Karabakh conflict in eyes of Israeli political analyst

Karabakh conflict in eyes of Israeli political analyst

Interview by Peter Lyukimson, Israel. Exclusively for Vestnik Kavkaza

Doctor Emil Abramov, a senior scientist of the Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies of the University of Haifa, is one of the Israeli scientists actively engaged in studying the history of the South Caucasus, one of the leading specialists in the sector. Dr. Abramov is preparing to publish his book and a series of articles on the history of the Azerbaijani khanates, keeping a close watch on events in the South Caucasus today, including the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

- Doctor Abramov, how interesting is the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict for Israeli scientists? Do you think there are any similarities between the Armenian-Azerbaijani and the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts?

- Israeli political analysts, of course, are more interested in the development of the situation in the Middle East. Generally, the Caucasus, sadly, remains terra incognita for Israeli scientists, only a very few of them are familiar with the problems of the Caucasus.

One may, of course, find similarities in any conflicts. But I think that the Karabakh and the Palestinian conflicts differ in their essence, history, scale, the number of sides involved, the interest of world mass media and many other factors. Every conflict is a unique phenomenon, and attempts to resolve one conflict or another are based on comparative analysis, they are, in my opinion, unproductive.

- There are many versions about the cause of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. Which of them do you think is the closest to the historical truth?

- Indeed, there are countless versions. And the majority of them can easily be labeled as fantasy. The Karabakh conflict doubtlessly has historical origins. But since Azerbaijan and Armenia are still on the territory of post-Soviet space, the issue should be regarded from the submission of the Trans-Caucasus to the Russian Empire, not older times.

Before the conquest of the Trans-Caucasus, Armenians of the Russian Empire were a minority on most of the territory they occupy today. Being Christians, they were considered a natural ally of Russia in the fight against Muslim Persia and Turkey. Or vice versa, the Turkomans seemed like an unreliable population to the government, capable of taking the side of their co-religionists at any moment. Right after conquering the Trans-Caucasus in 1828 on the territory of the discontinued Nakhichevan and Erivan Khanates, the Armenian Oblast was formed; encouraged by the authorities of the Russian Empire, Armenians from Persia and the Ottoman Empire started settling there. Curiously, the resettlement of Armenians on the new territories was often hardly voluntary. The displacement of the Turkic population, the obvious disrespect from the imperial authorities and the religious differences artfully used by various provocateurs caused rising tensions in relations between Azerbaijanis and Armenians, resulting in bloody clashes that took many lives. One such massacre in 1905-1906 ended with numerous deaths.

Azerbaijan and Armenia, arising from the ruins of the Russian Empire in 1918, managed to wage two wars in just two years of independence, followed by ethnic cleansing. In 1920, the Bolsheviks liquidated both republics. It seems that the new government, postulating friendship of peoples, was to bring serenity. Indeed, despite some clashes and deportations of Azerbaijanis from Armenia in the 1947-1950s, it seemed for a long time that the conflict between the two peoples had come to an end. But the events in Karabakh showed that the Soviet period was only a calm before the storm.

I think, however, that historical arguments should be omitted in order to resolve the Karabakh conflict. Referring to the traditional pages of history only aggravates the current conflict and slows its settlement. I, of course, do not call for putting history out of mind and wiping the slate clean. It is simply impossible. But arguments such as “you were not here” only brings us to a stalemate.

- What is your evaluation of the actions of the Armenian and Azerbaijani authorities in the “hottest” period of the conflict, from 1990 to 1993?

- The Armenian side was better prepared for the conflict, in military and ideological terms. Using the strength of the Armenian community, skillfully forming agitation, Armenia managed to attract the sympathy of the Western world to its side. Azerbaijan, on the contrary, was unprepared for serious confrontation.

(Indeed, the plans and secret preparation of Armenian nationalists, supported and controlled by the USSR capital and abroad, was absolutely unexpected – Vestnik Kavkaza note). In those years, Azerbaijanis and Armenians had excellent relations in Azerbaijan, no one expected a conflict. Many leaders of Azerbaijan were idealists then. In addition, the Azerbaijani elites were dissociated on different issues. The situation changed when experienced politician Heydar Aliyev returned to power, managed to stop the war and give the country a break.

- How fair are Azerbaijani accusations of Armenia committing military crimes and violating international law?

- Azerbaijan accuses the Armenian side of a set of such crimes, the most outrageous of them is the Khojaly tragedy. Armenia is obviously denying guilt. But the guilt has been proved by many independent observers.

- What is your evaluation of the path both countries gone through in the last two decades, from the ceasefire to today? How did the conflict affect the development of their economic, domestic and foreign policies?

- The Karabakh conflict has been the center of political discourse in both republics. The Armenian side managed to gain control over Nagorno-Karabakh, but it seems to be a Pyrrhic victory today. Because of the long-running conflict, Armenia ended up in a blockade with a bad impact on its economic development. Russia, the closest ally of Armenia, as is known, has no land border with the republic. So Armenia has to strengthen ties with Iran, ruining its image in the West. Moreover, Armenia lacks an attractive economy for investors. The situation develops completely differently in Azerbaijan. Managing to recover from the repercussions of the war and postwar ruins, the resource-rich country managed to allocate major volumes of funds for modernization of the army. The growing economy makes Azerbaijan an ever more significant player in the Caucasus and the world.

