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Integrity and Determination—All About the Nation


June 14, 2006

With the purpose of keeping people informed, newspapers can and should publish, side by side or in sequence, comment pieces offering points and counterpoints concerning conflict situations that affect peace and security.

At some juncture, however, partisan polemics must give way to the consideration of hard facts in order to resolve contemporary divides inherited from the ebb and flow of history. The truth is often harsh and can cause pain to both the messenger and recipient.

None of us—Armenians, Azeris, Turks—can boast a spotless register of state-building, mutual respect for human rights, or even regard for the liberty and dignity of our own citizens. We must do better in having our deeds match our words both individually and in concert.

With regard to Nagorno-Karabakh, understanding the following points is vital:

  • In no way discounting Azeri cultural affinities, Nagorno-Karabakh has been historically and will be in modern times part of the Armenian patrimony. Its forcible inclusion by Stalin in Soviet Azerbaijan had, and continues to have, no juridical basis under international law. For those who might argue that it does, then so should Nagorno-Karabakh’s response to the aggression by Azeri forces, in the form of its 1991 referendum on independence from Soviet Azerbaijan. The referendum was held not only according to universal principles of self-determination and other standards of international practice, but also pursuant to the Soviet Constitution and relevant law on secession.
  • The question at issue is not the indisputable right of today’s Azerbaijan to its territorial integrity, but specifically the lawful frontiers of that integrity. Nagorno-Karabakh’s legitimate quest for decolonization and for sovereign control of its own identity, security and destiny is anchored both in fact and in law. Whether acknowledged or not, it is a precedent established in East Timor, Montenegro and other places yet to come and requires no further foundation.

  • The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s 1992 mediation mandate and the tripartite 1994 ceasefire bear witness, no matter how or how many times you slice it, to the fact that there can be no enduring settlement to the conflict without the full-fledged participation of the republic of Nagorno-Karabakh. That is the bottom line. For its own reasons, the Azerbaijani government in Baku can whip up militant xenophobia, raze the medieval Armenian cemetery at Julfa to the ground and then try with a straight face to deny it. But if it ever means to negotiate, it has to talk to the Nagorno-Karabakh capital of Stepanakert just as much as the Armenian capital of Yerevan.
  • No comprehensive solution on Nagorno-Karabakh will ever be achieved without a synchronized normalization of the Turkish-Armenian relationship based on an honest and brave assessment of history and its contemporary consequences. We cannot build a peaceful and prosperous region, where all political actors are on the same page with regard to security and cooperation, by seeking an escape hatch from the record of genocide and its derivative legacy, however sensitive or inconvenient dealing with this history may be. We’re all grown men and women. It’s time to face the music.
  • Finally, we will be unable to forge a meaningful reconciliation—one that touches the lives of all of the region’s nations and people—without the victory of democracy and rule of law in every jurisdiction, whether considered separately or taken together. There can be no peace, security, realization of national interests or international partnership where tyranny triumphs over liberty and where semi-feudal, post-Soviet verticals of power prejudice the future of forward-looking generations in Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia, Turkey, and the world beyond.

The promise of freedom, justice and equity belongs to all of us, but the long road to its fulfillment must start at home.

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