The Italian political scientist and academic Francesco Trupia is one of the authors that have been writing on the Karabakh conflict, having friends and contacts in both Armenia and Azerbaijan. Cross-border Talks discussed with him about the pre-history of the conflict, to understand what events led to the recent escalation in September 2023. We asked him about what this conflict changes for Karabakh Armenians, the Armenian state, Azerbaijan, Russia, Turkey, Iran and the EU. At the end, we challenged him – could the end of the Karabakh question, in spite of great human toll, destruction and loss, bring anything positive. Trupia believes that the Karabakh issue was hijacked by the nationalist leaders of the Karabakh clan in Armenia and Azerbaijan who never recognised the agency of Karabakh Armenians. Also, in discussions about Karabakh, it’s been often argued that Armenians are victims, but it has been ignored that there are hundreds of thousands of Azeri refugees from that conflict too.
The entire transcription is available below the video.
00:55 Cross-border Talks’ interlocutor Francesco Trupia
01:50 A historical review of the Karabakh conflict
12:00 What was the life of Armenians in Karabakh after 2020 and what is their future now?
18:30 Azerbaijan is affirming itself even more as the hegemon in Southern Caucasus
25:17 Armenians’ feeling of being betrayed by Russia
31:57 Turkiye’s role in South Caucasus
36:10 Iran’s concern for the developments in South Caucasus
40:15 Could the loss of Karabakh bring positive transformation to Armenia?
45:56 EU’s position with regards to the conflict in Karabakh: the silence of “the liberal empire”
49:49 Who was right in this conflict? Could it have ended in a better way?
Vladimir Mitev: Welcome to another Cross-border Talk! After some pause in the summer of 2023, we are back to reflection on international relations and their dramatic development. We start with the issue of September, which is the military defeat of the Nagorno-Karabakh army and what appears to be the final victory of Azerbaijan, which changes balances in Caucasus and leads to many people fleeing their birthplaces.
We are going to discuss various issues related to the Karabakh or Artsakh conflict, with Francesco Trupia, who is an Italian, involved in the Faculty of Humanities at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Poland. He has a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Sofia. He has traveled on various occasions to Armenia, including to Karabakh, and he is, in my view, very sensitive on both theoretical and interpersonal human dimensions of the issues he studies. You might remember him from an interview he gave to us about Kosovo and about how the Serbian minority has its own subjectivity and is not just a proxy of the larger state to the north.
So, Francesco, first of all, let us start our talk with a kind of summing up of the legal and the de facto situation in Nagorno-Karabakh or Artsakh Republic on the eve of the last escalation. What was the UN position on how the question of Karabakh should be resolved? Perhaps we have to also say how exactly this Karabakh republic appeared. It was never recognized by anyone and how all that happened in the last three years, let’s say, was influenced by the changing balances in the region between Turkey and Russia. Turkey has been growing in strength while Russia perhaps withdraws or surrenders its allies. So let us start with some kind of a context and summing up what was the situation before the conflict.
Thank you very much, Vladimir, for having me and for your kind introduction.
Your question is interesting yet complicated, because when we talk about the conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh, we are talking about a conflict that was frozen for a couple of years after 1994 when the Armenians from Karabakh, Armenia proper and Azerbaijan managed to agree on a ceasefire agreement in Rome. And after that, there have been many changes, including the latest escalation, which was considered to be an anti-terrorism operation led by the Azeri army. Also there was a war in 2020, which in my opinion was the real changing situation for the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and the situation between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Of course, in order to recollect or to summarize what really happened over the last three decades or even more, we have to start in 1988, when the Soviet Union was still alive, even in the South Caucasus. Armenia and Azerbaijan were two socialist republics within the Soviet Union. Ethnic tensions that were mounting within these two republics, ending up in an open confrontation, a military confrontation between the Armenians from Karabakh and the Azerbaijan state, which was becoming an independent state, just like Armenia.
At the very beginning, we had the end of the Soviet Union and the Soviet administration in both countries between 1989 and 1991, and the independence of the two Caucasian nations. At the same time, this independence was characterized by the rise of this conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. When we focus on the Karabakh region, most of the time it is a matter of how we interpret this region and how we frame it and we understand it. You have mentioned the Karabakh conflict, and then you mentioned the Artsakh, which is the name through which Armenians recognize the land, the contested region. Over the last 30 years it has always been Karabakh, not even Nagorny, which is a Russian term indicating the very height of the mountains in that region. And right now, after 2020, Azerbaijani policy is refusing even to recognize the existence of Nagorno-Karabakh, but only recognizes it as a region within Azerbaijan.
