Armenia faces pressure to concede to an unfavorable peace deal

Navigating the Intricacies of Identity and Sovereignty in the South Caucasus.

Azerbaijan perceives Karabakh as a geographical territory, while for the Armenians of Karabakh, it represents their people and homeland. The primary concern of the Armenians today is the safety and preservation of the 120,000 Armenians living there. With increasing reports of missing Karabakh Armenians, problems are escalating.

These are challenging times to put thoughts into words.

Some of our colleagues' family members, who previously fled the pogroms in Baku and sought refuge in Europe, are now caught up in the conflict in Karabakh. This, combined with the desperation of the younger generation and the burden of empathizing with their suffering, makes one feel helpless. In addition, the biased coverage in the Turkish media, coupled with provocative remarks and blatant sarcasm, underscores the urgency of standing up for Armenians, whether in Turkey or Karabakh.

While many focus on geopolitics, such as Russia's role, Armenia's westward pivot, and international diplomatic relations, I intend to shed light on this crisis's human and practical aspects. Currently based in Belgium, I'm heavily involved with the Armenian media and helping diaspora youth understand the rapidly evolving situation in Karabakh. The dynamics of the South Caucasus region change so quickly that new developments occur even before an article reaches its readers. Nevertheless, I'm committed to sharing first-hand accounts from people directly affected by the situation.

It's widely acknowledged that the territory of Karabakh has been under Azerbaijan's jurisdiction for several decades.

Recently, the Karabakh Security Council representatives met with their Azerbaijani counterparts in Azerbaijan. While numerous issues remain unresolved, there's a glimmer of hope as steps toward some resolution appear underway. Following this meeting, Karabakh's representatives indicated that they wouldn't disarm immediately, emphasizing the need for security guarantees from Azerbaijan. Yet the sounds of fighting continue emanating from Stepanakert, with Azerbaijani forces advancing aggressively. Disturbing reports from the Karabakh Monitoring Center suggest that every village in the path of these forces has suffered casualties. With entire villages cut off, and in light of previous wartime abuses by Azerbaijani soldiers, fears of large-scale atrocities in Stepanakert loom large, exacerbated by the absence of international observers.

Solutions to protect the Karabakh population from potential mass atrocities remain elusive, drawing grim comparisons to witnessing genocide in real-time.

During an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council, Azerbaijan's representative expressed a willingness to extend all forms of humanitarian aid. However, the logistics and conditions surrounding this aid's distribution are paramount. The impending scenario of bypassing existing Armenian institutions in Karabakh poses numerous challenges for the Armenians. Accessing this aid or leaving Karabakh will require Azerbaijani passports, forcing individuals to register officially. Once registered, they fall under the jurisdiction of Azerbaijani law, a system that's notoriously harsh on dissenters and opposition figures.

The unfolding situation resonates with historical precedents, reminding many of the aftermath of the 1915 events familiar to us Turks. A pattern emerges: first, mass violence, followed by the imposition of property taxes, linguistic assimilation campaigns, and financial restrictions, culminating in a regime in which fundamental rights become privileges. It's conceivable that individuals whose relatives suffered atrocities only two years earlier will be forced to conform to Azerbaijani symbols and narratives, possibly facing discrimination in civilian and military roles.

There is a stark contrast in perceptions of Karabakh: Azerbaijan sees it as a territorial asset, while for Karabakh's Armenians, it's about their identity and homeland. This explains Azerbaijan's reluctance to disclose its military losses. Armenians' immediate priority is to ensure their compatriots' safety in the region.

Despite its apparent intention to facilitate movement, the Lachin Corridor has proven to be a potential trap. It's notorious for the detention of Armenian youth. Azerbaijan's extradition requests to the Karabakh Security Council for alleged "separatist terrorists" further complicate matters. This list includes former officials. The Azerbaijani leadership intends to prosecute them for acts of terrorism. Earlier proclamations categorized all Karabakh militarily trained individuals as potential threats. Such narratives exacerbate fears of targeted arrests and detentions reminiscent of 1915 when specific groups were targeted for persecution.

Prime Minister Pashinyan is aware of the challenges associated with asserting true independence, as opposed to the nominal autonomy Armenia has enjoyed under Russian influence since 1991. With historical precedents suggesting that Armenians have experienced multiple state failures, Pashinyan risks potential national destabilization in his pursuit of genuine sovereignty. In the ongoing geopolitical chess game in which Turkey and Azerbaijan consistently exert dominance, Pashinyan finds himself isolated. The broader context reveals America's intent to contain Russia, Russia's ambitions in the South Caucasus, and Turkey's and Azerbaijan's vision of an Armenia stripped of its Armenian identity, reminiscent of post-1915 aspirations.

Turkey's and Azerbaijan's claims are far from settled. Their track records suggest skepticism about any forthcoming peace agreements. In the immediate future, further territorial and political demands can be expected.

Prime Minister Pashinyan, who has emphasized Armenia's desire for peace, is likely to face significant pressure to concede to an unfavorable peace deal, as articulated by the opposing leaders.

The road ahead remains uncertain and challenging.

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