On December 20/21, France and Armenia had a UN Security Council meeting convened to debate the unfolding situation around the Lachin road in Azerbaijan, where a group of protesters were demonstrating against activities being conducted within the area under the control of Russian peacekeepers.
France, a permanent member and chair of the UN Security Council (permanent and non-permanent members of the Security Council act as chairmen, alternating once a month) prepared an unambiguously pro-Armenian resolution, describing the situation resulting from the protest as a “humanitarian catastrophe”.
The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs issued the following statement to the United Nations Security Council on 20 December 2022 as part of the deliberations:
Ireland, like others, is seriously concerned by the ongoing obstruction of the Lachin corridor, which began on 12 December and has severe implications for the local population.
Without the free movement of people, goods, food and medical supplies through this vital corridor, the people of Nagorno-Karabakh will surely face a humanitarian crisis this winter.
As a Council, we must do everything we can to avoid this and prevent another man-made catastrophe emerging on our watch.
Ireland therefore calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to immediately and unconditionally restore freedom and security of movement along the Lachin corridor, in line with the Trilateral Statement of 9 November 2020…
Ireland supports a negotiated, comprehensive and sustainable settlement of the conflict, including on the long-term status of Nagorno-Karabakh. We maintain our full support to the international format of the OSCE Minsk Group to pursue this objective.
We strongly support the continued, active engagement of the European Union to support the sides in their important work to peacefully resolve remaining issues, including through the Brussels dialogue process.
Together with our EU partners, Ireland supports the common goal of a South Caucasus where people can live in peace, security and prosperity. I encourage all of us around this table to do the same.
No Resolution was adopted by the UN Security Council. The UK, UAE, Russia, and Albania opposed the French/Armenian initiative and forced its withdrawal.
It is obvious from both the tone and content of the statement that Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs, along with other Western nations, knows little about the conflict in Karabakh, Azerbaijan.
Some education is therefore required for our career diplomats who have been temporarily serving during 2021-22 on the lofty heights of the UN Security Council.
First of all, what exactly is this “ongoing obstruction of the Lachin corridor” that has been termed a “blockade” by Armenia?
Since 12 December a few dozen environmental activists, including representatives of non-governmental organizations and volunteers from Azerbaijan have been holding peaceful protests on the Lachin-Shusha-Khankandi road, close to the Russian peacekeepers’ temporary deployment area.
The protesters display posters and chant slogans in Azerbaijani, Russian and English without creating any actual hindrance to traffic in both directions along the road. They demand a meeting with Russian peacekeepers’ commander Andrei Volkov, along with the establishment of structures to monitor the illegal exploitation of Azerbaijan’s natural resources, and the cessation of Armenia’s environmental damage to Azerbaijani land. While the Trilateral Agreement of November 2020, which ended the last Karabakh war, charged the Russians with a peacekeeping role along the Lachin corridor, nowhere did it give any authority to prevent Azerbaijani citizens, authorised by the Baku government, such as the Environmental Ministry, from entering their zone of operations within Azerbaijan. The protesters say they are not going to leave the area until their demands are met.
Following talks with the Russian peacekeepers’ command on December 3 and 7, experts from the Azerbaijan Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, the State Property Service under the Ministry of Economy, and AzerGold CJSC were authorised to begin preliminary monitoring of the sites of mineral resource exploitation. The team of experts were to inspect the environmental condition at the Gizilbulagh gold deposit and the Damirli copper-molybdenum deposits, monitor various areas of interest, compile cadastral property records, assess potential risks and threats to the environment, as well as impacts on underground and surface water sources.
However, when they arrived in the monitoring area, the group, accompanied by Russian peacekeepers, faced resistance from Armenians. The planned initial inspection and monitoring did not take place after the Russian peacekeepers failed to provide the necessary conditions of safety for the process to be securely carried out.
