(December 2022 - May 2023) 



Laura Baghdasaryan, Director of “Region”  Research Center (Armenia),
Arif Yunusov, Head of the Department of Conflict and Migration Studies of the Institute for Peace and Democracy (Azerbaijan)

The attitudes towards the issue of communication between Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh in Azerbaijan, on the one hand, and in Armenia and NK, on the other hand, prior to the 2020 war were mutually exclusive. The rationale behind these contradictions lay in the belief that interactions with the institutional structures of the NKR even on non-political issues (such as, for example, the joint utilization of water resources, coordination of actions to solve environmental problems, etc.), would imply recognition of the NKR as a subject rather than an object in the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. That is why Azerbaijan vehemently rejected any form of contact at any level, punishing and persecuting representatives of Azerbaijani NGOs that engaged in joint projects of international organizations with the Armenians from NK and Armenia. In contrast, Armenia and the NKR, understanding the political significance of such contacts, maintained a relatively non-critical or even somewhat tolerant stance towards the communication with Azerbaijan.

The narrative of Azerbaijan’s negotiations with NK emerged following the 2020 war, during the process of settling relations with Armenia. Azerbaijan views contacts with NK solely on its own terms and as a (re)integration of the NK population into the AR. Azerbaijani President has repeatedly stated that otherwise the AR will resort to alternative methods, potentially involving the use of force to fully subjugate Karabakh. The two meetings held between the representatives of NK and Azerbaijan in February and March 2023 were presented differently to their respective societies. Azerbaijan insisted that the discussions revolved around the NK reintegration issues, while the Karabakh side claimed that the meetings addressed not political, but humanitarian issues related to the blockade of NK. It is obvious that these communications have reached an impasse.

Azerbaijan maintains a principled stance that its relations with the residents of Nagorno Karabakh constitute an internal matter of the AR, and thus should not be a topic for discussions involving other countries (including Armenia) and international organizations. Meanwhile, a number of figures from the Armenian side argue that, firstly, the Karabakh conflict has never been regarded as Azerbaijan’s internal matter, and secondly, according to international norms, the treatment of a national minority within any state is not solely a domestic concern.

Therefore, driven by a lack of trust towards Azerbaijan, Armenia insists that in the context of the development of a peace treaty between the two countries any political agreements involving the Armenian side and Azerbaijan should be reached and overseen with the engagement of an international mechanism. This will also ensure the continuity of communication between the AR and NK, and the security of Karabakh Armenians.

From Azerbaijan’s standpoint, asserting its jurisdiction over the whole territory of NK entails that the residents of NK should become citizens of the AR, enjoying the same rights as any other citizens, without special benefits to organize their life as a national minority. Moreover, Azerbaijan does not intend to wait long. The adoption of Azerbaijani citizenship in exchange for the opportunity to live in their permanent place of residence represents Azerbaijan’s formula in relation to NK after the 2020 war. But even this proposal is perceived as a significant concession within Azerbaijani society.

This is so, since with regard to the ongoing topic of negotiations with NK and the potential integration of Karabakh Armenians into Azerbaijani society, several crucial questions are: is it possible to revisit the idea of coexistence with Karabakh Armenians? Isn’t there a risk that Karabakh Armenians, who are presently forced to decide on becoming part of Azerbaijan, might stab in the back again at the first opportunity in the future? What should be done to prevent such a scenario?

The resentment and distrust towards Karabakh Armenians within Azerbaijani society sometimes reach extreme levels. This, in turn, implies complete unpreparedness in Azerbaijan itself at all levels (ranging from the authorities to society in the broadest sense of the word) to coexist with the Armenians of NK as equal citizens. This is evidenced by the statements of various figures in the Azerbaijani media regarding the integration of the Armenian population of NK. For example, the former Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan T. Zulfugarov argued that the real estate owned by Karabakh Armenians is illegal, as it does not comply with Azerbaijani legislation, and therefore the problem of ethnic cleansing should be solved through a “civilized manner”, by requiring re-registeration of the property of Karabakh Armenians, ultimately leading them to sell their real estate for Azerbaijani manats and leave their homes. And obviously, this is the maximum that Azerbaijan is ready to do for the citizens of NK.

Additionally, due to the policy of pressure on the residents of NK (the blockade of NK) and aggressive rhetoric against them, the Armenian side holds an overwhelmingly negative stance regarding the (re)integration of NK into Azerbaijan.

On the other hand, the ongoing controversy in absentia between analysts and public and political figures of Armenia and NK on the one hand, and Azerbaijan on the other, indicates that the issue of relations between the AR and NK remains an exceptionally difficult challenge from a political perspective. The Armenian side emphasizes the illegitimacy of the demands for the (re)integration of the population of NK into the AR, highlighting the fact that the citizens of NK were never citizens of the AR following its independence, and were not involved in the electoral processes of the AR. These points and a number of other issues constitute a significant component of the Armenian-Azerbaijani post-war confrontation and expose the fundamental discrepancies in the agreements reached in several rounds of negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan throughout the studied period.

Read the full version in Russian HERE.

This research has been organized within the framework of the Region Research Center's project "New Agendas for Peace and Stability in the South Caucasus after the Karabakh 2020 War". The project is being implemented by the support of the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation. The opinions expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinions and positions of the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation or its partners.


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