constrained by
Russian interests or is unwilling to pursue an aggressive diplomatic
policy in support of Artsakh’s independence. However, there should
be no constraint for any political party or coalition of parties
in tandem with the government of Artsakh and Armenian Diasporan
organizations to vigorously support an aggressive independence policy.

Will it be said years later that some 7,000 azatamartiks sacrificed
their lives in vain?

This is the first political victory that Armenians have won since the
genocide, when our nation faced near annihilation. It is the first
victory that gives credence to Hai Tahd. It is the first victory
that provides our people with some measure of justice. However,
it is a victory that has not yet been completed.

You may also like