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Vladimir Kazimirov

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Vladimir Kazimirov, an ambassador, between 1992 and 1996 - head of the Russian mediator mission, Russian presidential plenipotentiary representative for Nagorno-Karabakh, participant and co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group.


Agency WPS DEFENSE and SECURITY (Russia) November 3, 2004, Wednesday

HOW DID THE LANDS AROUND KARABAKH COME TO BE OCCUPIED?

SOURCE: Vremya Novostei, November 1, 2004, p. 5

by Vladimir Kazimirov


VLADIMIR KAZIMIROV, EX-HEAD OF THE RUSSIAN MEDIATORSHIP MISSION IN NAGORNO-KARABAKH: LEADERSHIP OF AZERBAIJAN ALSO SHARES RESPONSIBILITY FOR ESCALATION OF THE HOSTILITIES

Acting on Azerbaijan's initiative, the UN General Assembly will discuss the situation in the Azerbaijani districts beyond Nagorno-Karabakh occupied by Armenian and Karabakh troops. Official Baku claims that the occupiers have been into mischief and atrocities there.

Full occupation of 5 districts of Azerbaijan and partial of 2 more became a result of vicious fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh and around it between 1992 and 1994.

Azerbaijani diplomacy is now trying to switch the attention from the cause (status of Nagorno-Karabakh, the problem it is loath to try and tackle) to an effect (occupied territories). Hence the traditional figure juggling - over 1,000,000 resettlers (are the bona fide 700,000 to 750,000 too few?) and 20% of the territory of Azerbaijan occupied (instead of 9%; in fact, even if Nagorno-Karabakh is counted - and it cannot be regarded as "occupied" - the figure does not amount to 14%). The problem of the occupied territories has never been solved. Both sides are uncompromising. No progress at all has been made in a decade of cease-fire. These days, Baku presents the occupation only as an outcome of Armenian aggression even though there is more to it than Azerbaijan admits.

Suspension of hostilities and a transition to peaceful discussion of moot points would have prevented expansion of the aggression. Not a single square kilometer of land has occupied been occupied since the cease-fire accord arranged with Russia's help in May 1994. I remember how the conflict raged between 1992 and 1994 and how go-betweens were doing their best to put out the fire. Russia pestered the warring sides - directly and via the OSCE Minsk Group - with the proposal of negotiations. Baku and Yerevan were given a lot of chances to put an end to the hostilities. It was usually Baku that dismissed the chance and even went against the already made accords.

A lot of hopes were pinned on the OSCE Minsk Conference. Were it not for the official Baku's demand of withdrawal of the Armenians from the overrun Shusha and Lachin, the conference would have taken place in June 1992.

Instead of the conference, the OSCE Minsk Group was formed. The one Baku regularly criticizes nowadays. On Russia's initiative, the OSCE Minsk Group urged the warring sides to suspend hostilities for 30 days in July 1992 and for 60 days two months later. All to no avail. Yerevan and Stepanakert gave their consent, but it took time to get Baku's cooperation. The Armenians overrun the Kelbadzhar district in April 1993. Resolution 822 of the UN Security Council demanded an immediate suspension of hostilities and withdrawal of all occupiers. Needless to say, Baku supported Armenian pullout from the occupied districts - but not at the cost of suspension of hostilities.

With Russia's help, accords to restrict the hostilities were reached in June 1993. Moscow suggested an extension of the accord by a month on July 3. Stepanakert did not object, but acting defense minister of Azerbaijan Safar Abiyev never bothered to respond to the suggestion. Battle was joined again, and Agdam fell on July 23. A 5-day cease-fire was agreed upon with Russia's help on August 18. When the accord was broken, Azerbaijanis lost Fizuli and Dzhebrail. The then President of Azerbaijan Heidar Aliyev admitted that his regular army had regularly broken the cease-fire accords.

The truce (for 10 days this time) was only resumed on August 31, when the Armenian troops overrun Kubatly. The Kremlin succeeded in extending the truce. It lasted 50 days but the Azerbaijanis wrecked it again and gave the Armenians an excuse to seize all of south-western Azerbaijan.

Russia's attempts to stop the bloodshed in late 1993 failed. I was present when Aliyev and Karabakh leader Robert Kocharjan agreed on a cease-fire as of December 17. Both leaders promised to have the accord officially enacted, but the documents came from Stepanakert alone - Baku clearly stalled for time. I managed to persuade Kocharjan to order an unilateral cease-fire - on the basis of a "gentlemen's accord" (after all, everything had been agreed on the level of the president of Azerbaijan!) - without waiting for the text from Baku. The text from the capital of Azerbaijan came three days later - absolutely unacceptable. Everything had to be cancelled. As it turned out later, Baku used the breathing space to prepare an offensive on a large scale. On December 30, Stepanakert accepted our suggestion of a truce for the New Year festivities but Baku did not even respond to it.

Only in May 1994, after murderous losses and facing the threat of a frontal collapse in the environs of Bardy and Yelakh, the leadership of Azerbaijan suggested a cease-fire. It ended in the truce that has already lasted for more than a decade.

This is not a complete list, in fact. Even this abridged version shows, however, that Baku always relied on sheer strength of arms, overestimating its capacities and using what breathing space occurred only to regroup. Neglect of cease-fire accords and peace initiatives on its part merely extended the war and enabled the Armenians to expand the occupied territory. It means that at least a part of the blame for the escalation of hostilities and, therefore, on the expansion of the occupied territories rests on the authorities of Azerbaijan. The Armenians are not lily-white either, they should have withdrawn, but it is not they who are particularly prone to negativism in the attitude towards peace initiatives.

Unfortunately, Armenian and Azerbaijani young diplomatic services are way too inexperienced yet, unable to avoid half-truths. It has been long since Baku began campaigning for an "unconditional" release of the territories allegedly in accordance with four resolutions of the UN Security Council dated 1993. In fact, however, the term "unconditional" is only used in Resolution 853. Resolutions 822, 874, and 884 do not use the term at all.

And this is why Resolution 884 did not use the term "unconditional". The text of the document makes it plain who broke the cease-fire demand (the major demand in the hostilities and the major demand in all four resolutions) through the war. It was a must for the release of the territories in the first place. So, it was transformed from a must into a matter for bargaining. Neither is Baku worried by its failure to meet other demands of resolutions of the UN Security Council.

These selective approach cannot be missed. Only whoever does not know the first thing about the conflict will take Baku's propagandistic tricks for real concerns. In fact, settlement of the conflict demands efforts on both warring sides.




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