During my last visit to Artsakh in early January it started to snow heavily in the last few days before I had to return to Yerevan. The main road from Stepanakert was sufficiently covered in snow to prevent the throughput of traffic, and many cars had to return home and try the long journey the following day. Although it was for just 2 days, the lack of necessary freight traffic was beginning to have a small effect on key resources from Armenia. It is in these situations that the vulnerability and isolation of Artsakh is once again emphasised. Of course the route back to Armenia, the Lachin Corridor, is a point of great contention with Azerbaijan, and was the blocked artery for the region during the early part of the war.
Turkey’s continuing policy of a closed border with Armenia, in support of Azerbaijan, means that there is a further constraint on trade for Artsakh making it more difficult to have a free flow of goods and resources through to the people.
The on-going ceasefire and “frozen conflict” is a curious purgatory for Artsakh. In some ways whilst ever there is peace, there is hope, and that, as each year progresses, with the status quo intact, it is an increasing reason to be positive; it also another year of strangulated progress and stagnation. External investment will not be attracted, and people will not visit and so the struggle in a twilight world continues. Whilst no bombs are falling, or active combat taking place, this situation is tantamount to a siege on the people of Artsakh and is slowly sapping the people of their human rights.
The transport mechanism which would provide Artsakh with a new lease of life is Stepanakert airport. The opportunity should exist to give practical options for getting to Stepanakert without the 6 hour road journey and provide the people with more independence, security and a future; their human rights. Such is the value of this route that Azerbaijan is going to ever extreme measures to ensure that this is unlikely to happen. Their policy of threatening to shoot civilian planes down on the basis that this is their legal right is disingenuous.
Adil Baguirov, co-founder and member of the Board of Directors of the U.S. Azeris Network, was quoted in an article “Would It Be Justified, Or Wise, For Azerbaijan To Shoot Down Karabakh Aircraft?” that, the:
“…1944 Chicago Convention has clearly empowered Azerbaijan under Article 1 (Sovereignty), Article 2 (Territory), Article 4 (Misuse of civil aviation), Article 9 (Prohibited areas) and Article 89 (War and emergency conditions) a freedom of action in shooting down foreign aircraft without a flight plan in the war zone such as Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) region”
He carefully avoids mentioning Article 3 which states:
“The contracting States recognize that every State must refrain from resorting to the use of weapons against civil aircraft in flight and that, in case of interception, the lives of persons on board and the safety of aircraft must not be endangered.”
He mentions Article 89 which are provisions in the event of War; of course Azerbaijan signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994 (Bishkek Protocol) which in principle means that these provisions are not relevant.
Also as a member of the Minsk Group, they should be in support of the principles written down by the Co-Chairmen which has, as its first objective:
“make joint efforts in order to strengthen the ceasfire”
Under the auspices of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, Dr Ali Ariduru (Director General of Civil Aviation in Turkey) rightly states that:
“Aviation is a driving force of economic development and an important indicator of social welfare. The aviation sector is highly dynamic, advancing rapidly in parallel with globalisation and technological developments”.
In a modern world this should be available to all, and not at the discretion of some regimes who are constantly threatening a democratic nation. Dr Ariduru proudly describes Turkey’s achievements in regional co-operation in aviation. For example, TRACECA (Transport Corridor – Europe, Caucasus, and Asia) has been established (including the membership of Armenia and Azerbaijan), with the express intent of :
“improved co-operation regarding flight safety, aviation security, rule-making activities and legal activities”
A threat by a country to shoot down an aircraft which is designated for civilian purposes is a provocation of war, and potentially an act of terrorism. It is unbelievable that, within the context of International Civil Aviation, which tends to be neutral, very legalistic and extremely safety conscious, such reckless statements made, officially, by a country are not dealt with firmly and publicly.
It is clear that such statements maintain the isolation of Artsakh, and perpetuate the atmosphere of continuing conflict which will reinforce the reticence of outside bodies from supporting any development opportunities within the country. By this insidious behaviour from Azerbaijan and the rest of the world’s complicit inaction to this immoral behaviour , this inhumane siege of Artsakh continues.
Categories: War and its Legacy