Ali Hasanov: Ethnic separatism tendencies should be stopped with the rule of international law

News.Az reprints from The Jerusalem Post the interview of the Israeli expert in international relations Arye Gut with the Azerbaijani President`s Assistant for Public and Political Affairs Ali Hasanov.

Arye Gut: Which threats does the strengthening of separatist tendencies, especially the ethnic ones, emerging in many countries of the world pose to the regional and global security? How could you explain the reasons behind the emergence of this problem?

Ali Hasanov: The strengthening of separatist tendencies stemming from the ethnic, religious, racial and other forms of discrimination is one of the key factors adversely affecting the regional and international security and jeopardizing humanity`s existence in peace and tranquility. Ethnic separatism usually leads to inter-ethnic, inter-state, and even inter-cultural conflicts, most of which are resulted in military clashes. The geography of the spread of ethnic conflicts covers almost all parts of the world. We have to note with regret that such conflicts and confrontations have been ongoing for many years in the Middle and Central East and in other parts of Asia, Africa, Europe and America.

The end of the Cold War saw the emergence of a new wave of ethnic separatism tendencies in the former Soviet republics. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in Azerbaijan, Abkhazia and Ossetia conflicts in Georgia, and Transnistrian conflict in Moldova deteriorated into potential sources of danger that could undermine stability in the region at any time. These conflicts lead to gross violations of international legal principles and pose serious threats to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of states. If the international community and the leading world powers do not resolutely fight against ethnic separatism, this negative process can turn a vast part of our planet into an area of racial, national and religious conflicts. Indifference to ethnic and national conflicts and artificial incitement to these processes have once again clearly demonstrated their painful effects in Europe with the emergence of ethnic separatism in Spain's Catalonia region.

Nowadays, religious, racial and national intolerance, and destructive separatism forces masses of people to live a refugee and migrant life. It should be noted that Azerbaijan, which has been subjected to Armenia`s policy of ethnic cleansing and occupation, very well understands the difficulties existing in this area. Based on Azerbaijan`s experience and analysis of the conflicts on national grounds emerging in different parts of the world, one can confidently say that ethnic separatism has in no way originated from moral needs of peoples, but do stems from limited interests of certain political forces and attitudes of international circles.

Arye Gut: As you mentioned, Azerbaijan was also subjected to ethnic separatism and occupation. What are the root causes of Armenian`s policy against Azerbaijan?

Ali Hasanov: The main goal of the Armenian policy is to expand its territories at the expense of the Azerbaijani lands. In fact, the Armenian nationalists have been mobilizing all their resources to this end for many years. The Armenian ideologists developed the idea of a mythical state of "great Armenia" and have brought up several generations of the Armenians in the spirit of hatred for the neighboring peoples.

In 1918, after the collapse of the Russian empire three independent states were established in the Southern Caucasus – Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. It was back on 29 May 1918, when the National Council of Azerbaijan conceded Irevan (present day Yerevan) to the newly-declared Republic of Armenia, which failed to find a capital for itself. However, having violated the terms of those agreements, the Armenians put forward new territorial claims against Azerbaijan, eyeing Karabakh and other territories.

Despite the fact that at the time of the former Soviet Union the Armenians' separatist movements against Azerbaijan switched from the active phase to a relatively red-hot conflict phase, the Armenian central government continued to expel large numbers of the Azerbaijanis from Armenia, which had historically been densely inhabited by our fellow countrymen. In 1948-1953, under the decision of the USSR Council of Ministers, about 150,000 Azerbaijanis were expelled from their historical lands in Armenia to Azerbaijan. On the eve of the collapse of the USSR, the issue of secession of Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region from Azerbaijan and its transfer to Armenia was raised by secret consent of the then USSR leadership. Against a background of these processes, more than 200,000 Azerbaijanis living in Armenia were forcibly expelled from their ancestral homeland. In other words, official Yerevan once again carried out the policy of ethnic cleansing.

After the collapse of the USSR Armenia embarked on open armed occupation and in February 1992, the Armenian armed forces destroyed the city of Khojaly in Nagorno-Karabakh region inhabited by Azerbaijanis and committed a genocide against them.