So what really happened between the first Karabakh war and the second Karabakh war, which happened in 2020? There was a period of time where Armenia, Azerbaijan tried together with the international community to reach an agreement. But in my opinion, Azerbaijan had a winning position. They wanted to get all possible positive results from the conflict. Armenia wanted to to have a recognition of the de facto republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, while one didn’t accept this kind of situation, having in mind that the Nagorno-Karabakh region, according to the international law, was always recognized as part of a rebellion, but de facto was never under Azeri control before 2020. This has also been a huge problem when it comes to not even the reconciliation, but starting to unfreeze the conflict.
Throughout the years, there have been many changes. There was even a four day war in 2016, and actually I was there living in Armenia and I visited Karabakh after that escalation. The situation didn’t change much on the ground, but in my opinion, on that occasion, Armenia and Armenians from Karabakh started to understand that a new war was about to come. It happened after four years, in 2020, and it was the final war that changed completely the situation on the ground, just as president Aliyev is all the time reminding to all possible international actors and in his own country that he rules hegemonically.
When we need to understand Nagorno-Karabakh, we have to understand the region which was part of Soviet Azerbaijan, but in an autonomous form of administration. It was called the Autonomous Oblast of Nagorno-Karabakh. And when the war started, the first Karabakh war, Armenians didn’t only take control of the Nagorno-Karabakh of the oblast, but also of the surrounding areas, around the Nagorno-Karabakh, like the region of Aqdam, Kubali, Fizuli. In 2009, the Minsk Group came up with Madrid principles where basically Armenians and Azerbaijan were supposed to agree on some principles, like the recognition of the sovereignty of Azerbaijan. But at the same time, Azerbaijan was supposed to start an opening dialogue with the Armenians of Karabakh in order to give them some kind of recognition -cultural or political autonomy, which unfortunately not only ended up in nothing concretely speaking, because once again, Armenia and Azerbaijan did not manage to compromise even over those Madrid principles. But then it is that the premises of that kind of agreement and apple of discord were resolved by force in 2020. And in 2020, the end of the war basically signified the capitulation of the de facto republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, which, by the way, was even recognized by international scholars, as the best de facto state functioning within the the post-Soviet space in a comparison between other de facto states like the Transnistria in Moldova, the South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia, and then after 2014, the so-called Donbas region with the People’s Republic, the de facto People’s Republics of Lugansk and Donetsk. And so in that situation, the Russian peacekeepers came after a kind of agreement which has always been called a peace agreement.
The peace agreement has yet to be signed, because in that document that was signed up by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia in the role of mediator, there was an agreement of not having claims over each other’s sovereignty. Azerbaijan had to respect the sovereignty of Armenia, while Armenia had to respect the sovereignty of Azerbaijan, therefore recognizes that recognizing Nagorno-Karabakh as part of a separation, also having a peacekeeping operation led by the Russians for a period of five years and possibly other five years, if the situation on the ground was not still secure for the Armenian population. Unfortunately, as we speak, almost half of the population of the region still controlled by Armenians has left the region itself and has ended up in the southern part of Armenia. Basically everyone is leaving. This is a telling situation for understanding why the two nations have never managed to compromise and to reach an agreement over the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.
You mentioned that the Armenians of Karabakh are leaving and that makes me ask you, um, what was their life like after the 2020 Karabakh escalation and what awaits them now? There are claims that Azerbaijan will somehow create a multinational society. At the same time, tens of thousands of Armenians from Karabakh have already fled towards Armenia. So what to expect in this regard? What was the human situation after 2020 and what is the human situation that will follow now?
After the war of 2020, the so-called 44 Day War, the life of Armenians in Karabakh was a life in uncertainty, deep uncertainty – not only because the Armenians couldn’t have the control of the region, and not only by the fact that the Azerbaijanis were very close to them. We have to consider the fact that for some generations of Armenians from Karabakh, it was something new. If the old generation remembered what it meant to live side by side with Azerbaijanis during the Soviet time, for the youngest generations of Armenians of Karabakh and the youngest generation of Azerbaijanis in Azerbaijan, it was impossible to have such kind of knowledge, experience, smemory. It was something completely new and something to a certain extent unexpected for ordinary Armenians in Karabakh.
