To the President of the European Council, Mr. Charles Michel
To the President of the European Commission, Mrs. Ursula von der Leyen
Armenian National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum
On the Situation in the South Caucasus Region
Yerevan, January 30, 2021
The Armenian National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF ANP) states that the September-November 2020 war unleashed by Azerbaijan against Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) and the Republic of Armenia with the direct participation and provocation of Turkey not only resulted in numerous casualties and lead to forced displacement of thousands of persons, but also set an extremely negative precedent and a security threat to the region and the world.
During the war, Azerbaijan committed numerous violations of international law and humanitarian norms, in particular:
– A number of jihadist mercenaries – members of illegal groups operating in Syria, Lybia, etc. – were transferred to the conflict zone by Azerbaijan with the immediate support of Turkey;
– Many peaceful settlements were regularly targeted by the Azerbaijani armed forces in order to displace the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. In this context, it should be noted that the actions aimed at forcibly evicting people from their places of residence on the basis of nationality are nothing but ethnic cleansing;
– Militaries fighting on the side of Azerbaijan treated the prisoners of war and civilians inhumanely in violation of all international norms: there is ample evidence of the captives being tortured, many prisoners of war killed and their bodies mutilated;
– Azerbaijan violated the first three ceasefire agreements reached through the mediation of the OSCE Co-Chairs. This behavior clearly demonstrated Azerbaijan’s intention to resolve the Karabakh conflict through military means and proves that the Azerbaijani side excludes any significant compromise during the peaceful settlement of the conflict.
We note that as long as the involvement of terrorists, use of prohibited weapons in hostilities, intimidation of civilians by dictatorial regimes have not been properly assessed by the international community, such practices of hybrid warfare will be repeated and expanded around the world, leading to new disasters.
It should be noted that although the trilateral agreement mediated by the Russian Federation ended the hostilities, people’s security and numerous humanitarian threats in the post-war period have not disappeared. Moreover, it should also be noted that no final settlement of the Karabakh conflict has been achieved. Instead, the Azerbaijani side continues to issue numerous official statements containing claims of anti-Armenian hatred, violence and threats to the security of Armenia and the Armenian people.
In this regard, the ANP expresses its deep concern over the situation following the signing of the joint Statement by the Prime Minister of Armenia, the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Russia on November 9, 2020, and notes that Azerbaijan has violated and continues to violate:
– Paragraph 1 of the Statement, continuing to occupy new territories from Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) (Khtsaberd, Hin Tagher villages, other territories), as a result of which another 64 Armenian soldiers were captured by Azerbaijan on the line of contact;
– Paragraph 7 of the Statement, by not creating necessary conditions for the return of about 40,000 civilians displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) as a result of the war to the parts of Hadrut, Martuni, Askeran, Martakert, Shushi regions occupied by Azerbaijan, while peaceful Armenian residents that had remained or visited their settlements were killed and captured not only during the war, but also after the signing of the trilateral Statement. The facts regarding these cases are recorded in the relevant report of the RA Human Rights Defender;
– Paragraph 7 of the Statement, by not creating conditions for the return of the Armenian population to Karvachar (Kelbajar), Berdzor (Lachin) and other regions around the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) – people who lived in those areas having previously been displaced from other regions of Azerbaijan, or from other territories of Artsakh occupied by Azerbaijan;
– Paragraph 8 of the Statement, by refusing to return by various estimates 100-200 Armenian prisoners of war and civilians, including women. Many of them were captured after the signing of the trilateral Statement as a result of violation by Azerbaijan of the ceasefire, as well as those who had still remained in their settlements occupied by Azerbaijan.
Russia has not fulfilled:
– Paragraph 3 of the Statement, by not deploying its peacekeeping troops along the entire line of contact of Nagorno-Karabakh, including the villages of Khtsaberd and Hin Tagher, Dizapayt Mountain and Kataro Monastery, which the Russian troops took control of for only one day, publishing also the relevant map. After that, however, they withdrew, and as a result, a month after the ceasefire was signed, the Azerbaijani troops occupied the area, capturing 65 Armenian soldiers and locals on the line of contact;
– Paragraph 5 of the Statement, during the establishment of the peacekeeping center to monitor the ceasefire involving Turkey in it without consulting with Armenia;
– Paragraph 6 of the Statement, as a result of which, Armenian civilians were captured by the Azerbaijani armed forces on the Goris-Lachin-Stepanakert highway controlled by the Russian peacekeepers after the signing of the Statement.
