Artsakh : Recognition through Common Consent

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At a meeting with Franco-Armenian investors in Paris, Arayik Harutyunyan, the Prime Minister of Artsakh was reported to have said:

“If we manage to end the year peacefully then that will be constructive, but in terms of concrete accords to resolve the conflict, I’m not optimistic for this year,”

This is certainly a very pragmatic and realistic expectation for this year; as it was for last year, and probably will be for next year, and for several years thereafter. It is very difficult to see how, with the impasse that has lasted for nearly 20 years after the ceasefire was agreed , there is any reason for the two sides to move. There is no logic for Azerbaijan to offer an “olive branch” to Artsakh which will give Artsakhians the necessary security assurances in the context of an arrangement which would revert its territorial status back to that of the 1980’s; firmly located, politically, within the borders of Azerbaijan. If this happened then there would be significant movements of Azeris back into Artsakh to even the balance of the populations. For the people of Artsakh, they could never accept an outcome which involved Azerbaijan having any political governance over the territory, at all, and particularly the land bridge of Kashatagh /Lachin which secures the route back to Armenia. Azerbaijan will never accept Armenia having an involvement within Artsakh to assure the protection of its fellow people. Without resolution of these issues there is no formal peace agreement, no referendum and therefore no formal recognition by the international community.

This might sound like a depressing future for Artsakh but the most important issue is that this is accepted for what it is; it can’t be considered as the only option. Artsakh is at a disadvantage to other unrecognised countries in that it has no sea border, and the only route to other economic regions is via a six hour road journey through the mountains to Yerevan. Little surprise that Azerbaijan does not want Stepanakert airport to open with the obvious improvement in connections with external trade. Artsakh has to consider more subtle and humanitarian routes to recognition than the stark, clinical, legal option which necessarily involves the unlikely co-operation with Azerbaijan.

Artsakh should take the option of the dignified “under-dog” – the person who can never beat the “big guy” with “brute force”. For as long as oil is pumped via Baku, Artsakh will never outrival Azerbaijan on sheer global popularity however inequitable that is. It has to win by completely different means, through tactics that are within its control and which are, in themselves, influential.

The developed world respects and places significant credence on proven democracy; where there is no oil, this is essential ( an abundance of oil or economic power can cover for any amount of human rights abuses). This is an absolute priority for Artsakh, as well as the complete eradication of any implication of corruption in the political system, or by politicians; it needs to be seen to be beyond criticism. It needs to act, strongly, on the political stage, positively, in its role as a democratically elected independent state. The Government and the people need to talk, act, believe, engage on the basis that there will never be a return to war, that they have a right to exist and occupy a place in the global society, and that they have a right to connect with other communities and people and that the sole objective is peace, freedom and prosperity.

Artsakh should completely shun and ignore the notion of being a transient, short-lived, temporary phenomena run by “separatists” based on a raw “Nationalist” agenda; a myth perpetrated by the Azerbaijani propaganda machine. It should publicise its breadth of qualities on the educational, cultural, technological and political front and show that it can operate as a fully-functioning mature state that needs to be supported and not suppressed, or subjugated.

The more that people hear about Artsakh, see it appear in many guises, in many different “theatres”, and behave responsibly as a 21st Century entity which is concerned entirely about the future, and not dwelling on the past, the more that eventually other states will recognise it. Formal recognition is not the only end point, it is an end point. Recognition by Common Consent and respect may seem like a long hard road but it will be the most sustainable and secure option for the People of Artsakh in the long term.

In order to achieve this outcome, the People and Government of Artsakh, as well as the people in the Diaspora, must work together and believe that such an approach can make the difference. This requires strong focussed leadership, and sheer force of will of everybody.

For the sake of Artsakh – this must happen.

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