The only guarantor of the security was the Russian peacekeeping operation, which throughout the last two years basically, and especially in the last period of tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan, didn’t really provide the security that Armenians were expecting from them to implement. This kind of security was always put at stake by the Azerbaijani policy. Within the international and legal framework Russians were there just for a peacekeeping operation, but they couldn’t have the last word in reimagining or reorganizing the region as they wished.
Because of the war in Ukraine, we understand that Russia has been very busy recently. Therefore, the positioning of the Russian peacekeepers and the position of Moscow towards the South Caucasus and the conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh has been nothing more than a mediator, most of the time of a mediation which was not very easy to handle. And in a position between Azerbaijan and Armenia, it was not easy to hold.
What are the prospects of Armenians now? It’s very sad, because in the last three days, just in three days, half of the population has reached Armenia proper. They have left the region of Nagorno-Karabakh because they do not trust the Azerbaijani coming to take control of the whole of the whole region. Neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan have implemented any kind of face to face contact or reconciliation project or any kind of post-war or post-conflict project or something that could have given the opportunity to ordinary people, especially the Azerbaijanis who fled the region during the first Karabakh war, and the Armenians in Karabakh who managed to stay even after the second Karabakh war, to meet and gain minimum trust. This kind of lack of confidence with the other or with the other person, with the would be neighbor has resulted in the fact that Nagorno-Karabakh most probably will be completely cleansed from Armenians. In the future they will be having an accommodation in Armenia, in the Republic of Armenia.
The question is whether Armenia is ready to accept this mass migration. If we consider other kinds of mass migration or the refugee crisis in the Balkans in 2015, the migration crisis from Karabakh to Armenia seems to be very manageable. But at the same time, we are considering the fact that Armenia is a very small country with almost 3 million people and welcoming 100,000 people could be very, very difficult for the Republic of Armenia, which seems to be completely unprepared for such a scenario. The other question would be how come that Armenia was not prepared to for such kind of scenario for the worst case scenario, and this is a question that many Armenians are asking right now and even asking for the resignation of Nikol Pashinyan for not being prepared for this scenario, which we are we are witnessing right now.
We see the victory of Azerbaijan. What is changing now for this country, which is becoming more and more influential? It was a partner to the European Commission in a deal to deliver green energy via Black Sea cable to Romania, Hungary and further into Europe. It is a partner when deliveries of natural gas for south eastern Europe are being discussed. It has a lot of money not only for the army but also for affirming its positions, making events and conferences, presenting the country, its elites and modern and international leaders. Is Azerbaijan becoming a kind of a new hegemon in South Caucasus?
I have to say that in my opinion, Azerbaijan has been already recognized as the hegemon in the region and not only in the region. Geopolitically speaking, Azerbaijan is standing in between Asia and in Europe and standing in a very favorable position for the future of the country. Having in mind that Azerbaijan has always been very close to Turkey for cultural, linguistic and ethnic reasons, but also with the Central Asian states, across which Turkey has always tried to to implement its politics and international influence, of course, also balancing with Russia. And I’m talking about Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and other possible post-Soviet states.
When it comes instead on the side of the West, Azerbaijan has managed to to develop relations on many different levels, as you said, with Western partners and with the European Union. I think this is the real elephant in the room, because right now we see the Armenian community complaining about the silence of the European Union. But the fact that the European Union has never taken a serious position, which is explained by the fact that the Azerbaijani government is providing energy to Western Europe, to the European Union, not in a very transparent way.
There are thousands of reports talking about the career diplomacy of Azerbaijan. And also we have to to have a look at international think tanks and international reports – from Amnesty International to Transparency International, even Freedom House, for instance, who are evaluating the level of democracy of Azerbaijan as basically non-existing. We are talking about a country which is extremely authoritarian in its institutions and in civil society. Right now the latest escalation of violence in Karabakh was followed by arrest of a few peace activists in Azerbaijan who were trying to raise a critical voice against what Azerbaijan is doing in the western part of his country and in Karabakh proper.
