Center for National and International Studies
“… One cannot trust Russia …”
The FB community continues to discuss the Russian peacekeepers and the implementation of the provisions of the trilateral ceasefire agreement, denounce non-withdrawal of Armenian forces from Karabagh, express concern over the disputed demarcation of the golden deposit of Zod, and Armenian resistance towards evacuating from the Lachin region in violation of the agreement, the resolution of the French senate on the recognition of Upper Karabagh/Artsakh, decry the attack on the opposition by president Aliyev in his appeal to people while neglecting the social problems of war veterans, criticize the new decree about protection of children and absence of provision for child benefits within it and discuss plans for post-war development.
The activists, journalists and bloggers continue to express their protest against bringing in Russian peacekeepers. They widely share past interviews of prominent public figures such as the late Vafa Guluzade (foreign affairs adviser to a number of presidents) and Hikmet Hajizade, the former ambassador to Russia, who warned against Russian troops in the country. The FB community focuses on the implementation of the trilateral ceasefire agreement. It stresses with concern, that while Russia is strengthening its military presence in the Lachin corridor, nothing has changed in the Megri-Nakhichevan corridor arrangements – the establishment and protection of a 5km corridor, which shows Russia’s absence of interest in this provision. The activists urge the government to accelerate the construction of the corridor to Nakhichevan. There is significant dissatisfaction with the resistance of the Armenian settlers to leave a few villages in the Lachin region. The head of the Lachin (Berdzor) community, Narek Alexanian, announced that citizens of Lachin city, Ahavno and Susun towns may stay in their places. The activists demand the government in order to monitor the implementation of the schedule of withdrawal to announce each village and town being freed from the Armenian troops, as well as express reaction to the statements of Armenia regarding Lachin and Zod golden mines. They report burning of the unique forests of the Lachin region. Ali Karimli the leader of the Popular Front Party argues that strengthening of Turkey in the region benefits Azerbaijan first of all, the government of which should promote it.
The FB community shares concern with reference to the minister of defence of Armenia, Vagarshak Arutyunian, about the Armenian army not planning to withdraw from Upper Karabagh. It also shares the Azadlyg newspaper’s article that the Russian military loads for the peacekeepers were transported via railroad Yalama-Baku, Yevlakh-Barda. Then under the control of the military police of the Azerbaijan Defence Ministry, the loads were transported from Barda via Agdam to Khankendi.
There are hundreds of Azerbaijani people moving to the liberated territories, making and sharing photos and videos on FB along the way. The police and troops are assisting them, but there is a high risk of the exploding of mines, as has happened to a few people already.
The e-media reports that Armenia has been mining the Zod golden field on the occupied Kelbajar region since 1998 and has produced 5 tons of gold together with the Canadian company “First Dynasty Mines Ltd”.
The FB community, above all the generation of the national-democratic movement of the 90s, responds with indignation to president Aliyev’s blaming the first democratic government and the late foreign minister Tofig Gasimov for the loss of Kelbajar. Many argue that Gasimov was the best foreign minister in all the post-Soviet period, who was a man of integrity and managed to achieve the adoption of the UNSC resolutions on the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied territories. They comment on the new decree in the “Action plan on implementation for 2020-5 of the national strategy related to children” that ‘forgot’ to restore the child benefits cancelled in 2006.
The activists and journalists share information reflected in the Western media about breaking the fence and dispute over the Zod goldfields and stress the necessity to retake control over that part (near 70%) as reflected in the pre-conflict maps of the two states, urging the Ministry of Defence to make a statement. The activists express their concern about the demarcation process between the two states and demand the announcement of village-by-village withdrawal from the occupied territories.
Postwar rehabilitation. Experts, politicians and journalists widely discuss the plans for rehabilitation of the liberated territories. They remind that the Armenians never lived in Lachin and along the road from Khankendi–Armenia, so the Azerbaijanis should return to the city. They consider that a special government commission should be created to pay compensation and to improve social conditions of those who fought in the war. Gubad Ibadoglu, economics expert and leader of the ADR, announced the first meeting of the independent group on assessment of the damage to the country as a result of the conflict. The commission invited be joined by economists, econometricians, statistics experts, financers, accountants, assessors, architects, engineers etc. Meydan TV reports the contradiction in the approach to rehabilitation by the government, on the one hand and the independent economists – on the other. The former considers that resources of the gold and copper fields within the returned territories will be enough to finance rehabilitation. The latter (independent economists) consider that the restoration process is a long lasting and will require an annual $100-150m investment. They are in general against building the economy of the liberated territories upon the mining industry.
