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Reintegration of Karabakh Armenians – JAMnews

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Reintegration of Karabakh Armenians

Why the proposals of the Azerbaijani authorities arouse skepticism

The one-day “local anti-terrorist actions” (this is how Azerbaijan officially calls the Third Karabakh War) ended with the complete defeat of the illegal armed formations of Armenians on the territory of the Karabakh region. Azerbaijan.

Many, including me, believed that the reports of the coming war were nothing more than a bluff, Azerbaijan would not oppose the “peacekeepers” of Russia and would not violate the first paragraph of the November 10, 2020 ceasefire declaration. Yet it happened and the results are evident. After three years of impasse, representatives of the Armenians of Karabakh declared themselves ready to lay down their arms and cooperate with the Azerbaijani authorities on the fate of the region’s population. There is no question of a special status for the region.

Why did Azerbaijan stop just steps from the center of Khankendi, the administrative center of the former autonomous oblast of Nagorno-Karabakh? He did not raise his flag to the courageous cries of “Khankendi Bizimdir!” (“Stepanakert is ours!”). – even from the times of the Second Karabakh War, when each liberated city was accompanied by such a tweet and clip).

Let us not deny that the Azerbaijani authorities would ideally like a Karabakh without Armenians. Why this headache with demands in terms of human, economic, humanitarian and other rights, when these same rights are not very well respected in the rest of the country by the representatives of the titular people. But we are in the 21st century and for a long time, separatists and those who support them abroad have been crying about the “ethnic cleansing” to come. Under these conditions, the Azerbaijani authorities, in my opinion, took a theoretically correct step and invited the Karabakh Armenians to reintegrate into the rest of Azerbaijan.

To begin with, the Azerbaijani authorities offered all illegal armed groups to lay down their arms. This is understandable and correct. President Aliyev promised in his speech to the nation that Karabakh Armenians would be guaranteed all rights and freedoms: “All their rights will be guaranteed – rights to education, cultural rights, religious rights, rights to municipal elections.” It looks beautiful too. Aliyev stressed in his speech that he is the master of his word: “my word is my signature”.

Before that, the Azerbaijani government amended the Tax Code and exempted all residents of Karabakh and Eastern Zangezur (formerly occupied territories) from taxes for 10 years starting from January 1, 2023 (Article 227 of the Tax Code of Azerbaijan). ‘AR). This also applies to Armenians who have acquired Azerbaijani citizenship. In general, it’s wonderful.

President Aliyev promised, a month before the start of “anti-terrorism measures”, that separatists who voluntarily lay down their arms would benefit from an amnesty. Presidential Assistant for Foreign Policy Hikmet Hajiyev, already after the end of the “one-day war”, once again confirmed the amnesty proposal, adding that it would not apply to those who had committed war crimes during the First Karabakh War. (Besides, the list of these potential criminals has still not been published). This is also a normal proposition. Amnesty for veterans was implemented in Northern Ireland and the Balkans.

So why such skepticism about the upcoming reintegration? The most important reason is that Karabakh Armenians do not trust the Azerbaijani authorities. For a moment, I imagined myself in their place and realized I wouldn’t trust them either. It’s a natural human reaction. So far, Azerbaijani authorities have taken small steps to restore trust, but time is running out and the level of mistrust is too high. It is difficult to hope for serious changes in the near future.

Second, it is not clear who will keep these people safe and how. Russian peacekeepers? We will then have to extend their mandate (as Putin wishes) for an indefinite period. Furthermore, as recent events have shown, it is dangerous to place much hope on Russian peacekeeping forces.

Third, there are legal problems. The Azerbaijani constitution does not provide for dual nationality and to acquire Azerbaijani citizenship, you will have to give up your Armenian passport. Are many people ready for such a step? They will be called traitors.

Fourth, problems in the field of culture and education. With which textbooks will the children and young men of Karabakh study? It is clear that there are no problems in mathematics and chemistry, but what about history? There are no textbooks in Armenian in Azerbaijan, even if we urgently organize translation and printing, what about the content, which is contrary to that of textbooks in Armenia? It is possible to temporarily use Russian textbooks, but again Russia…

I think the conscription problem can be solved by compromise. There have been precedents in history where natives of certain regions were exempt from conscription (if they did not insist on it). Karabakh Armenians of military age could serve in the engineering forces, rebuilding cities and roads destroyed during the war.

Finally, about President Aliyev’s promise regarding municipal government. Today in Azerbaijan, municipalities are the most powerless institution, a mere appendage of executive power. But rumors persist about the next constitutional reform, which would grant municipalities more rights in terms of local autonomy. It would be good to submit these proposals for public debate, listen to representatives of Karabakh and other regions and accept their proposals in the draft. So far it’s been a “cat in a bag”.

In summary, I personally think that plans to reintegrate the Armenian population of Karabakh into Azerbaijani society remain a fantasy. Most of them will decide to leave, those who cannot flourish in Armenia or Russia, mainly the elderly, will stay. But it would be good to include in future agreements a mandatory right to repatriation. If, after a while, a person is not able to adapt and wants to return, he or she must benefit from all guarantees, including housing, employment and the entire social package.

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