We are talking about, once again, a situation where the European Union cannot be justified for its position. And it’s not very far back in time where the Von der Leyen from the European Union traveled to Baku and affirmed that Azerbaijan is a trustworthy partner and that the EU could rely on this kind of leadership, like the leadership of Aliyev, which is basically controlling everything and everyone in the country. It’s a one person state or one family state. Perhaps the last escalations are making Western countries think about this partnership with Azerbaijan. But in my opinion, nothing will change.
We are also understanding that the new geopolitical situation, namely the fact that the European Union and the West has broken all possible ties with Russia, especially in the case of Germany, for example, has brought the European Union to rethink its position eastwards. Therefore, Azerbaijan was, I have to say, the easiest partner to flirt with. And this kind of flirting has been ongoing the last couple of years, if not decades.
For instance, Italy has become one of the best friends of Azerbaijan. During a visit of Italian Minister of Defense, Guido Crosetto, to Baku, they didn’t say a word about the situation in Karabakh. And it’s very strange because we, the West, have always been ”very concerned”, with all possible violations of human rights. Paradoxically, nobody has been talking about the situation in Karabakh or what Azerbaijan has been doing. Of course, it’s a very tricky issue for the West. The region is not very known by many Western media or sometimes it’s very misunderstood. If you listen to both sides, you receive two different stories and no space for a compromise. But at the same time, I have to say that this kind of relationship between Azerbaijan and the West has become and I think that will become more and more the elephant in the room for the European Union and for the West as a whole.
You mentioned a few times that Russia has been weakened and dealing with other issues, for example, in Ukraine. But how should we evaluate the role of Russia in the conflict in Karabakh in the last few years? Perhaps we should bear in mind that there is a feeling of betrayal among Armenian elites, if I am not mistaken.
You are not mistaken actually. And why Russia played a role in the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh? My answer would be business as usual. Russia wanted to keep control over the region by having the boots on the ground in Karabakh, trying to mediate with Azerbaijan and try to convince Armenia that this decision or that decision could have been better for them if Russia was there. Now we have seen that many Armenians are criticizing and even complaining about Russia. This is something not completely new.
I remember that in the in the escalation of 2016, I was in Yerevan and I saw with my eyes a bunch of young Armenians going to the Russian embassy complaining about the fact that the military equipment used by Azerbaijan against Nagorno-Karabakh for the liberation of those territories was a Russian-made military equipment. Those protests overlook the fact that perhaps the real change maker was the military equipment given by Israel to Azerbaijan. And this has been continuing over the last couple of years. So we don’t always have and only Russia. There are also other states involved, like Israel that in my opinion, is flirting with that in order to have a stand against Iran and potential claims of Azerbaijan over the Azeri and Turkic minority in the northern part of Iran, like in Tabriz.
So you have a very complicated geopolitical situation. And I think that Russia is losing grip over the region because now, paradoxically, if the last escalation of violence – this anti-terrorism operation is going to resolve the whole issue, the Russian peacekeepers have nothing to do there. There won’t be Armenians in Karabakh. So what’s the point? And of course, Putin and Aliyev will be doing business as usual, especially in the context of the Caspian Sea, which gives us also the idea that the gas and the energy we are getting from Azerbaijan is not just Azerbaijani, but also it’s Russian to a certain extent.
So this is also another issue that nobody wants to address and acknowledge in the Western in the European Union. The fact that we have broken our ties with Russia doesn’t mean that we are not getting energy from Russia through Azerbaijan. And Russia has completely lost its credit among Armenians. I think that just a few Armenians or some pro-Russian Armenians are going to defend the position of Russia in the region. I think that because of the war in Ukraine, Russia has been very disorientated around the South Caucasus. Once the situation will be solved, there won’t be any kind of issue to take care of for the Russians and for Russia itself. Perhaps now the real issue at stake is how Russia is going to behave with Armenia, having in mind that a couple of days before the the latest escalation of events in September 2023, Nikol Pashinyan said that Russia cannot be considered the only actor that can guarantee security to Armenia and in Armenia, having in mind that Armenia is hosting Russian military area in the in the northern part of the of the country. So there are not only Russian soldiers in Azerbaijan, like the so-called peacekeepers, but also Russian soldiers in Armenia.
