EDITORIAL: Armenian-Azerbaijani Tensions

Tensions between Azerbaijan and its Armenian neighbours have been straining noticeably over recent months. Armenia has endured resent and endless rhetoric from Azerbaijan since the war for the liberation of Artsakh ended in victory for the Armenian side. Azerbaijan has since never abandoned its desire to reclaim the land, despite Artsakh’s near-100% Armenian population and the People’s constant defense of their right to self-determination and autonomy.

In February this year the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, outright declared that “Armenians of the world” are the enemies of his country. This public statement led to Armenia’s boycott of the Eurovision Song Contest hosted by Azerbaijan in May, for fear of the participants’ security and mistreatment while on Azeri soil. This decision came despite an attempt at reversing the damage caused by Aliyev’s words when the Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan was quoted as saying that they “treat the Armenians normally enough”. Firstly this is in direct contradiction of the president’s feelings. Furthermore, such words are of little comfort when coming from a country which is known to have a despicable human rights record towards its own citizens. Just recently countless families were savagely uprooted and had their homes demolished in order to create a more aesthetically pleasing view of Azerbaijan for the Eurovision audience. “Normal” is a relative term and so with a reputation like theirs it’s understandable where Armenia’s reluctance stemmed from.

Military activity between Azerbaijan and Armenians in Artsakh, despite an internationally recognised ceasefire, occurs frequently too. Azeri forces have executed sniper attacks and even small skirmishes on villages. This is the country which was recently ranked first in the world in terms of its growth rate of arms – a finding made by an independent international research institute. A recent violation came earlier this month (June 5th) when Azeri armed forces crossed the border into Armenia and attacked the Tavush region, but their military effort was thwarted when five soldiers were killed in action by Armenia’s border guards.

It’s important to note that this latest instance is of particular significance since it was an attack directly on Armenia. All other military activities have been targeted towards Artsakh: a more understandable, yet still inexcusable, target for them as they’re still fuming about losing the territory in the ‘90’s. But this defeat should stand as a message to Aliyev: let it be clear that before him stands men who fear losing their ancestral land immeasurably more than he desires gaining it. Vast and expensive weaponry will not be sufficient in conquering that land.

Azerbaijan’s conduct should sound alarm bells in the minds of western leaders, making them question the ties they have with such a country and how they interact with its leaders. However, for example, Hillary Clinton speaks softly on these matters to Azerbaijan rather than confidently asserting, with the weight of the USA behind her, a need for better conduct and adherence to laws. Meanwhile the UK seems to ignore the issue, and the region, altogether: whether anything more could be expected from our government is debatable.

For the time being America treads on eggshells around Azerbaijan seemingly forgetful of their position as a world superpower with an evolved, western mentality. Regarding Britain it can be said that their silence is linked to their dependence on Azerbaijan for a steady supply of petroleum. All in all the western powers are doing a poor job of demonstrating their claims of being advocates of world peace.

— Heros Jojaghaian

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