The participants in the protest action are demanding an end to the use of the Lachin road for military purposes, as well as the looting and removal of natural resources from Azerbaijan. During the 3 decade long occupation of Azerbaijan’s Karabakh and surrounding regions Armenia illegally looted and exploited the natural resources of the occupied territories, removing large quantities to Armenia and for sale abroad.
It should be noted that the Lachin-Shusha-Khankandi road, on which the protest takes place, is on the sovereign territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan. In the Trilateral Declaration it was agreed by the 3 parties to that agreement (Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia) that all sides would agree on a plan for the construction of a new traffic route between Khankendi/Stepanakert and Armenia along the Lachin corridor. When the route was created, the Russian peacekeeping contingent would be re-deployed from the existing road to protect it. Azerbaijan, fulfilling its part of the agreement completed this road well before the deadline.
It was agreed that internally displaced persons and refugees would return to Karabakh and the surrounding areas under the supervision of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. So far the extensive land-mining conducted by Armenia during the occupation, and the sheer destruction of settlements and infrastructure in a “poisoning of the wells” policy, has greatly obstructed this process. It will probably take Azerbaijan at least 4 years after the ending of the 2020 War to resettle even 100,000 of the original 750,000 inhabitants and families back on their homeland. Those who formerly lived in the Armenian populated rump of Nagorno will probably have to wait until after the departure of the Russians, perhaps in 2025 or later.
It was also agreed that all economic and transport links in the region would be reopened. Armenia undertook to take steps to provide transport links between the Azerbaijani mainland and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. This would be overseen and secured by Russian border guards. It was agreed by all parties to ensure the construction of new transport communications for this purpose. Yerevan has intransigently obstructed this process since November 2020 leading to the building of frustration in Azerbaijan. The frustration has boiled up into a number of serious border clashes over the last few months that have led to the deaths of hundreds of soldiers on both sides. Undoubtedly the protests on the Lachin road are just one manifestation of this growing frustration in Azerbaijan.
With regard to the environmental issue the Azerbaijanis are protesting at the preventing of ecological monitoring in the Gyzylbulag gold and Demirli copper-molybdenum mines and other places on sovereign Azerbaijani territory. The demand is that Baku should be able to exercise its sovereign rights in the form of assessing the damage caused to the environment by illegal mining and have full access to the territory under temporary Russian control for related monitoring purposes. They are also demanding the monitoring of the inflow of military equipment and the outflow of plundered precious metals, including the installing of customs and border checkpoints at the entrance to the new Lachin Corridor, ensuring that movement is, therefore, properly controlled by State authorities.
According to Article 6 of the 10 November 2020 Trilateral Declaration, it is the Republic of Azerbaijan that “shall guarantee the safety of citizens, vehicles, and goods travelling along the Lachin Corridor in both directions”, with the route itself remaining under the control of the Russian ‘peacekeeping‘ contingent. Moscow views its duties as circumscribed to the protection of the road, without the carrying out any checks on materials passing along it.
Far from being a “blockade” vehicles carrying humanitarian cargo, passengers, as well as ambulances and other humanitarian vehicles are not obstructed and can move freely past the demonstration. Protestors are not interfering with the movement of other civilian vehicles. A hotline was created by the Azerbaijani NGOs to promptly resolve any access problems of residents of Armenian origin living in the Karabakh region. There are, therefore, little grounds for allegations that residents of Armenian origin are allegedly under any kind of “blockade.” What is taking place is the normal exercise of legitimate political protest as seen everyday on the streets of the UK and other Western countries.
The Armenians have resorted to the usual hysteria of “humanitarian catastrophe” and “genocide” allegations that they routinely trot out against “Turks” to push the right buttons among Western humanitarians. Armenian diaspora organisations are calling for a “Berlin-style airlift” by the West in an attempt to bring about a serious conflict between Washington and Moscow or Baku. This is all part of the objective of “internationalising” the Karabakh conflict, in order to reverse the result of the recent war, which ended the 3 decade long Armenian occupation of nearly 20 per cent of Azerbaijan’s sovereign territory.
