A Lesson for Azerbaijan on How To Win a Vote and Lose a Cause
The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on March 14 reaffirming the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, reiterating the right of return of internally displaced Azerbaijanis, and calling for withdrawal of Armenian forces from “occupied territories.”
Since the resolution was proposed by Azerbaijan and opposed by Armenia, one would have assumed that Baku would be elated with the outcome of the vote, while Yerevan would be licking its wounds. In reality, neither Azerbaijan nor Armenia was happy with the result.
Azerbaijan was displeased for several reasons. To begin with, just 20% of UN member states (39 out of 193) voted in favor of the Azeri resolution. Most of the states supporting the resolution were fellow Muslim countries (28 out of 39). Even then, less than half (28 out of 57) of the states belonging to the Organization of the Islamic Conference voted with Azerbaijan, despite intensive lobbying and threats by Baku not to sell oil and gas to countries not backing the resolution.
Azerbaijan was also displeased that 100 UN member states abstained and 47 others were absent during the vote. Azeri officials were even more unhappy that among the 7 states voting against the resolution were such major powers as the United States, France and Russia -- the three co-chairs of the Minsk Group of mediators on the Artsakh conflict. Matthew Bryza, the US co-chair of the Minsk Group, defended the US vote against Azerbaijan by stating that the resolution was “one-sided” and that it “did not reflect the fair and balanced nature of the [Minsk Group] proposal on the table.” The Azeri Press Agency (APA) claimed that the U.S., France and Russia not only voted against the resolution, but also actively lobbied against its adoption. Mr. Bryza disclosed in an interview with the APA that he had cautioned Azeri officials not to proceed with the resolution.
Instead of listening to Mr. Bryza’s wise counsel, the Azeri leadership recklessly went ahead and forced a vote on a resolution that was not going to get supported by the overwhelming majority of the UN member states, thereby damaging Baku’s interests! In the aftermath of this fiasco, Azerbaijan declared a diplomatic war against the whole world. Azeri officials announced that they would settle political and economic scores with all those states that voted against, abstained from or were absent during the UN General Assembly vote. This means that Azerbaijan will end up antagonizing more than 150 countries -- 80% of the world’s nation states! Furthermore, Azeri officials have sharply criticized the U.S., Russia and France for their opposition to the resolution, and have indicated that they are exploring ways to dissolve or replace the Minsk Group which would completely set back the possibility of resolving the Artsakh conflict in the near future. Azerbaijan has thus succeeded in antagonizing the three most powerful countries in the world.
On the Armenian side, even though Yerevan did not win the vote and did not succeed in blocking the resolution, it took advantage of the Azeri blunder, to announce that Armenia reserves the right to recognize Artsakh as an independent republic, if Azerbaijan tries to side-step the long-standing negotiating process through the Minsk Group.
Since the Baku leadership did such a good job of over-reacting to the UN vote and undermining its interests by antagonizing more than 150 states which did not vote for the resolution, Armenia does not have to exert much effort to counter the UN decision, particularly since it is advisory in nature and does not have a binding effect. Dozens of similar resolutions have been adopted by the UN General Assembly for decades asking Turkey to get out of Northern Cyprus, and Israel to return the "occupied territories." Turkey, Israel and other states have simply ignored such "toothless" resolutions. Armenia will probably do the same.
Finally, Pres. Ilham Aliyev’s increasingly frequent threats to resolve the Artsakh conflict by force are not likely to intimidate the Armenian side. If Azerbaijan were militarily prepared to attack, it would have done so without providing advance warning to Armenia. The fact is that Azerbaijan is not capable of invading Artsakh, let alone start a war with Armenia.
Azerbaijan is still suffering from the tragic consequences of its last failed attack on Artsakh. Even though no one welcomes war, should Azerbaijan attack when it is not militarily ready to do so, it may end up losing even more territory and cause the destruction of its valuable energy infrastructure.