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Center for National and International Studies
“… Russian flags in Azerbaijan are a tragedy for the country …”
The FB community shares their joy with the IDPs from Kelbajar on the liberation of their home region, but also mourns the victims of the war. They note with indignation that instead of reacting to Russia’s arbitrary behaviour in the country, Aliyev has attacked the opposition in his Kelbajar speech. The activists, public leaders, and journalists denounced the resolution by the French Parliament recognizing Artsakh/Upper Karabagh, and expressed their concern at the 30 villages remaining under Armenian control.
The FB community celebrates the liberation of Kelbajar, but denounces the leaving of 30 villages under the control of the Armenians, which they see as a direct manipulation by Putin. Some connect this to the location of gold mines on its territory. But overall, they react with indignation that the lists of the towns and villages to be returned are mysteriously altered in a non-transparent way.
The FB community follows with concern relations between Russia and Turkey. The Azadlyg newspaper, with reference to Reuters, reports on Turkey’s decision to establish an independent peacekeeping monitoring post in Karabagh, while Osmangizi TV devotes a programme to the resistance of Russia to any independent Turkish military monitoring post. Russia considers that there is no need for the establishment of another monitoring post besides the joint one, but this is a principal question for Turkey. The public’s indignation at Russia’s stance and behaviour is visibly growing. Ali Karimli, the leader of the opposition PFP, comments that Putin demonstrates that he is the winner of the war and wants to strengthen Russia’s presence not only in Karabagh but in the whole of Azerbaijan. The FB community reports victims of mines on the liberated territories. One of them comments that although there were 5 people who were affected by mines in Sugovushan during the exchange of corpses – an Azerbaijani colonel died, a Russian peacekeeper was injured, and four Armenian military seriously wounded: the Ministry of Defence is keeping silence, while the news is being spread by Russian and Armenian sources.
FB users cheer the victory of the Azerbaijani chess player Teymur Rajabov over the French, Iranian and Armenian players, and comment that if he wins in addition to a Russian player, this would be a full victory (hinting on politics/ L.A.)
They praise reports that the US Nobel Prize winner in biochemistry Aziz Sanjar has given a big donation to the fund for the education of the 3-year-old girl who lost her both parents in the shelling of Ganja by the Armenian army. The economic experts predict an increase in the budget deficit for next year and that it will require a $10bn transfer from SOFAZ, whose maximum income for 2021 is predicted not to exceed 8 bln dollars. Natig Jafarli suggests creating a light denomination of manat (15-20%) to save on SOFAZ dollar reserves, and the development of a competitive economic model. He argues that the restoration of the liberated territories should be turned into an engine for economic development over the decade ahead and that SOFAZ resources are not sufficient for that. The activists comment on the speech of president Natig Jafarli of REAL stressing that criticism of the tandem Kocharian-Sarkisian also sends a message to Russia not to try to reinstall them. He considers that if they return to power that will aggravate the situation in the region, while praises Pashinian, whose value the Armenian people still have to appreciate. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev who was an organizer of aid to the army warns about the possibility of attacks by guerrilla fighters and mines in the evacuated territories. The young activist pays tribute to the late foreign minister of Azerbaijan, a background physicist, Tofig Gasimov, for his role in the adoption of the four UNSC resolutions.