By continuing its policy of occupation, Armenia occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding regions, that is 20 percent of Azerbaijan's territory. The policy of ethnic cleansing was conducted in the occupied territories and around one million Azerbaijanis became internally displaced persons. The activity of the so-called "Nagorno-Karabakh" regime established by the Armenian separatists – with the political and military help from Armenia – in the territory of Azerbaijan is a flagrant violation of international law. Unfortunately, although the UN Security Council adopted four resolutions on this issue, no effective measures have been taken against the aggressor Armenia, which ignores these resolutions. Today, the vast majority of organizations, including the UN, and the leading world powers who have chosen the mission to ensure the principles of international law, continue their wait-and-see policy on this obvious fact of occupation.

Arye Gut: The OSCE Minsk Group and other organizations have periodically urged the parties to a mutual compromise over the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. What is your opinion about this?

Ali Hasanov: As each conflict has its right and wrong sides, the root cause of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is not a secret to anyone. The issue should be approached in line with the principles of international law based on objective criteria. This will clearly demonstrate that Armenia is the aggressor, while Azerbaijan is the country that has been subjected to occupation, lost 20 per cent of its territory and has one million refugees and internally displaced persons.

Calling the aggressor country and the country, which is subjected to occupation, to compromise is a wrong and dangerous approach. This position might fuel the spread of destructive ethnic separatism, and drag other countries into or encourage to aggression in future. Therefore, the wave of separatism, which began 30 years ago in Nagorno-Karabakh, has today reached Spain, United Kingdom and other countries. Nowadays, no country is insured against this.

Azerbaijan's stance on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is clear. This stance was delivered to the UN Security Council, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the whole world community. Azerbaijan's approach to the issue is that international law should be followed in conflict resolution. This means that Armenia's occupational troops must unconditionally withdraw from the territory of Azerbaijan, the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country must be restored and internally displaced persons must return to their lands. Azerbaijan's position is that it is unacceptable to establish a state within the international law-defined territory of another state and to resort to any violence and armed means on national and ethnic grounds in order to achieve this goal.

Of course, we are ready for a certain compromise and a constructive solution to the problem. In this regard, we consider the issue of granting a wider autonomy to the Nagorno-Karabakh region within Azerbaijan, as well as full provision – in accordance with Azerbaijani legislation and international legal norms – of civil, socio-economic and cultural rights of the Armenian population living there as the primary way for sustainable, effective and fair settlement of the conflict.

Arye Gut: What else needs to be done to eliminate ethnic separatism, which has become a major threat, and to boost interethnic and interfaith confidence?

Ali Hasanov: Ethnic separatism is becoming an increasingly threatening factor, even a disaster I would say, at regional and global levels. Unfortunately, in many cases, superpowers are trying to take advantage of this disaster to pursue their own geostrategic interests and to divert internal and foreign policies of other countries, while international organizations have failed to take a principled position.

This makes the situation even further complicated, and encourages the elevation of ethnic separatism to a radical and aggressive level, causing sufferings to millions of peoples. Experience shows that the ethnic separatist tendencies can be stopped only with the power of law, including international law that is based on generally accepted norms and principles. For this, all parties should respect both the rights and laws of the country where separatism emerged and the requirements of international law. The state is a key, decisive entity of international law. It is the sovereign states that create international organizations and adopt documents that specify international law. Therefore, "the inviolability of sovereignty and territorial integrity of states" is the primary principle of international law. In no case may the right of self-determination of peoples be interpreted as contravention to that provision or presented as an argument for the violation of the law of the state. This approach of the international community to the events in Catalonia, Spain, prevented the crisis from getting out of control, paving the way for its solution within a legal framework. This once again demonstrated that it is unacceptable to advocate limited interests and double standards on the issue of separatism. Unfortunately, the great powers and the world`s leading organizations have not taken this very attitude to the Armenian separatism, which emerged in Azerbaijan's Nagorno-Karabakh region. And this happens despite the fact that the demand for secession of Nagorno-Karabakh, which has no geographical connection with Armenia, from Azerbaijan and its transfer to Armenia, or declaration of the territory`s independence run completely contrary to both international law and the legislation of Azerbaijan.