And I had the feeling that because of what happened, Armenia will be looking more and more at the West rather than at the East, even though I think this is an open question and Armenian Parliament has to discuss further this matter. Once again, given the circumstances, Armenia’s future looks quite complicated, geopolitically speaking. Perhaps fixing the situation in Karabakh could give the country the opportunity to grow, to unlock its position in the Caucasus, because we have to remember that Armenia is not only a small country, but also it is surrounded by basically what many Armenians right now consider two enemies, Azerbaijan on the east and the west, because we have also the exclave of Nakhichevan, and then Turkey on the other side. And this kind of enmity, which has been trying to be solved also recently with diplomatic visiting of the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Armenia and the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Turkey, in my opinion, has to be considered through the prism of recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide. Neither Turkey nor Azerbaijan recognize the genocide which unfotunately Armenians went through in 1915. And this has been once again another issue of trust between the three nations.
Turkey and Iran are two important neighbors of Armenia. I am also curious about their role. Turkey probably continues its expansion in the region with its ally Azerbaijan, being victorious. But what is their attitude towards the conflict in Karabakh and what will be their further actions?
Turkey has not only historically supported Azerbaijan, but has always played a very big role in the conflict. For instance, in the second Karabakh war Turkey and Turkish military personnel were in Karabakh, fighting on the side of Azerbaijanis. To a certain extent, I have the feeling that they have also been leading some military operations together with Azerbaijan. That’s why a couple of days after the ceasefire agreement between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia in the role of mediator, the president of Azerbaijan, Aliyev organized a victory parade. Erdogan was standing next to him and celebrating the victory. It gives the idea especially to Armenians and in Armenia, that Armenians were not only fighting Azerbaijanis and Azerbaijan in the war, but also Turkey, involved in the region. This has been materialized concretely in the establishment of the monitoring center Aqdam – one of the liberated territories nearby, the formerly autonomous oblast of Nagorno-Karabakh, where there were not only the Azerbaijanis and the Russians, but also the Turkish military personnel monitoring the ceasefire agreement and any kind of violations in the region.
So definitely Turkey is playing a big role in the South Caucasus, standing with Azerbeijan and trying to convince Armenia that opening the borders would give the country the opportunity to grow economically. And there have been some reports and documents circulating right now on the Internet saying that fixing the problem of Karabakh could boost the economy of the region at the local international level. But I had the feeling that the lack of trust between these three populations, Armenians, Azerbaijanis and Turkish people,are the real issue to be considered. I don’t know how economy can be boosted by these three people who are supposed to cooperate between each other. I wouldn’t imagine in one year or even 2-3 years having a start-up, for instance, where the president is, I don’t know, a Turkish person, the research director is an Armenian and logistics expert is from Azerbaijan.
Perhaps I’m wrong and I really hope that I’m wrong, but when I was living in Armenia and after following for many years the situation not only on the ground but through personal contacts that I have with friends that I have in Azerbaijan and and Armenians, I have the feeling that they do not really trust each other. And after what happened in the last couple of years, this lack of trust is not just an issue but has become the real problem for the future of the region.
I also wanted to ask you about Iran, because Iran has been very careful in its region. And there is a low level of relations with Azerbaijan right now, and they’re seen as being too close to Israel.
On the other hand, Iran was relying on the south-north corridor through Armenia, for its politics in the South Caucasus. What is changing after the end of the Karabakh conflict for Iran?
Iran has always said that and declared officially that the country won’t tolerate any kind of border changing. Whatever happens within Nagorno-Karabakh, therefore within the borders of Azerbaijan, is not an Iranian business. However, given the fact that Azerbaijan has always used a very subtle rhetoric when it comes to corridors and opening of the borders and the return of Azerbaijanis in their homelands, and they have always established so-called western Azerbaijani communities, some experts, especially in Armenia, has been paying attention to the fact that the next step could be an aggression by Azerbaijan towards the southern part of Armenia. So basically cutting off the relations and the border region between Armenia and Iran – a complete corridor that would unite Azerbaijan proper with the exclave Nakhichevan and Turkey and cutting off Iran from their relations with with the physical and territorial relation of of Iran, with Armenia, therefore cutting Iran of access only to Armenia, but especially to Russia and to the Black Sea.
