PARIS, KOMPAS.com – President Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and the Prime Minister Armenia Nikol Pashinyan briefly met on one platform in a rare meeting at the Munich Security Conference, Germany in February. They were both asked to provide an overview history Nagorno-Karabakh.
It didn’t end well, as quoted from AFP on Friday (9/10/2020).
“To talk about how to resolve conflicts we first need to go back and look at historical problems,” Aliyev said, arguing is ” historical truth“that Nagorno-Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan.
“I would ask President Aliyev not to go too far into history,” Pashinyan replied, insisting that the territory was only part of Azerbaijan because of decisions taken in the early years of the Soviet Union.
Differences in historical views which greatly hindered the search for a solution in the most difficult conflict left by the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Two weeks after battle fierce today in Nagorno-Karabakh since the 1990s war was sparked when the region declared unilateral independence.
Analysts say the burden of history has prevented Armenia and Azerbaijan from reaching a long-term agreement, with fighting only halted by ceasefire which is short-lived.
For Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh is an integral part of the Azerbaijan state and is recognized by the United Nations. It has records of centuries of Muslim settlement by Persian and Seljuk Turks.
However, Armenians argue that Nagorno-Karabakh, which became part of the Russian Empire in the early 19th century only ended up in Soviet Azerbaijan as the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) out of a whim.
During their discussion in Munich, Pashinyan said that the decision to include the Nagorno-Karabakh region in Azerbaijan in the early 1920s was due to the “personal initiative” of Joseph Stalin, the Soviet commissioner for nationality.
Aliyev immediately denied this statement.
Armenians make up the majority in Nagorno-Karabakh and the Soviet republic of Armenia has repeatedly pressed for control of the NKAO, in a move opposed by Moscow.
However, when the Soviet Union began to crumble, a breakaway republic was declared and war broke out.
The Armenians emerged victorious with a truce that was finally agreed upon.
With hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis fled from Karabakh and the 7 surrounding territories of Azerbaijan occupied by Armenian troops, the population of Karabakh today is almost entirely Armenian.
Even so, Nagorno-Karabakh has never received recognition of its independence by any other country, including Armenia itself.
“The positions of Armenia and Azerbaijan are so entrenched that the international community has little practical influence over them,” said Nicu Popescu, director of the Greater Europe program at the European Council for Foreign Relations.
He said the most likely scenario was not an end to a cycle of conflict or an outright military victory, but more wars in the future to “divide” the territory.
Both sides have doubled their positions since the meeting in Munich.
“We have to go back there (Karabakh),” Aliyev said at the weekend, describing it as “our land”.
During a visit to Karabakh in August, Pashinyan had even called for unification with Armenia, declaring “Artsakh (Karabakh) is Armenia, and that’s it.”
Both sides also spread selective historical views, focusing on the atrocities committed by others while ignoring their own atrocities.
Armenians remember the pogrom at Sumgait in Azerbaijan when a mob rampaged in February 1988, leaving at least 26 Armenians dead.
However, in Khojaly in 1992, Armenians opened fire on civilians fleeing in a massacre that Azerbaijan says killed hundreds.
Since the ceasefire ended the latest turmoil in fighting in 2016, “the peace process has come to a virtual standstill with growing angry rhetoric,” said analysts at the International Crisis Group.
The role of Turkey, Azerbaijan’s main ally, poses another problem as the Armenians resent the modern Turkish state for its refusal to recognize the massacre of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide.
Analysts point out that where there are fewer interpretations of history, all hope is not lost.
For example, Armenians and Azerbaijanis coexisted peacefully during most of the Soviet era and even today outside the Caucasus region, especially in Russia.
“One may have to reprint the text of the 1724 Persian-era friendship agreement signed between the Armenian rulers of Karabakh and the Azerbaijani kings of Ganje against the Ottoman Turks,” commented Tom de Waal, Senior Fellow at Carnegie Europe, after the presidents clashed in Munich.