Burning Azerbaijan’s Flag Indicates Unreadiness of Armenian Society for Peace (Op-Ed)

by Naghi Ahmadov

Azerbaijan’s flag was burned during the parade at the opening ceremony of the European Weightlifting Championship in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia on April 14, 2023. After the Azerbaijani flag was brought to the hall, one of the event staff ran to the stage, took the flag, burned it and took it out of the hall. In other words, the Armenian authorities could not ensure security at the international event, and thus there was a threat to the lives of Azerbaijani athletes. The Ministry of Youth and Sports of Azerbaijan and the National Olympic Committee have announced that they have made a decision to return our athletes.

Treating the incident as a violation of the regular safety rule in a sport competition can prevent us from understanding the essence of the matter. The burning of the Azerbaijani flag in an obviously offensive way at the opening ceremony held in Yerevan places responsibility on the Armenian authorities. Another important point to pay attention to is that the Armenian authorities have not taken necessary legal measures against the people who committed this and other similar incidents that happened before. As a result, this indirectly shows that the Armenian state is complicit with the perpetrators of those acts and directly supports them. Such approaches, in turn, ultimately lead to the creation of fertile conditions for the widespread of hatred and Azerbaijanophobia at the state level.

However, in this case, punishing the person who burned the Azerbaijani flag on the basis of the existing legal norms can be useful as a first step towards ending acts that cause interethnic hatred and discrimination in Armenia, as well as a positive input in peace negotiations with Azerbaijan. Therefore, the flag burning incident shows what kind of side Azerbaijan is dealing with in the peace negotiations, and what a difficult process it is in to bring Armenia to the peace table.

In fact, the flagrant disrespect for the flag is actually a common image of the Armenian society that are worried about the new realities that Azerbaijan has created in the region. It is also clearly visible that the Armenian authorities are interested in keeping the nationalist mood active in Armenia. Thus, Pashinyan’s government is trying to use this as an opportunity to maneuver in the process of negotiations with Azerbaijan, especially in front of international mediators. However, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan should see the deepening crisis for his country by prolonging the peace talks and should think deeply about the consequences it would create for his country. By taking responsibility as the head of state, PM Pashinyan can write his name positively in history by fulfilling his duty and function before the Armenian people and reaching an agreement at the negotiation table with Azerbaijan.

All in all, one of the first ways to achieve lasting peace in the region should be increasing pressure by the international community on Armenia in order to eliminate the revanchist tendencies, stop glorifying war criminals at the state level and ensure that they are brought to justice. Otherwise, unfortunately, we might witness the loss of another great chance for peace building in the region after the 44-day war.

Naghi Ahmadov, a senior fellow at the Center of Analysis of International Relations (AIR Center), exclusively for News.Az

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