Geopolitically speaking, Iran has not played a role in the conflict, even though sometimes they were footage and some videos sharing some kind of supplies from Iran to Armenia. It has not been clarified, at least to my knowledge, if Iran was really supporting Armenians in Karabakh. I don’t think so. Otherwise Azerbaijan will have stated that clearly.
But the position right now in this time of uncertainty for Iran, is quite complicated because as you said, there is a very strong relationship between Azerbaijan and Israel. At the same time, there is a very big Azeri community in the northern part of Iran, which some commentators in Azerbaijan say they refer to the region as the South Azerbaijan or the the Western South Azerbaijan. At the same time, there is also the problem of balancing its position in the region. So accepting what is happening in Nagorno-Karabakh, having mutual relations with Turkey, with Armenia, and at the same time trying to restore the relationships between itself and Baku and Azerbaijan. What the future would look like? I’m not really an expert on Iran. Perhaps you are, and for sure you know better than me. But the conflict could also resolve some kind of bilateral relations between Azerbaijan or Iran or perhaps after the war there could be some escalation of some kind of tensions between the two countries.
Okay, we need to return to Armenia. And I want to ask something provocative. Could the loss of Karabakh bring some positive transformation to Armenia? Some people, at least in Bulgaria, claim that Bulgaria’s loss of Macedonia has allowed for positive transformation, for our elites to focus on things that affirm the nation, bring our resources together. Maybe I just ask provocatively, of course, maybe it sounds cynical, of course, against the catastrophe in Karabakh, but could this change also bring something good for Armenia?
It’s interesting that you compare the situation of Armenia with Bulgaria and the loss of Macedonia, because I think right now the situation between North Macedonia and Bulgaria is not entirely solved or not solved at all. But besides that, of course, in theory, Armenia could benefit from the fact that the country won’t have the need to spend money on military equipment, for instance, even though many argued that the new composition of the region will bring Armenia to the need to boost its military organization. And perhaps having a better military organization in the country could avoid any kind of danger coming from Azerbaijan or even from Turkey. Of course, these are just speculations coming out of the blue or in time of deep uncertainty and chaos in Armenia.
So in theory, yes, it could boost the economy of Armenia. It could boost the relationships between Armenia and the two countries. But once again, I’m not pretty sure about the grassroots level. How can Armenians imagine themselves living side by side with open borders from and to Azerbaijan and Turkey after the disaster of the second Karabakh war and the first Karabakh war and now the last operation that put an end to the de facto republic of Nagorno-Karabakh. I think that we have to imagine the whole situation upside down with the need to always talk about international relations and boosting the economy. Of course, this will follow up if and only if there is trust between people and the kind of relations that can be reestablished on a daily basis and the image of the other nation, the other neighbor will change completely. And in order to do that, if we compare other post-conflict scenarios, I think that that kind of ideal scenario will take time and maybe more time than we are expecting at this stage.
What would happen with the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh clan in Armenian politics?
I think that the Karabakh clan has already disappeared. Of course it is influential to a certain extent. But I think the history of the Karabakh clan can teach Armenians that it was not only Azerbaijan who put an end to the existence of the so-called and de facto republic of Nagorno-Karabakh. But I think that also the Karabakh clan is complicit in the loss of Karabakh from the Armenian side, because these politicians have been just counting their chickens and they have been making and seeking their own vested interest in Armenia. Of course, they were recognized as soldiers, you know, heroes of the first Karabakh war. But after that, nothing has changed. And I think that the future of this group of politicians is basically null and void. And we can just remind ourselves that after the second Karabakh war, there were snap elections in Armenia and Pashinyan, who was the leader who lost the war in the eyes of Armenians was reelected. So I think that even among Armenians, in spite of the the stress, the anxiety and the uncertainty, they know the nickel position is the only alternative left for the country, otherwise, other people looking like having like a pedigree, like those in the Karabakh clan will take the country to a much darker situation for the future.
Then what can we say about the position of the European Union, this liberal empire, as some people call it, with regards to the conflict in Karabakh? It has a lot of energy and other ties to Azerbaijan. At the same time, Armenians have a large diaspora in some European countries. So what was the right balance and what was the right solution for the conflict from the standpoint of human rights and liberalism?
