Sergey Arutyunov: "Azerbaijanis should have right to return to Karabakh"

Sergey Arutyunov: "Azerbaijanis should have right to return to Karabakh"

Yesterday, the OSCE Minsk Group called upon the parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to consider measures that would reduce tension on the contact line. These days the co-chairs of the Minsk Group Russia's Igor Popov, France's Stefan Visconti and Richard Hoagland from the US, as well as the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office Andrzej Kasprzyk have been in the region to discuss the steps, which can contribute to the peace process. On June 10, the co-chairs met with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan in Yerevan, on June 19 - with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Baku, as well as with the refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh. In addition, the mediators held consultations with the foreign and defense ministers of both countries and expressed concern over the recent violations of the ceasefire regime, which led to casualties on the contact line on the eve of their visit to Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov expressed the opinion that Armenia's recent provocations on the line of contact between Azerbaijani and Armenian troops were deliberate and aim at escalating the situation and disrupting the negotiations. According to him, in line with the proposals on the table, the withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan is crucial for achieving progress in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict’s settlement. The minister also mentioned the illegal activities, including establishment of settlements, destruction of cultural heritage, organization of illegal flights and other illegal economic actions conducted by Armenia in the occupied Azerbaijani territories, which seriously impede the negotiation process.

Armenia has not yet implemented the UN Security Council's four resolutions on withdrawal of its armed forces from Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding districts, so the intensification of the negotiation process has never been so urgent.

Very interesting, although contested, ideas about ways to resolve the conflict were expressed a few years ago by the head of the Caucasus department of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Science, Sergei Arutyunov. He proposed to declare Nagorno-Karabakh a self-governing territory, a condominium of Azerbaijan and Armenia, which supreme authority would be exercised by two commissioners appointed by Baku and Yerevan. "Perhaps for a certain period, with the presence of a Russian mediator. But the commissioners have to display good will and not argue, and always agree with each other. Such a system was adopted in Melaneisa, now the Republic of Vanuatu, but formerly known as New Hebrides. There was a British-French condominium. France and the UK claimed parts of the country, but then agreed to jointly managing the South Pacific island. Another example of such an arrangement was Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. Such a condominium can be declared in Nagorno-Karabakh. And it could be acceptable for both the Azerbaijani and Armenian sides," Arutyunov believes.

He acknowledged that Armenia categorically rejects any Azerbaijan presence in Nagorno-Karabakh, noting: "The Azerbaijanis, who were forced to flee from there, should have the right to return to their homes. I believe that in this case,  no preference should be given to any ethnic group in Karabakh, they must have equal rights and equal opportunity".

Sergei Arutyunov was born in Tbilisi in 1932. After graduating from the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies in 1954, he entered postgraduate studies at the Institute of Ethnography (the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences). Upon his graduation he became a research fellow at the institute, where he continues to work as head of the Caucasus department since 1985. His sphere of interests is the contemporary ethnic and linguistic situation in the Caucasus, migration, ethnic processes and their impact on cultural and social identity.

Speaking about the fate of the seven occupied Azerbaijani regions, Arutyunov in particular said: "There was no large number of Armenians in the Fizuli and Agdam districts, which major parts are controlled by the so-called NKR, before the conflict. The Azerbaijani population almost entirely prevailed there. I think that part of these seven districts should be simply returned to Azerbaijan, and part of the territory can enter the condominium in Karabakh, managed jointly by Azerbaijan and Armenia".

That is how Arutyunov explains the possible success of his plan: "I have seen two nations lived together peacefully in both Baku and Tbilisi, and Yerevan. I still have many Azeri friends. In addition,  the person to whom I twice owe my life to was an ethnic Azeri - Sabir Bagirovich Farajov, whom I faithfully remember. There are no bad nations, just bad people. All nations are good. There are simply good and very good nations. I believe that Azeris are a very good people".

As an example of trust that existed between the two peoples, Arutyunov cited the following one: "There is the village of Getap in Armenia's Yeghegnadzor region, and there is an Azerbaijani village further upriver. I worked in these villages, and I know about particular friendships. A guy from the Azerbaijani village decided to marry a girl from Fizuli. He sent three matchmakers to her - two Azeris and one Armenian from Getap. How could one have more trust? That’s how it was. But then those people who were closest friends began to avoid each other. And soon Azerbaijanis left Armenia".

Speaking about the emergence of the conflict, Arutyunov said: "During the restructuring, socio-political ties have weakened and even disintegrated. And various politicians hastened to take advantage of this matter. There were attempts to take advantage of this situation not only in Karabakh, but also in other parts of the former Soviet Union. Those who like to fish in troubled waters took advantage. People lived together, but they were pushed against each other through ethnic passions".

Responding to his critics from Yerevan, Arutnunov said: "If they believe that no Armenian can express a sensible thought, then let me not be an Armenian. It's fine ... I would wish the two peoples to get rid of xenophobia. Remember that years of good-neighborly coexistence, years of friendship and kinship are behind you. Remember that both of you are people. "

... On July 3, the co-chairs of the Minsk Group will travel to Vienna to brief the OSCE about the course of the peace settlement. They call upon the parties to re-engage in negotiations on substance, in good faith and with political will, believing that this is the only way to bring a lasting peace to the people of the region, who expect and deserve progress in the settlement of the conflict.