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Artsakh: One Year After the April War

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Posted 31 March 2017 - 11:17 AM

Artsakh: One Year After the April War Michael Mensoian (80 Articles)
Michael Mensoian, J.D./Ph.D, is professor emeritus in Middle East and political geography at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and a retired major in the U.S. army. He writes regularly for the Armenian Weekly
 One year ago, Azerbaijan launched a full-scale military offensive against the Artsakh Republic along the Line of Contact (LoC). Failure by the command structure to heed the available intelligence credits the Azerbaijani forces with a surprise attack that not only put our soldiers at risk, but the civilian population of Artsakh as well.  With some 80 percent of the Armenian population within 20 miles of the LoC, we cannot afford to depend solely on the proven dedication of our soldiers to protect Artsakh.
Talish in the days following the April War (Photo: Ani Avetyan
Unfortunately, nothing can replace real time intelligence and the proper maintenance and availability of equipment and supplies. These failures during the 2016 April War allowed Azerbaijan to extract a dear price in casualties and the loss of strategic terrain, small as it may have been. Note that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group has not objected to Azerbaijan’s occupation of this terrain, nor have they made any effort to have it returned to Artsakh.

Since the April War, there has been no let-up in Azeri sponsored violations. Azerbaijan has continued to attack our forward position with sniper fire, mortar and artillery shells, and never ending probing actions causing casualties that we can ill afford to sustain indefinitely.  The Minsk Group countries seem more concerned with protecting their geostrategic interests vis-a-vis Azerbaijan (as well as with Turkey) than in responding to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s military adventurism that creates a potentially explosive situation along the LoC.

Given the parochial national interests of the Minsk Group countries, their hands-off policy with respect to Azerbaijan is not about to change in the near future, if at all.  In fact, the Co-chairs are as much a part of the problem as is Azerbaijan.

As a result, the passing year has brought us no closer to independence. Negotiations continue, but without any substantive results. President Aliyev’s constant reference to Azerbaijan’s military strength and setting-up Armenians as the strawman for his country’s ills has actually benefitted us. As a result, he has put himself in a position where any compromise could very well result in a coup d’etat by the military, which would end his family’s political and financial dynasty. To strengthen his hold on power, a rigged referendum in 2016 created the position of Vice President, to which the President appointed his wife Mehriban Aliyeva. He is engaged in a high stakes gamble that has no guarantee of success.

Objectively, we are on the losing end of the negotiation process through no fault of our own. However, as has been mentioned many times in the past, the negotiation process was never meant to result in Artsakh’s independence.

Let us look at the recent comment of President Francois Hollande of France, a friend of Armenia. When he met with the Coordinating Council of Armenian Organizations of France in Paris recently he commented that “we must open real negotiations for the resolution of the [Artsakh] conflict. We need to find elements of conflict resolution. We know them: they have been fixed; these are the Madrid principles… They will lead, if they are applied, to the self-determination of Nagorno-Karabagh.” Note the reference to Nagorno-Karabagh and not Artsakh. How can that be of comfort to Artsakh; to the Diasporan Armenians; or to Armenian President Serge Sarkisian (though Sarkisian seems to support evacuating the liberated territories to achieve peace in the region)?


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