Reference to history. Jamil Hasanli, an academic and author of books published by Harvard and Oxford University press, refers to documents which he found while working in foreign archives. This is a letter of the Katholikos of Armenian Church Gevorg V to the German Emperor Wilhelm 11 with the request to render aid to the half million Armenian refugees from the Ottoman empire, as well as near 300,000 located in Georgia, Azerbaijan and Northern Caucasus, all in a desperate condition. Hasanli notes that there is some contradiction with the official number of victims of the Ottoman empire’s events of 1915 — 1,5m people. The archival documents say that the total number of Armenians living there at that time was 1.3m, while the number of refugees was 800,000. He asks whom the historians should trust in this regard — the Katholikos of the Armenian Church or the Armenian historians and politicians? He also tracks the roots of the current active pro-Armenian position of the Western states — such as resolutions of the Parliaments of France and the Netherlands, some US states and cities of Europe on recognition of Upper Karabagh and condemning Azerbaijan to the history of Armenian lobbying institutions. These institutions have been promoting the idea of the threat to the “old Christian nation and its cultural monuments”, and request that Armenians be supplied with weapons, so that “Turks, Kurds and Tatars will not represent a threat to Armenians”. He also presents a document about the Armenian Congress of 1919 in Paris, which was declared as a Congress of the Greater (Armenian Ararat Republic) and Smaller Armenia (Cilicia) – the latter’s representatives being sent there from Iran, US, UK, Greece, Switzerland, Egypt and India. This was done to be represented at the Paris Peace conference by two delegations, unlike the rest of the states, who had one delegation each. He quotes the French newspaper Le Temps which reflected the Armenian Congress in Paris under the title “The Armenian Empire”. He concludes that the recent resolution of the French parliament proves that they are still identifying themselves in old dreams of an Armenian “Empire”.
Human rights and social issues. The FB community shares with concern the 21st day of hunger strike by the journalist Afghan Sadyghov, who is nearing death. At the same time the court of appeals hearing is being delayed. It appeals to society not to be indifferent and to demand freedom for Sadyghov. Political and civil activists, journalists and bloggers react with indignation to the fact that instead of limiting Russia’s violating of Azerbaijan sovereignty,
President Aliyev attacked the opposition. The feminist leader Rabiyya Mammadova raises the issue of violence against women, criticising the government’s policies in this area and demanding the adoption of the Istanbul Convention. Habib Muntazir reports allocation of 50m manats for road building between Fizuli—Shusha and 5m manats for the road between Barda—Agdam, warning bureaucrats against possible misappropriation of funds.
Reaction of the political and civil leaders. The leaders of major political opposition parties and civil leaders, academics and journalists, congratulate the community and the nation on the liberation of Kelbajar region. At the same time, they react with indignation to the criticism of the opposition in Kelbajar speech by the president Aliyev, who put blame for the loss of Kelbajar and Lachin on their government. Ilkin Rustamzade states that for 44 days the opposition stood by the state and the army and demonstrated unique unity and solidarity in the country. But instead of healing post-war wounds, the leader of the state on TV axed this unity and lynched the opposition.
Arif Hajili of Musavat calls the national flags of Russia in the streets of Baku hanging from cars “a tragedy” and “an attempt to drag the country — the victor — into an impoverished slavery”. He called it an insult to all victims killed in the Khojali massacre of 20th Jan, and those killed by the weapons given as a present by Russia to Armenia in the Karabagh wars. Responding to the blame in the president’s speech, he stated that the losses at the beginning of the 1st Karabagh war took place when the older communists tried to re-take power from the first national democratic government of Echibey. He reminded that while the young national army was fighting defending Shusha, the political group of Haji Abdul “ Brotherhood” was demonstrating in the streets in Baku trying to bring back via coup d’etats Ayaz Mutallibov, and the supporters of Heydar Aliyev by removing age census was trying to bring him back.
Panah Huseyn posted the statement of his Azerbaijan People’s Party protesting the adoption of the resolution by French Parliament. It calls for cutting all the relations with France, demand its exclusion from the mediators of the Minsk group and boycott French products. The journalist in exile suggested to the National Parliament to meet to recognize the genocide of France in Algeria.
The FB community discusses the plans for restoration of the occupied territories. They suggest restoring the people’s old houses, rather than building new settlement complexes, along with reviving the old favourite places — cafes, restaurants, shops, cinemas etc. in towns. One commentator stresses that there are very similar states — Syria, Armenia, Abkhazia — which are states only in name, but the true nature of them is Russian. They share the statement of Pashinian from his interview to the Russian TASS agency, as reported by Meydan TV, that Russian peacekeepers will most probably stay longer than the prescribed 5-year period, because the Karabagh conflict is a long lasting conflict. He also stressed that the position of Armenia regarding status of Upper Karabagh is known and has not changed, and the return of Armenians to Karabagh should be on the negotiation table. He stressed the importance of the talks with Azerbaijan on the gradual normalization of interstate relations, in which the unblocking of communication might be the first step. FB users also share a video of Karabghi Armenians meeting Russians with a pie and the images of her flag on it. They note that during his visit to Jordan, the Armenian president Armen Sarkisian stated that the Karabagh conflict is not a religious one. They comment with irony that they present it as religious in Europe, and themselves as defenders of Christian civilization, while in the Muslim East — that this is not a religious conflict. The FB community shares information about the secret visit to Moscow of the leader of the separatist regime Araik Harutiynian, with reference to Armenian sources. They report that there is worsening of the relations between Yerevan and Khankendi and the leader of the latter went to Moscow to get its support.