Meanwhile, Armenia fully abode by all its commitments under paragraphs 1, 2, 4, 6, 8 of the Statement.
In addition to the above, the Russian peacekeeping mission in Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) has no international mandate, its legal basis is unknown, it is not known whether the Armenian or Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) authorities will be a signatory to the agreement on peacekeeping forces in Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh). The powers and rights of the mission are not known either, which severely limits the capabilities of that mission to fulfill its commitments and the accountability in ensuring the security of the local Armenian population and stability and peace in the region.
Besides, no adequate assessment of Azerbaijan unleashing the war has been given, although this fact has been admitted by all the three Co-Chair States of the Minsk Group.
At the same time, Azerbaijan, together with the Russian militaries, has launched an illegal unilateral process of demarcation and delimitation of Armenia’s boundaries, annexation of territories in the southern part of the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, which does not comply with international standards, breaches the OSCE and UN regulations, and grossly violates the rights and interests of the local population. This has led to a problem of internally displaced persons inside Armenia, a new humanitarian crisis, an atmosphere of psychological terror and new security threats. Azerbaijani troops are deployed in the immediate vicinity of the Armenian villages and towns and on the roads used by the Armenian civilian population.
Of additional concern is the fact that Turkey, ignoring numerous calls from the international community, continues to carry out destabilizing actions in the region, concentrating large numbers of troops near the Armenian border, organizing joint military drills with Azerbaijan and continuing large-scale military supplies to Azerbaijan. Such actions are also fraught with disruption of the possibility of establishing long-term stability and peace in the whole region.
At the same time, we note positively the European Parliament Resolution dated January 20, 2021 on the annual report on the “Implementation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy” and, in particular, its 24th paragraph, and the European Parliament Resolution dated January 20, 2020 on the annual report on the “Implementation of the Common Security and Defense Policy” and, in particular, its 13th paragraph.
Based on the above-mentioned, we call on the European Union and the EU Member States to make every effort and use their influence on the OSCE and the Council of Europe to establish lasting security and peace in the conflict zone on the basis of the Madrid Principles, in particular:
– Give a proper legal assessment of the actions of Azerbaijan and Turkey during the hostilities, taking into account the available factual evidence of the involvement of terrorists, the use of illegal weapons, war crimes against prisoners of war and civilians;
– Support the civilian population living in humanitarian emergency in the conflict zone by contributing to the protection of their fundamental rights;
– Make every effort to contribute to the safe return of prisoners of war, which will prevent possible recurrence of cases of their ill-treatment, including physical and psychological torture, humiliation of dignity and, in some cases, killings, as reported in the videos disseminated;
– Full return of the finalisation of the settlement process of Karabakh conflict to the Minsk Group format based on the Madrid Principles adoped in 2007, and subsequently reinforced in L’Aquila and Muskoka;
– Support the deployment of the UN Security Council mandated OSCE international peacekeeping forces both in the whole territory of former NKAO and in the 7 regions around it, engaging also the Russian peacekeepers currently stationed in Artsakh without any international mandate. On the guarantees and with security provided by peacekeeping forces, to ensure the return of Armenian refugees and displaced persons to the territory of the NKAO and the 7 regions around it respectively;
– Recognize the interim status of Artsakh, and afterwards contribute to the earliest possible resumption of negotiations on the timing of the implementation of the remedial right to self-determination of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh), after which the peaceful coexistence of the Armenian and Azerbaijani peoples, the lasting peace between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh), and the signing of an agreement ensuring regional security will become possible;
– Carry out an international investigation into the September 27, 2020 aggression by Turkey and Azerbaijan against the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (Republic of Artsakh), including the facts of involvement of jihadist mercenaries in the war, as well as war crimes and the circumstances of engagement of the top leadership of Azerbaijan and Turkey in them, and bring perpetrators to justice – by the example of the wars and war crimes in Yugoslavia;
– With the mediation of the representatives of the Minsk Group Co-Chair States, to form an intergovernmental commission to carry out delimitation and demarcation of the borders between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and if necessary, an international commission, which will be guided by fundamental demarcation documents, international standards and norms, taking into account the international experience.
Additional information on the facts mentioned in the current Statement can be found in the 14 annexes to this Statement.