The War in 2020 concluded with an armistice rather than a total victory over Armenia. Azerbaijan’s tanks did not reach Khankendi/Stepanakert to dictate terms to a defeated nation, as in 1945 in Berlin. The situation in 2020 was more similar to November 1918 when Germany decided to give up resistance without suffering complete defeat to the Allies. In the 8 months after the Germans signed the armistice they were subjected to a naval blockade by the Royal Navy to produce an acquiescence to defeat and the terms of the Versailles Treaty. A.C. Bell in his official history of the blockade for the British Admiralty estimated that the blockade resulted in the deaths of 250,000 German civilians.
Armenia and the Karabakh Armenian population has suffered very little in the way of privations since the 2020 armistice was signed. Azerbaijan has shown the same patience it demonstrated for decades during the occupation. But such patience and restraint is not limitless, as the 44 Day War demonstrated.
Despite passing 4 Resolutions in 1993 condemning Armenia’s occupation of Azerbaijan’s territory, the UN Security Council, as the main body responsible for protecting peace and security in the world, effectively turned a blind eye to the occupation of Azerbaijani land by Armenia for 30 years, the policy of ethnic cleansing, the Khojaly massacre of over 600 in a day, the expulsion of 750,000 Azerbaijanis from Karabakh and surrounding regions, and the deliberate destruction and looting of the cultural heritage of Azerbaijan, along with the policy of illegal settlement.
In the Department of Foreign Affairs Statement to the UN Security Council it is said that: “Ireland supports a negotiated, comprehensive and sustainable settlement of the conflict, including on the long-term status of Nagorno-Karabakh. We maintain our full support to the international format of the OSCE Minsk Group to pursue this objective.“
Ireland seems not to have noticed that the entity known as the “Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast”, created by Lenin and Stalin in the early 1920s, no longer exists. “Nagorno Karabakh” was a Soviet construction aimed at solving the national problem between Armenians and Azerbaijanis within the Socialist context of the USSR. It’s resurrection from the dead in a world of capitalist nation states is wholly inappropriate. The Armenians by forcing 2 wars over the territory in a generation have emphasized the failure of the Socialist project of autonomous development, quite apart from the fact of the demise of the USSR. There is no going back to a construct that regenerates national antagonism, irredentism and war on a continual and generational basis. It’s place on the map is over.
Karabakh has only one status – its internationally recognised status as part of the sovereign territory of Azerbaijan. That is a status recognised by practically every state in the world, including Armenia, and the United Nations. Any future internal arrangements that facilitate the incorporation of the Karabakh Armenian population are a matter entirely for the Republic of Azerbaijan, of which this small population of less than 100,000, in a total population of over 10 million, form part.
Ireland also ridiculously reaffirms its commitment to the OSCE Minsk Group, with its US/France/Russia Chairs, as the major instrument of peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Is it comprehensible that such an alignment could promote peace in the South Caucasus while waging war against each other in Ukraine? After all, Minsk OSCE failed in the nearly 3 decades of peace that existed between the West and Russian Federation. So how could it be expected to succeed under present circumstances or in the future?
The Minsk Group was a major cause of the Karabakh War of 2020 in that in 28 years of diplomatic effort not one kilometre of occupied territory was returned to Azerbaijan. In the end military action had to be applied to the situation to achieve what international law recognised but which diplomacy failed to achieve. But Ireland insists on “flogging the dead horse” of the failed Minsk Group.
In conclusion, the present writer does not ascribe Ireland’s proclivity, among others, to bolster Armenian disinformation and propaganda to any inherent hostility to Azerbaijan or Turkiye. The attitude of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs is simply part of the general ignorance of the West which makes it prone to swallowing the Armenian narrative to the extent of negating its own commitment to international law and the very Resolutions of the United Nations Security Council it presumably supports.