COVID-19 The issue of the increasing wave of the pandemic was raised by the speaker of the parliament Sahiba Gafarova, who stated the aggravation of the situation with coronavirus pandemic and appealed to the MPs to be careful, as the cases of infection have increased among MPs also. Some experts question the necessity to wear masks in the open air, especially in parks. Gubad Ibadoglu of the ADR suggests the number of measures related to pandemic, including concessions on gas bills, state compensation for education expenses for vulnerable groups, in addition to compensation for the self-employed and unemployed citizens and small businesses.
Relations with Russia. Dissatisfaction with Russia’s behaviour in Azerbaijan is growing. The activists, journalists, and bloggers decry the agreement between Russian and Armenian defence ministers about their activities in Karabagh, Putin’s statements on Karabagh in his interview, and the Russian flags in the streets of Baku. Gubad Ibadoglu of the ADR divides Russian sympathizers in the country, which is a minority, into two groups: one activated by the Russian national security service and the traditional 5th column, while the other, opportunists who are flattering the authorities. He also expresses concern about plans for building airports in Fizuli, Agdam and Khankendi, arguing that while Fizuli and Agdam will need to be restored from ashes, the airport in Khankendi will help consolidate political independence and the legitimization of the Karabagh regime, unless the issue of international visas, passport and customs is going to be resolved in Baku.
Relations with France. The FB community denounces the French Parliament’s recognition of the independence of Artsakh/Upper Karabagh, submitted by the Republicans led by Bruno Retailleau and supported by the leftists and environmentalists, with only 1 against and 30 abstaining. Previously, it had shared Macron’s statement that Karabagh is part of Azerbaijan. A well-known Azerbaijani journalist stresses that France is not behaving as a mediator, and after this recognition will not be perceived seriously internationally. The foreign ministry of France reacted to the statement that neither Armenia, nor Upper Karabagh or France, would benefit from its unilateral recognition. The foreign ministry of Azerbaijan came up with the statement that while this resolution does not have legal status, it has a political one questioning the objectivity of the country as a mediator, and is a blow to its image in Azerbaijani public opinion. The FB community share and comment on the response of the assistant to the president Aliyev Hikmet Hajiyev that the resolution of the French parliament on the recognition of Upper Karabagh/Artsakh is just a piece a paper for Azerbaijan. He stressed that this resolution was adopted due to narrow political interests and that besides rude violation of the UNSC resolutions UN charter, it puts under question the objectivity of France as a mediator of the Minsk group and permanent member of the UNSC. The activists also appeal to those in Azerbaijan who were awarded the order of the French legion to refuse it. FB users comment that this resolution not only recognizes the independence of Artsakh, but demands the Azerbaijani forces get back to their pre-war positions. The FB community shares the name of the only French MP Silvia Gua-Chavin who voted against the resolution and who is the deputy chair of the France-Azerbaijan inter-parliamentary group. The activists consider that this resolution is a blow more to the EU than to Azerbaijan.
Besides this refusal of the Order of Legion, the activists demand the recall of the ambassador and the exclusion of TOTAL from the oil and gas projects, etc. (in 2012 one of the prominent public personalities of Azerbaijan, author and screenwriter of an Oscar winning film, Rustam Ibrahimbayov, created a precedent by refusing the Order of Legion d’Honneur).
Relations with Estonia. FB users share information about the resignation of the education minister of Estonia, the mother of 6 children, because she violated the administrative code by using a State service car for giving her kids a lift to school a few times. She acknowledged her mistake, apologized and resigned. One of the readers commented: “While we are counting collections of cars of the children of our ministers …”