A crucial contribution to the prevention of ethnic separatism can be made through accepting the ethnic, cultural and religious diversity as a national wealth and human values, and through ensuring harmony of diversity in every country. Azerbaijan's model of multiculturalism and tolerance can serve as an example in this regard. Nowadays, the promotion of these human values has been raised to the level of state policy in our country and has become people`s lifestyle. Azerbaijan nowadays plays the role of a bridge between different civilizations.

Over the past decade, President Ilham Aliyev has put forward numerous initiatives and held international events aimed at promoting intercultural dialogue and international cooperation. A number of prestigious international events on interfaith and intercultural dialogue have been held in Azerbaijan, including the 7th Global Forum of Alliance of Civilizations, World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, which has been held for several times and become a tradition, Baku International Humanitarian Forum, First European Games, and 4th Islamic Solidarity Games. I well remember that in December 2008, ministers of culture of Islamic Countries were invited to the Baku-hosted meeting of the ministers of culture of the member-states of the Council of Europe. That meeting saw the launch – on the initiative of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan – of the Baku Process in order to promote dialogue and cooperation among civilizations, peoples and cultures.

Over the past decade Azerbaijan has hosted numerous international events and implemented important projects as part of the Baku Process and in order to achieve goals of this initiative. I do believe that Azerbaijan's experience in this field might be useful to others.

Azerbaijan is always ready to cooperate with states and international organizations, which are interested in this issue. It is possible to make a crucial contribution to peace, peaceful coexistence of peoples and mutual understanding by this way.

Arye Gut: As you noted, Azerbaijan urges the world community to play a more active role in pressing Armenia for withdrawal from its occupied territories, and in finding a solution to Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. You would probably agree that raising the world community`s awareness of the conflict and its consequences is of crucial importance. What is your country doing in this area and what are the results?

Ali Hasanov: Large-scale measures are being taken in order to raise the world community`s awareness of Azerbaijan's just position on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In their speeches in all international organizations and at numerous conferences as well as in their media statements, both Azerbaijani President Mr. Ilham Aliyev and other state officials have given extensive information about the Armenian occupation and its consequences, the true essence, root causes of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and its fair solution, and expressed the country`s constructive and principled position. And what is the outcome? All the international organizations that Azerbaijan is a member of or is cooperating with have supported the country's just position on the conflict and called for an end to occupation. In its four resolutions adopted in 1992-1993, the UN Security Council demanded an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Armenian occupational troops from the Azerbaijani territories. The Council of Europe, OSCE, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, European Parliament, Non-Alignment Movement, and the majority of other organizations, of which Azerbaijan is either a member or partner of, have recognized the fact of occupation of the Azerbaijani territories and urged the withdrawal of the Armenian occupational troops from the Azerbaijani lands, and stood for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict based on Azerbaijan's territorial integrity. However, unfortunately, due to the double standards reigning in the world nowadays, Armenia is ignoring these resolutions. In some cases, the decisions of international organizations, including the UN, are immediately executed, but numerous documents on Azerbaijan have remained on paper for more than 25 years. This is why occupation still continues.

Khojaly genocide is one of the most tragic events of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. This bloody massacre committed by the Armenians in Khojaly at the end of the 20th century is considered as one of the most brutal crimes against humanity. Khojaly does not differ from horrific tragedies of Katyn, Lidice, Oradour-sur-Glane, Holocaust, Songmy, Rwanda and Srebrenica, which are etched on the minds of people forever. These atrocities went down in the history of wars as genocides of civilians that shook the world.

The Azerbaijani government and the Heydar Aliyev Foundation are doing a great job to raise the world community`s awareness of the Khojaly genocide. Large-scale events are held in more than hundred countries on a yearly basis as part of "Justice for Khojaly" international campaign, which was launched on the initiative of vice-president of the Foundation Leyla Aliyeva on 8 May 2008.

Thanks to purposeful work – including conferences, exhibitions, rallies, marches and other campaigns – to raise the world community`s awareness of the Khojaly genocide and ensure recognition of this tragedy as a genocidal act against the Azerbaijani people, the world is getting more knowledge of inhumane crimes of the Armenian invaders, and the progressive society strongly and severely condemns the massacre.

More than 10 countries and over 20 states of the U.S. have recognized Khojaly massacre at the level of parliament or government. We are continuing our efforts in this area.


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