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February 16, 2008

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Carlos

That link makes me wonder how many more beads I would have got had I flashed my breasts more than once. (or fewer.)

You didn't know the aswang story?

R

In what way is the ruling party letting Armenia drift toward war? Whether its this government or another the Armenian position on NKR - that it has the right to self-determination (now won with blood) - wont change. The Azeris have said they will never accept the secession of NKR and refuse to talk to its government.

Doug M.

"R", NKR isn't really the problem. The Azeris have come very close to agreeing to let NKR go -- at one point they'd pretty much agreed to a plebescite, which the Armenians would of course win.

The problem is the "buffer zones" aka the "liberated territories", the large chunks of Azeri territory around NKR. Azerbaijan can't give those up; they're part of Azerbaijan. Few Armenians ever lived in these regions (and few do today), but they've produced around 300,000 Azeri refugees. But the current Armenian government won't let them go.

The official reason is that these territories are strategically necessary to keep Karabakh safe. This is pretty dubious, because -- with the exception of the "corridor" between Armenia and Karabakh -- the territories weren't seized for that reason; the "liberated territories" are just where the front lines happened to be when the final ceasefire took effect.

Obviously giving back some of the buffer territories would involve some risk. But sitting on them is risky too -- the Azeris will try to recover them sooner or later. The Armenian leadership seems very confident that it can win a second war; I really don't see why.


Doug M.

R

Doug Muir,

It is certainly true that the buffer zones around NKR were not populated by Armenians prior to the recent war and even now there are few Armenians there (I was there last July). Even the area separating Armenia from NKR, known as Kelbajar, was primarily populated by Muslim Kurds (as opposed to the exclusively Yezidi Kurds of Armenia).

The Azeri position is that there should be a step-by-step process whereby the Armenians cede territory now with the status of NKR left to be determined at the end. Azerbaijan has been very clear that it is willing to consider allowing NKR the "highest degree of autonomy" but outright secession is absolutely off the table.

The Armenian position rejects the incremental approach in favour of a comprehensive final agreement which would involve Armenia returning most of the buffer zone territory to Azerbaijan in exchange for NKR's independence and a corridor at Lachin connecting it to Armenia. The Armenians consider that to cede territory before a final agreement is reached would be suicidal.

International efforts have attempted to square this circle by proposing a step-by-step return of territory and refugees under international supervision, with an eventual referendum on NKR's status at a later date.

In the meantime Azerbaijan has become more bellicose as the oil revenues increase with frequent threats to retake the region by force. For the Armenians NKR is like Jerusalem for the Jews, and of course both Robert Kotcharian and Serge Sargsyan are from NKR.

Doug M.

"For the Armenians NKR is like Jerusalem for the Jews"

Um, no. If Armenia has a Jerusalem -- it doesn't, really -- it would Echmiadzin. And if you mean a traditional cultural center, that would either be Tbilisi, or somewhere around Lake Van. Zeitun, perhaps?

Yes, Armenians have lived in NK for a long time. So have Azeris -- Shousha was an Azeri cultural center four hundred years ago. (There also used to be a lot of Azeris down in Meghri. Most left in 1918-22, the rest in the early 1990s).

Sure, it should be part of Armenia. It's Armenian-majority, and has been since forever. But "ceding territory would be suicidal"? That's nonsense. You can look at a map and see that Armenia is currently occupying territory that has little or no strategic value. Again, the occupied territories are just where the front lines were when the fighting stopped.

The oil making them more bellicose: well, of course. What did you think would happen?

Jerusalem... no. But Levon Ter-Petrosian made the mistake of giving power to the Karabakhtsi, and they've been running Armenia ever since.


Doug M.

R

In terms of religious significance Etchmiadzin is more akin to the Vatican. Tblisi and Constantinople were the centres of Armenian culture in modern times until WW1 - Yerevan was a village. (Shushi was and is significant for Armenians).

The NKR - Jerusalem comparison refers more to the capture of East Jerusalem in 1967.

Territory should be ceded but only once a final agreement has been achieved.

Levon Ter-Petrossian got his start in politics as a founding member of the Karabakh Committee.

Doug M.

"Territory should be ceded but only once a final agreement has been achieved."

Why is that, exactly?

Really: why is that the only solution? It hasn't worked so far, that's for sure.

In fact, it seems to be more about the Karabakhtsi leadership than about the needs of all Armenians. Kocharian keeps saying that "We have not lost a single square meter during my presidency." Well... nice for him.

"Levon Ter-Petrossian got his start in politics as a founding member of the Karabakh Committee."

And that makes him a Karabakhtsi? Ooookay.


Doug M.


Paul

I would like to see some of the occupied zones given back now instead of later- however I also will not say they are of no strategic value. Everyone recognizes Meghri's importance, but beyond that the others are important too. Kelbajar is the source for the rivers of Karabakh and Armenians fear giving that up, especially before the war is ended, could result in poisonings. Would Azeris do that? I don't think so but I wouldn't rule it out. Furthermore having Kelbajar and the other occupied territories makes Karabakh much more secure and defensible. Look at NK's borders. Paradoxically, the length of the border which would need to be secured and defended for the smaller area of NK is actually much much larger than with the occupied territories. Why is that? Well Kelbajar goes up to the high Mrav mountain range making it a naturally defensible border, instead of giving it up and letting Azeris come all the way up to the tiny Lachin corridor. The much straighter line of border on the eastern front when compared to the randomly twisty actual NK border is much simpler and less area as well. It also keeps Karabakh further away from Azeri missiles- though with technology having grown so much since ceasefire I think distance is quickly losing it's value. Regardless, as you reach the south notice the truly mind-boggling borders around the Hadrut region. It's simply insane and full of nooks. Instead of having to worry about that the front line with occupied regions is again a straight line down to the Iranian border and back to Armenia, an area which doesn't have to be defended at all. Giving up all that on the south would create not only a great deal of border territory that needs to be defended and then to the border with Armenia itself, the length of which also needs to be taken into consideration and defended. Meanwhile there will be a mere 29 km or so tantalizingly separating Azerbaijan from Nakhichevan waiting to be swept over.

I'm sorry but with Azerbaijan's bellicose rhetoric I just don't see giving up any territory as a current possibility. One must consider the realities on the ground and the threats coming from the other side when considering why Armenia just doesn't give the land up now. One need not be an ultra-nationalist to see the legitimate and strategic reasons for why those regions are important to Armenia. That said I'd still like to see regular Azeris come back to those regions and at least some bits given back even before a comprehensive solution, but in such a precarious situation it's vital that all sides be genuine about their desire to settle things peacefully before all the lands can be given up without great risk.

Doug M.

Some of the occupied territories have strategic value -- and some don't. The city of Fizuli, for instance: it's hard to see what the point of occupying that is. It's physically lower than the adjacent regions of Karabakh, and the roads going into it are dead ends now. (There's one paved road from Karabakh into Iran, and it's further west.)

As for missiles, note that there's a sliver of NK (the northern tip) that's still under Azeri occupation.

More to the point, ceding territory doesn't mean the Azeris move in and set up guns. Any agreement would require the Azeris to demilitarize the reoccupied territory, with confirmation by international observers.

Yes, this would be a risk. But so is doing nothing! Every day the Azeris get stronger. If no agreement is reached, do you think the status quo can hold forever?

Oh, and: It's almost forgotten now, but the relevant UN resolutions all called for the withdrawal of Armenian forces from the occupied areas of Azerbaijan:

http://www.state.gov/p/eur/rls/or/13508.htm


Doug M.

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