For the last couple of weeks, Canadian public opinion has been bombarded with a disinformation campaign regarding the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territory and the clashes around Nagorno-Karabakh. This campaign resulted in my country, a NATO ally, being unfairly penalized regarding drone technology.
First and foremost, to set the record straight, Turkey has not been a party to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and was not involved in the recent clashes. Both Turkish and Azeri authorities have totally and unequivocally rejected claims emanating from Armenia.
Read also: Armenia’s amassador calls on Canada to pressure its NATO ally Turkey
Armenia’s attempts to pull Turkey into this conflict are futile. Instead of trying to provoke Turkey, Yerevan should come to its senses, evacuate Azeri territory it has been occupying and start genuinely talking to Azerbaijan for a lasting peaceful solution, in line with its neighbour’s territorial integrity.
On the contrary, the Armenian leadership becomes more hysterical and aggressive by the day, bombing Azeri civilians in order to spread the conflict, divert attention away from its illegal occupation and to try and portray Armenia as the “victim,” rather than the culprit.
Nevertheless, this cannot obstruct the reality accepted by the international community that Armenia is the aggressor. Nor can it erase international law that clearly states this fact.
Indeed, illegal Armenian occupation lies at the heart of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Many Canadians might have missed this core fact due to the dense propaganda cloud produced by the vocal Armenian lobby and its allies.
Armenia has occupied 21 per cent of Azerbaijan’s territory for 30 years, despite four UN Security Council Resolutions and many UN General Assembly resolutions, which call for “the immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of occupying Armenian forces”.
By disregarding these UN resolutions, Armenia makes a mockery of international law and the rules-based international system. This is something that I know is close to the Canadian heart and sense of fairness.
The human rights front is also very important: Armenian occupation has caused profound human suffering, displacing a million Azerbaijanis who are yearning for 30 years to return to their homes which remain under Armenian occupation. Those occupied lands are not only limited to Nagorno-Karabakh; Armenia also occupies seven adjacent Azeri rayons (regions). Unfortunately, many human rights activists or decision makers in the Western world are reticent when it comes to defending the basic human rights of the Azeri displaced persons.
Clearly, Armenia’s stance is the biggest obstacle to peace and stability in the South Caucasus. It does not want to peacefully coexist with its neighbours, nor does it want a negotiated settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It only wants to appear negotiating in order to consolidate its illegal gains.
Indeed, in the meantime, Armenia has been altering the demographic composition of the occupied Azerbaijani territories, by resettling ethnic Armenians from Syria and Lebanon in Nagorno-Karabakh and the adjacent provinces it occupies.
That is why the negotiations under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group and its three co-chairs have failed to produce any concrete result. Turkey is also a member of the Minsk Group, following developments closely.
Armenia’s recent attack against Azerbaijan on the morning of Sept. 27, probably designed to stir nationalist sentiment and divert attention from its economic hardships, was a miscalculated step. Azerbaijan launched a counter operation to protect its population and restore its territorial integrity by invoking its inherent right of self-defence, enshrined in Article 51 of the UN Charter.
Simultaneously Armenia’s propaganda efforts intensified, including in Canada. These efforts are designed to conceal another fact: That all the fighting has actually taken place within Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized borders. Indeed, not a single shot has been fired towards the territory of the Republic of Armenia.
Armenia, on the other hand, has attacked the civilian population and infrastructure well beyond the territory it occupies within Azerbaijan. Armenian occupation forces targeted major Azerbaijani cities like Gence, Mengiçevir, Abşeron, Hızı, Terter, Berde and Beylegan with long-range artillery and rocket fire, killing civilians.
By targeting these Azeri cities, the Armenian leadership tried to provoke Azerbaijan to retaliate on Armenia proper. This did not happen. The Oct. 11 attack on the city of Gence, right after the humanitarian ceasefire took effect, killing at least nine civilians and wounding more than 35, was the latest provocation, well reported by the BBC.
Armenian forces also attacked the international gas and oil pipelines in Azerbaijan, threatening the energy security of a wider region, including the European Union. They were swiftly put out of action by Azeri drones.
So what should Turkey and Canada, two NATO allies, do in this conflict?
Turkey reiterated its support for Azerbaijan on Sept. 27, when Armenia restarted its armed aggression. This support is not only based on Turkey’s special bonds with Azerbaijan, but also stems from the fact that Azerbaijan stands on the side of international law. Turkey will continue to give strong political and moral support to Azerbaijan. However, Turkey is not a party to this conflict and is not present on the battleground.
Turkey does not want conflict and war close to its borders. Our heart goes out to any civilian caught up in the conflict. As is proven by the fact that we are looking after four million Syrian displaced persons for close to 10 years, at a huge expense, Turkey is very sensitive about human rights.
But let’s not miss the essence of the matter: the peace we need between Azerbaijan and Armenia needs to be a permanent and fair one, not a temporary Band Aid. This can only be achieved by ending Armenian occupation of all Azeri territory.
To this end, Canada and the international community must pressure Armenia to end its illegal occupation, once and for all. This will pave the way for a lasting peace and much better relations with not only Azerbaijan, but also with Turkey.
Never miss the latest news from the Star, including up-to-date coronavirus coverage, with our email newsletters.
I believe Canada has a lot to offer to this end. But increasing defence equipment restrictions to a NATO ally, Turkey, simply because it is standing by Azerbaijan, and because the Armenian lobby in Canada is acting like a spoilt child, is not a good message in this direction. Such restrictions do nothing but emboldening the aggressor, Armenia.
The Canada I know is rightly proud of upholding international law and human rights in its foreign policy. Therefore, is it not the perfect time to support peace and stability in the South Caucasus by demanding that Armenia respect UN resolutions and end its illegal occupation? I hope you would agree that this is indeed the right time for Canada to remember the suffering of a million Azeris and extend a helping hand to those unfortunate people who have been living as displaced persons within their own land, as a result of Armenia’s 30-year long occupation.
With this understanding, I call upon our Canadian partners to work with its NATO ally Turkey to put pressure on the Armenian leadership in order to achieve a fair, long-lasting and peaceful solution.