Armenian diaspora was quite strong, especially in France, for instance, but also the Azerbaijani diaspora was always very present in their public discussion of the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh, backed by the much larger Turkish diaspora, for instance, in Germany. The position of the European Union towards the conflict… Right now I think it’s showing its paradox. It’s very paradoxical the fact that the West, before the latest anti-terrorism operation, was not talking at all about the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh or claimed protection of human rights, but without really mentioning and quoting the real problem or accusing or even criticizing Azerbaijan for its policy towards towards the region.
On the one level, we had many experts, many commentators, not only Armenians, but also international experts saying that the prospect of Nagorno-Karabakh could be a complete ethnic cleansing of the Armenian population. And nobody was listening to these kinds of voices, because the standpoint of the European Union is that Aliyev is a trustworthy leader. Azerbaijan is a strategic partner, and because of the war in Ukraine, the European Union, had to diversify its geopolitical position eastwards. And when it came to secure the energy, resources and gas resources, Azerbaijan was playing, is playing and will be playing a pivotal role in in this kind of sector and this kind of perspective.
So right now, I think, personally speaking, that the union has a right now trying to rethink things. Perhaps there are some Western actors who are right now perhaps thinking about their relationship with that Serbian. But as I said, I think that nothing concretely will change. But Azerbaijan is paramount for the future of the European Union for a couple of projects that are going from Azerbaijan through Turkey up to to to the southern part of Europe up north. And at the same time, the price to pay once again is basically the price for human rights and that violation of human rights that haven’t been a matter of concern for the European Union, but only securing the energy resources was the real objective of the European Union, especially in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the war against Ukrainians. You mentioned liberalism. It’s very problematic because the liberal world, I think, that at the end of the day has never really, how can I frame that has never really attempted to protect human rights when interests were involved in the policy making.
Really final question – who had the ethical, juridical and all the other rights – who was right in this conflict? And also, now that it is already resolved, could there have been a better resolution to this conflict?
I think that we have to address this question on different levels. And at the same time, we can take in consideration this question like who was right, who was wrong from different perspectives.
I don’t have an answer that can give recognition to both parties. We are talking about an ethnic conflict that has ossified the relationships between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in everyday life. I think that what we are witnessing right now is the result of this kind of lack of trust between the two populations. I might give my solution or what. It could have been a project for the future of Karabakh.
Definitely the recognition of the cultural and political autonomy of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh who have avoided the war of 2020 and therefore avoiding also the scenario that stemmed from that kind of war and that kind of recognition or whatever couldn’t be achieved by Armenians without the precondition of giving the same level of recognition to the almost 1 million Azeri internally displaced persons who had to leave and who were forced to leave their their homeland around Karabakh and even inside Karabakh.
What I’m trying to say is that unfortunately, over the course of 30 years, the conflict and the resolution of the latter has been completely hijacked by the toxic leaderships of the Karabakh clan in Armenia and the President Aliyev and his people in power in Azerbaijan. In doing that, we have seen how the agency of Armenians from Karabakh and of Karabakh has been completely destroyed. Imagine that in the peace fight agreement of 1994, the document was mentioning the institutions, the de facto institution of Armenians. Since then, the strategy of Azerbaijan was always to attack Armenia and always to refer to Armenia by ignoring on purpose the fact that there was an agency, a local agency of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. Nowadays the situation is that and the rhetoric of Azerbaijan and its institutions is that there is no Nagorno-Karabakh at all, which means denial of what happened and who was living there. Even the recognition of cultural rights now seems not even an option on the table. And at the same time, by always accusing Armenia and the Armenians of having occupied the land, there was no space to discuss about the 1 million IDPs, as I said, that are waiting to return to their homeland. In other words, to conclude very, very briefly, the problem of this conflict has been always related to the people who do not have trust nowadays. They don’t trust each other and think the peace reconciliation will be a very difficult path to go through the both nations in the South Caucasus, but also the fact that somehow the local agency of people of Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenians and Azerbaijanis have been completely hijacked, destroyed, if not denied, by the leadership of the two countries.
Okay, Francesco, thank you very much. Maybe it’s a cliche, but truly remarkable people and nations may be recognized in moments of failure and loss, not so much in moments of victory. We need to keep an eye on the South Caucasus continuously and be aware of the human price which is paid for what is going on there. And also as people from the European Union and West, and media people, we need to discuss more about what is going on. So thank you and let our listeners and viewers follow us continuously on social networks like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Spotify. Thank you.