The Safarov Affair Could be the Key for Unlocking the Karabakh Deadlock

This article was submitted by Armenag Topalian – England

The Safarov Affair Could be the Key for Unlocking the Karabakh Dead Lock

The Safarov affair has sailed up as a bizarre breach of international agreements, where the rule of law can evidently collapse once it crosses borders. Hungary insists that the extradition was carried out according to international laws and that they had received assurances from Azerbaijan. Budapest also refutes any connections to the promised Azeri billion Euro purchase of Hungarian state bonds. Had it not been for the extraordinary nature of the brutal killing – hacking a “Partnership for Peace” colleague to death while he was sleeping – the international community might have looked the other way. However, it was impossible to do so.

Neither EU nor other major players have, yet, made any demands towards the regime in Baku to uphold the law breached. They have been some condemnation of the Azeri President’s pardoning, but the emphasis has rather been on calls to Azerbaijan and Armenia to restrain their statements so that the fragile situation in the region is not destabilized any further. With other words, put a lid on it till it blows over. It is up to Yerevan to prevent this from happening. This means that Armenia should not waste efforts and energy on reprimanding Hungary. Armenia
neither wants to alienate Hungary nor can Hungary reverse any of the happened events.

This whole incident could very much be the well-needed turning point of the Karabakh conflict. That is if Yerevan plays its cards well. No sensible individual could at this moment even hint on the alternative of putting the Armenian populated Nagorno-Karabakh under Azerbaijani rule, not when the sentiments of the Baku are this evident. Baku, on the other hand, could no longer go to a negotiation table and assert that they are sincere in guaranteeing the safety of Karabakh Armenians and their equality as citizens within Azerbaijan.

Let it be said that the displayed sentiment by official Baku can impossibly be that of the entire Azerbaijani society. The common sensible person on the street must realize that an ax murderer, convicted rightfully for his confessed crime, should not be freed, promoted, celebrated and elevated to hero. Notwithstanding, this is unfortunately the prevailing atmosphere in a totalitarian Azerbaijan, where the regime has not much of tolerance towards its own (read ethnic Azeris) dissidents, saved that of a rogue population, who has fought a bitter war with the
central government and demands its right to self-determination. This intolerance has constantly been pointed out by the Armenian side, but now Baku has staged it in an undisputable manner.

So, the ball is in Yerevan’s court. Reading the course of the events – from the murder to the extradition and the pardoning and celebration of Safarov – the international community can not but agree that putting Karabakh under Baku’s rule is not an option. At least if they don’t strive for a rapid ethnic cleansing of Karabakh from its Armenian population. However, as always, the realpolitik always prevails. In a week or two, EU and USA will try to slowly but surely abandon this whole inconvenient affair for securing the delivery of the much needed gas and oil from Azerbaijan.

It is no secret that Armenia has been on the defensive during the past years, military as well as diplomatically. It was not only the conquered military positions that were in defensive position, but with increasing incomes from the Azeri oil and gas revenues, Armenia has been outdistanced diplomatically by Azerbaijan on the international arena as well. The energy resources have granted Azerbaijan everything from a non-permanent sit in the UN Security Council to a victory in the Eurovision Song Contest. Now, the Safarov affair has removed any doubts about the real attitude of Baku towards the Armenian population and at the same time provided the opening for a diplomatic offensive. This might very well be the leverage which Yerevan and Stepanakert need to once and for all break the decade long dead lock in the conflict by pointing to the inevitable solution of the conflict. Stepanakert’s right to self-determination, as
envisaged in the Madrid Protocols, must be enforced in order to bring this conflict to a closure. For that, Stepanakert must be recognized as a legitimate partner at the negotiation table and allowed back as they were in the beginning of the negotiation process. The events of the past week simply do not leave room for any other solution.

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