A Small Step toward Greater Awareness of the Tragedy of Nagorno-Karabakh

We have discussed the Khojaly Massacre and the frozen conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh (and the surrounding regions occupied by Armenia) here before. Last week saw yet another small milestone in efforts to recognize those tragedies, and to move closer to a day when the region will know peace.

In Rome, an audience in the Library of the Italian Chamber of Deputies (loosely analogous to the House of Representatives) heard a discussion on the conflict, occasioned by the presentation of a special issue of Charta, the Farefuturo Foundation Quarterly Review (roughly equivalent to Foreign Policy), dedicated to the “forgotten wars.”

“What we want is justice and peace,” said Fuad Suleymanov, director of the Association for Civil Society Development in Azerbaijan. Suleymanov movingly recalled the Khojaly massacre, which killed 613 people and which is by any measure a crime against humanity. Khojaly occurred during the course of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which numbered about 30,000 casualties.

While many in Washington highlight Azerbaijan’s importance as a strategic partner against Iran and as a proven energy source (and alternative to Russia) for Europe, this misses the human and developmental dimension to this frozen situation.  Interviews with Cabinet-level officers — all dedicated to advancing Azerbaijan’s economic and, however imperfectly, political freedom — betray a sense of loss and pain that American observers have a hard time understanding. The psychological and economic impacts of this tragic war are enormous, and made worse by the fact that there is no resolution — and that the closest thing to a resolution, the so-called OSCE Minsk Group, has not advanced the cause of resolution an iota since its inception nearly two decades ago.

Adolfo Urso, President of Farefuturo, highlighted the strategic and political concerns raised by the frozen conflict. Currently, Urso said, the European presence inside the Minsk Group, which has the task of mediating between Baku and Yerevan, is “guaranteed” by France as co-chairman along with Russia and the United States.

Unfortunately France is “conditioned by the important Armenian minority within it, especially at a time of elections.” Instead, Europe would need to be present in this crisis scenario, to reaffirm a ‘”moral authority based on the rights of individuals, peoples, and nations,” but also “in the interest of its energy independence.” The meeting was also addressed by the former Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Stefania Craxi, and the parliamentary leader of the Future and Freedom for Italy, Benedetto Della Vedova.

In a sense, this was a small thing, a small recognition of the calamity lying barely frozen in the Caucasus, some 20 years after the invasion and occupation of Azerbaijan territory began, and following no fewer than four United Nations resolutions that have been systematically ignored.

In another, it was the kind of small step, and a definite one, that gives a tiny bit of hope on the way to resolving this disaster once and for all.

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