Reference to history. The FB community widely discusses the issues of history raised by Armenian sources and the Western media, related to the Albanian and Armenian Churches, including the news that the Academy of Sciences will open a new department of Albanian studies. Jamil Hasanli the prominent historian with international reputation urges not to neglect the achievements in the field developed during the Soviet period and stresses the importance of such authors as historian Kamal Aliyev, archaeologist Jabbar Khalilov, Rashid Goyushev, Ilyas Babayev, Omar Ismizade, Fazil Osmanov, the Armenian author Voroshil Gukasian, Nasrulla Rzayev and Farida Mammadova’s work “The political history and historical geography of Caucasian Albania (3BC-8AD).
Human rights and social issues. The human rights defenders, lawyers, activists and journalists express concern and demand the release of another 15 Karabagh (rally) political prisoners remaining behind bars after the recent release of a group of them. The FB community publicises the unresolved issues related to the medical treatment of the injured and social protection of the families whose male members all fought in the war. The human rights defender Rasul Jafarov warns IDPs not to go back to their liberated homelands yet, quoting the recent explosion of a car on mined land resulting in the death of 4 passengers. He reports that in just the last two weeks 6 people have died due to mines. He urges the authorities to increase their control over it and establish additional posts on the roads to the liberated territories. The activists and human rights defenders are protesting about the decision of the State University’s administration to expel a student who decorated her head with the Azerbaijani flag to celebrate the victory. Tofig Yagublu comments that it looks like for authorities it is normal, when the police drag out from the opposition and trample the national flag, but it is a violation when a student celebrates the victory by covering her head with it. The youth leaders demanded restoration of the student back to the University and by the 30th of November she was restored. The activists also note that the government and loyal to it circles spread the argument of“ do not divide the nation” as an excuse to shut down the criticism against Russian peacekeepers, situation in Karabagh etc. The activist comments that this is enough to show the dug outs and collapsing houses of the victims of the war- time to show the villas of the other victims (if they exist). “He ( the president –L.A.) robs the national resources with one group, exposes another to the bullets, and calls it: “I returned the lands”, concludes the activist.
Reaction of political and civil leaders. Ali Karimli, the leader of Popular Front Party, reasserted that one cannot equalize the role of Turkey and Russia in the Karabagh war II. The leaders of the opposition also share the videos with speeches of the first democratic leader Elchibey, who states that Heydar Aliyev failed to prove that members of Elchibey’s government were corrupt or misappropriated any public money. Natig Jafarli of REAL attracts attention to the post war rehabilitation and development of country. He argues that for realization of the discussed for decades goals of elimination of the shadow economy, financial amnesty, development of entrepreneurship there should be liberalization of business conditions, increasing competition environment, serious re-structuring of the government, such as elimination of the State Customs Committee etc. The board member of the NCDF Gultakin Hajibeyli praises Elchibey, who in spite of high risks for his power, got rid of Russian troops in 1992, who colonized Azerbaijan 200 years ago, then as the Bolshevik Red Army occupied the ADR in 1920, then conducted massacre by sending troops in Baku on the 20th January 1990, and committed the Khojali genocide. She denounces the bringing Russian troops in by Ilham Aliyev.
Perception of Armenia. FB users share a video of interviews with Armenian fighters, Karabaghis, Armenia citizens and experts. They quote an interview of Vahan Kerobian with Al Jazeera (he was later appointed the minister of economy) where he speaks about the people’s false impression that Armenia had a strong and almighty army and that now “we have received the answer which we are worthy of”. They share news about the disappearance of the two Lebanese Armenians after the ceasefire, the statement by the Upper Karabagh Armenian “officials” that the “self-defence” forces will not be dissolved, and by general prosecutor Grigor Kostanian that Azerbaijan has legitimate basis not for 50 but 100 billion legal cases to sue Armenia. They also share the news that Armenian officials demand the evacuation of the Lachin region by 30th November as stipulated by the ceasefire agreement. Journalists are shocked by the degree of anti-Azerbaijani propaganda in Armenia, trying to portray them as savage.
