45th Session Issues
Azerbaijan and Armenia
Today in Transcaucasia, on the western coast of the Caspian Sea, Azeris and Armenians are carrying on their ancient blood feud. Conflict exists because of Nagorno-Karabakh, an autonomous enclave in Azerbaijan with mostly Armenian population, and Nakhichevan an autonomous republic of Azerbaijan within Armenian territory. With the disintegration of the former Soviet Union, ethnic violence has escalated in these two former Soviet Republics. In order for this dispute to be resolved a more active role for the United Nations is needed in the region. While in the past the conflict was a minor skirmish with hunting rifles and perhaps stone throwing, today the dispute has evolved into usage of modern weaponry including tanks, missiles, and heavy artillery. This dispute has become one of the most serious conflicts in the region with the possibility of spreading and involving other new independent states. The feud between these two groups has been going on for centuries, however this modern conflict in the region was marked after the Armenian movement to free Karabakh from Azeris was made public in 1988.
History of the Republic Of Azerbaijan
Formally known as the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic, this country is located in the western coast of the Caspian Sea. Iran is the southern neighbor while Armenia is located to the west and Georgia is on the north-west border. The territory of the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic is also part of Azerbaijan, but this region is separated from Azerbaijan due to the fact that it is surrounded by Armenian territory.
Officially Azerbaijan is also entitled to the territory of Nagorny-Karabakh, an autonomous region in which the majority of the population is made up of Armenian inhabitants. These Armenians are separated from Armenia because they are surrounded by Azeri territory. The great majority of Azeris are Muslim, 70% being Shi'it and the other 30% being Sunni. Russian Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic Communities also exist in Azerbaijan.
The official language of this nation is Azerbaijani, deriving from a Southern Turkic root. The Treaty of Turkmenchai which was signed in 1828 divided Azerbaijan. Persia (modern Iran) was granted the southern part of the country and Russia took over the northern Azerbaijan. During the Russian Revolution of 1917 an established nationalist government ruling in Azerbaijan claimed it as an independent state, however in April of 1920 Azerbaijan was invaded by the Red Army and the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan was established.
The Soviet-Turkish Treaty of March 1921 gave jurisdiction rights to Azerbaijan for the region of Nakhichevan. Fifty percent of this region's population was Armenian, however by 1988 the Armenian population was reduced to 5%. Meanwhile the region of Nagorny Karabakh was left also for Azeri jurisdiction by Stalin. This region received autonomous status in 1923 within the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. In later years many attempts were made by the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh to challenge the jurisdiction of Azerbaijan in this region, however, these attempts were opposed by Soviet and Azeris authorities. Azerbaijan officially restored its independence in October of 1991 from the former Soviet Union and became the Republic of Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, the questions of Nakhichevan and Karabakh still remains unsolved.
The Republic Of Armenia
Formally known as the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, it neighbors Azerbaijan in the east, Turkey in the northeast, and Iran to the south. Yerevan is the nation's capital. For most of its history Armenia has been dominated by foreign powers. From as early as 1639 Armenia was dominated by Turkey in the western part and the eastern region was captured by the Persian Empire. Later the Russian Empire controlled the eastern part of Armenia claiming it as one of its provinces. With the fall of the Russian Empire in 1918, Armenia became a proclaimed independent state, however due to invasion threats from its north eastern neighbor Turkey, Armenia was forced to seek Soviet protection.
The most tragic chapter of Armenian history occurred in the beginning of the 20th Century when Turkish Ottoman rulers became greatly responsible for brutal massacres and deportation of Armenians in western Armenia and in Anatolian land. Perhaps to a great extent the main difference between Turks and Armenians was their religious difference, Turks being Muslims and Armenians being Christian. Today's conflict becomes an old feud because Azeris are considered cousins to Turks, and religious differences between these two groups is still a major issue in conflict.
With the disintegration of the former Soviet Union public pressure to challenge Azeri authority in Nagorno-Karabakh has increased. There have been serious attacks by Armenians trying to gain control of this enclave. Some of these attacks have been successful in gaining territory. According to an Armenian government claim, these attacks have been carried out entirely alone by Karabakh self-defense forces. Officially, the Armenian government denies direct involvement in the region. There have also been accusations by the Armenian government that Turkey has been providing military support for Azeris. The Turkish government meanwhile has denied such involvement.
The Armenian government is somewhat disillusioned with the Russian government because of the past Russian support of Azeri authority in the region of Nagorno- karabakh. Armenian military forces at one point were successful in opening passages to link Karabakh to mainland Armenia, but in June 1992, Azerbaijani forces launched a counter attack regaining lost territory. These territorial attacks have also resulted in the expelling of many inhabitants by the two governments in the autonomous regions of Karabakh and Nakhichevan, thus creating a mass refugee crisis.
Mediation And Involvement In The Region.
With the fall of the Soviet Union, the United Nations has become involved in the Transcaucasus region to try and maintain peace, and also seek help in building new institutions.
Issues for further Consideration
"In March 1992 the Secretary-General appealed to the parties involved in the dispute over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh to maintain an informal cease-fire arranged under Iran's auspices, which was to expire on March 27 but was extended to a later date. Mr. Boutros-Ghali hoped for an immediate end to the fighting and that the parties would settle their disputes in accordance with their obligations as UN Member States and that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights would be fully adhered to." (UN Chronicle, June 1992 37)
"In January 1993 Security Council members expressed deep concern at the devastating effect of interruptions in supply of goods and material to Armenia and the Nakhichevan region of Azerbaijan. UN urges all countries in position to help to provide fuel and other humanitarian supplies to the region." (UN Chronicle June 1993)
"In March 1993 the United Nations interim offices in seven former Soviet republics are facilitating a "practical and effective dialogue" to build the human and institutional capacity required to consolidate an early transition to democracy and market economy." (UN Chronicle June 1993 35)
"The Security Council on 30 April 1993 demanded the immediate cessation of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh and acted by unanimously adopting resolution 822 (1993), in which parties concerned were urged to resume negotiations immediately to resolve the conflict, within the framework of the Minsk Group peace process of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) and to refrain from any action that would obstruct a peaceful solution." (UN Chronicle September 1993 )
"Due to escalation in armed hostilities and the deteriorating situation in Nagorno-Karabkh the Security Council adopted resolution 853 in July 1993 which demands immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of the occupying forces in the district of Agdam and all other recently occupied areas of the Azerbaijani Republic by the Armenian forces." (UN Chronicle December 1993)
The Security Council has also passed resolution 874 in October 1993, which calls for "unimpeded access for international humanitarian relief efforts in all areas affected by the conflict urging the parties to refrain from violations of international law." (<MI>UN Chronicle March 1994)