Nagorno Karabakh must be the primary subject and not an object of the peace process. This was one of the key conclusions reached by renowned international scholars and diplomats at a recent debate on Artsakh.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Artsakh movement. To commemorate the date and initiate a much-needed dialogue about the case of Nagorno Karabakh, we organized a public debate at the European Parliament in partnership with the Armenian Legal Center for Justice & Human Rights (ALC) and the European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy (EAFJD).
Speakers included Dr. Alfred de Zayas, UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Dr. Paul Williams, Professor of Law, American University’s Washington College of Law, Dr. Sergey Markedonov, associate Professor at Russian State University, Armine Aleksanyan, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Artsakh Republic and debate moderator Giro Manoyan, board Member of the ALC.
Hosted by European Parliament deputies Michèle Rivasi (Verts/ALE) and Lars Adaktusson (EPP), the debate followed a 2-day colloquium that brought together over a dozen distinguished international law experts and former diplomats. The colloquium was organized by the ALC and the Tufenkian Foundation, and took place at the Center for European Policy Studies.
Key findings of the colloquium included the following:
NK must be the primary subject and not the object of the peace process.
Under well-established international legal precedents, people, including those in NK, have the right to declare independence.
Under international law there is a duty not to respond with violence to a declaration of independence.
NK is a functioning state based on the concept of earned sovereignty, since it has institutional capacity, a democratically elected government, control of its borders and a functioning civil society.
International community should actively engage with NK, regardless of its status.
International law provides a framework, but by itself cannot serve as sole tool for resolving conflicts, one cannot ignore the role politics plays in a conflict resolution.
Confidence-building is a key tool to peace and a final resolution.
Escalation of armenophobic rhetoric and war-mongering are not acceptable and must be discouraged, incitement to violence and hatred is prohibited by international law.
These findings were the primary focus of the public debate held on February 27, during which recognized experts reviewed developments in international law, the status of the negotiations, and recommendations for achieving a peaceful resolution in Artsakh.
During his presentation, Dr. de Zayas stressed that self-determination of peoples, often misinterpreted as destabilizing, is in fact a crucial component of regional and international stability. Commenting on the 4-day war of April 2016, he noted: “Azerbaijan’s aggression in April 2016 constituted a breach of peace and must be condemned as a violation of the UN Charter.”
To emphasize the need to create mechanisms for dealing with the right to self-determination, Dr. Williams noted that there were over 70 active self-determination movements in the world and thefailure to create mechanisms to address them has resulted in over 20 million deaths in the past 50 years. “Failure to adequately develop a plan to resolve self-determination movements is deadly,” explained Williams. He went on to propose the concept of “earned sovereignty” as a crucial mechanism that would prevent the deadly conflict. Earned sovereignty would require de facto states build functioning state institutions and democracy rooted in a respect for human rights before gaining recognition.
Dr. Markedonov, who provided an overview of recent developments, stated that the recent escalations of violence and war rhetoric has set the sides apart, making a negotiated settlement even more difficult. He also cautioned against the current focus only on the Karabakh-Azerbaijan border, since “one more important challenge is along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border now which is not contested territory,” but experiences ceasefire violations.
Deputy Foregin Minister of the Artsakh Republic Aleksanyan noted : “Nagorno Karabakh is not merely a name of a conflict, it is a place where people live. These people were destined to fight for their right to live.”As proof of Artsakh’s determination to build a strong democratic state, Aleksanyan emphasized that the country has unilaterally signed several human rights treaties such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Geneva Conventions, and the ICCPR.
The participants agreed that Nagorno Karabakh has a very strong claim for self-governance and that international community should become more heavily engaged with Nagorno Karabakh and the peace process to facilitate an appropriate solution to the conflict at hand.
Evaluating the results of the events, Tufenkian Foundation board member Antranig Kasbarian said: "Overall, we are quite pleased with these discussions, which brought together a diverse array of legal experts, former diplomats, and policy analysts. During two days of intensive discussions, we managed to share perspectives that fostered fresh insights into problems and solutions for the Karabagh dispute."
The two-day colloqium and the following public debate were of high importace for the Tufenkian Foundation. As we move into our 15th year of operations in Artsakh, such international-level discourse stands to contribute significantly to our efforts towards Artsakh's resettlement, reconstruction and development.
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