Relations with France. The activists and journalists continue to discuss and decry the resolution of the French senate. Ali Karimli states that France should either stay neutral or leave its position of mediator in the Karabagh conflict. One of the opposition activists argues that even if the chair of the Azerbaijan-France friendship group voted for this resolution, this proves that Azerbaijan had not done sufficient work in the diplomacy area and the millions of public money which went to the restoration of the Louvre was wasted. At the same time, he considers that dissatisfaction should be expressed both to French companies, and that products produced in France should be boycotted. The independent lawyer considers that this resolution is a continuation of the historical tradition of French relations to the Muslim world, which resulted in the genocide of Algerians in the post-WW2 period. Overall, in 132 years of colonial experience, nearly 1m Algerians were killed, he argues and gives as an example the 1509 deaths by tortures there, as reported by their perpetrator General Paul Aussaressin in 1955. He finds it ironic and hypocritical that France who responded with genocide to the independence strive of Algerians, now demands creation of the second Armenian state on the territory of Azerbaijan. Ramis Yunus, the political activist in exile, calls the resolution of French Senate as of a provocative nature, and that is the signal that pro-Armenian political circles of Europe, once having lost the military battle, started the diplomatic counter-attack. He argues that the reaction to it should be strict and immediate, and Azerbaijan should demand either exclusion of France from the Minsk group co-chairmen membership, or inclusion of Turkey there. He concludes that the battle for Upper Karabagh continues now on the political and informational level. The FB community also reports the call of the French Ambassador to the foreign ministry and delivery of a protest note. It says that the Azerbaijan government expresses its ultimate protest against the resolution adopted by the French Parliament in violation of international norms and principles, the UN charter, the Helsinki Final Act and the UNSC N.1993 resolution. The functionary of YAP, the ruling party’s MP Siyavush Novruz argued that this country (France) had once again proved its biased stance, protection of the interests of Armenia, support for occupation, aggression and terrorism and that this creates both regional and international threats.
Relations with Russia. Ali Karimli of the PFP argues that Russia does not want to share its influence in the South Caucasus with Turkey. The FB community discusses the telephone conversation of Putin and Pashinian about Karabagh and the peacekeeping missions. They suspect that they are probably building a joint plan. One of the activists mentions that Azerbaijan should urgently strengthen its military defence posts in Shusha and Hojavend, sign a defence agreement with Turkey and invite Turkish troops into the country, as one cannot trust Russia. Seymur Hezi of the PFP exclaims:” At whatever cost Russia will have to leave or … leave here anyway!” He urges to bring clarity regarding situation in Lachin and argues that Russia should not think that the party to the trilateral agreement is Ilham Aliyev and that it is a big question that people sign this agreement. This is why Russia should not get inspired by it, as it may lose even what it has. The activists view Russia as increasingly isolated in the post-Soviet region and in the world, with CSTO simply bearing formal functions of not letting Russia look alone. The public leaders again stress that Russia behaves in Azerbaijan as on its own territory, returning Armenians (the number reached 23,500 people), raising the flag of an illegal entity, and transferring military equipment to the region.
Relations with the USA. The opposition activist Tofig Yagublu argues that the invitation of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya (Belarus opposition) to the inauguration ceremony of newly elected US president Joe Biden is a sign of more principled policies of the US to autocratic regimes in the world, and that the agony of president Aliyev’s renewed attacks on the opposition in his speech is connected to that. The other opposition female activist Gultakin Hajibeyli also greets as a positive sign the newly appointed state secretary Anthony Blinken’s criticism of US policies in Syria and not defeating the regime of Saddam Huseyn. The FB community shares the quotation from the statement of the US Army commander in Europe lieutenant-general Ben Hodges that Azerbaijan took responsibility for the security of the Armenian minority there and that Azerbaijan is the only land corridor connecting the East and the West. The activists widely share and praise the US general’s call to support Azerbaijan and Turkey. His points are the following: The US and NATO should give support to Azerbaijan at this period of Russia’s activisation in the region 2) Russia’s activities in the region are due to Western, primarily the US’s passivity there 3) The biggest ally of the West in the region is Turkey, and NATO, US and the EU should give active support to Turkey 4) the lasting resolution of the Karabagh conflict can be found only in the framework of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan 5) There are 30,000 Armenians living beyond Karabagh and this is the best guarantee of the security of Karabaghi Armenians. Hajibeyli comments that Macron’s policies should not make the people of Azerbaijan turn their backs on the West, and that people should not forget that Turkey, who also relies on NATO and the West, can defend Azerbaijanis from Russia’s predatory behavior.
December 1, 2020