- And here is the main question. What are the positions of Armenia and Azerbaijan in the world arena? Whose are better in your opinion?

- Doubtlessly, the Azerbaijani position is better. Armenia connected its fate with Russia and cooperates with Iran quite actively, which in the context of the crisis in relations between the West and Russia and the long-running negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program greatly weakens Armenia's positions. The problem is that Armenia has hardly any space for manoeuvre, not that it chose its allies and partners. If Russia refuses to support Armenia for some reason, it will simply run out of allies. Azerbaijan, being pro-Western on many issues, managed to maintain friendly ties with Russia. In other words, Azerbaijan has great potential for actions in the international arena.

- How constructive is the position each side takes in resolving the conflict, in your opinion?

- Unfortunately, settlement of the conflict has reach gridlock. Azerbaijan demands its territories back, I will remind you that it demands Nagorno-Karabakh itself and the surrounding Azerbaijani territories currently controlled by the Armenian side. The Armenian side denies the claims, calling the territories its own. On the other hand, we cannot ignore the fact that an Armenian population inhabits Nagorno-Karabakh, and Azerbaijan will have to form a system of relations with it volens nolens. Both sides are fed up with many years of fruitless talks, endless declarations and mutual accusations. I really hope that no new war will start and the Karabakh issue will be resolved peacefully.

- What further scenarios of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict do you foresee?

- In my opinion, the situation is developing according to the current scenario, i.e. the negotiation process will remain in a stalemate. Although, there have recently been certain prospects for progress in the Russian policy, maybe Russia will put pressure on Yerevan to ameliorate its position. But it is too early to talk about this.

- And the final question for you, as a specialist: what is your evaluation of Azerbaijani and Armenian relations with Israel?

- Armenia takes a very passive position. It is no secret that Azerbaijan is actively cooperating with Israel in various sectors, including the military sector. Israel has already chosen a path towards close cooperation with Azerbaijan. The cooperation is beneficial for both sides, each of them wants to make maximum profit from partnership relations.

Moreover, there is an emotional moment. Israel remembers the many-centuries existence of a Jewish community on Azerbaijani land and knows that Azerbaijan has no anti-Semitism. Israel constantly declares its support for Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, hosts Azerbaijani festivals and commemorations for victims of Black January and the Khojaly tragedy.

Interview by Peter Lyukimson, Israel. Exclusively for Vestnik KavkazaDoctor Emil Abramov, a senior scientist of the Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies of the University of Haifa, is one of the Israeli scientists actively engaged in studying the history of the South Caucasus, one of the leading specialists in the sector. Dr. Abramov is preparing to publish his book and a series of articles on the history of the Azerbaijani khanates, keeping a close watch on events in the South Caucasus today, including the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.- Doctor Abramov, how interesting is the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict for Israeli scientists? Do you think there are any similarities between the Armenian-Azerbaijani and the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts?- Israeli political analysts, of course, are more interested in the development of the situation in the Middle East. Generally, the Caucasus, sadly, remains terra incognita for Israeli scientists, only a very few of them are familiar with the problems of the Caucasus.One may, of course, find similarities in any conflicts. But I think that the Karabakh and the Palestinian conflicts differ in their essence, history, scale, the number of sides involved, the interest of world mass media and many other factors. Every conflict is a unique phenomenon, and attempts to resolve one conflict or another are based on comparative analysis, they are, in my opinion, unproductive.- There are many versions about the cause of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. Which of them do you think is the closest to the historical truth?- Indeed, there are countless versions. And the majority of them can easily be labeled as fantasy. The Karabakh conflict doubtlessly has historical origins. But since Azerbaijan and Armenia are still on the territory of post-Soviet space, the issue should be regarded from the submission of the Trans-Caucasus to the Russian Empire, not older times.Before the conquest of the Trans-Caucasus, Armenians of the Russian Empire were a minority on most of the territory they occupy today. Being Christians, they were considered a natural ally of Russia in the fight against Muslim Persia and Turkey. Or vice versa, the Turkomans seemed like an unreliable population to the government, capable of taking the side of their co-religionists at any moment. Right after conquering the Trans-Caucasus in 1828 on the territory of the discontinued Nakhichevan and Erivan Khanates, the Armenian Oblast was formed; encouraged by the authorities of the Russian Empire, Armenians from Persia and the Ottoman Empire started settling there. Curiously, the resettlement of Armenians on the new territories was often hardly voluntary. The displacement of the Turkic population, the obvious disrespect from the imperial authorities and the religious differences artfully used by various provocateurs caused rising tensions in relations between Azerbaijanis and Armenians, resulting in bloody clashes that took many lives. One such massacre in 1905-1906 ended with numerous deaths.Azerbaijan and Armenia, arising from the ruins of the Russian Empire in 1918, managed to wage two wars in just two years of independence, followed by ethnic cleansing. In 1920, the Bolsheviks liquidated both republics. It seems that the new government, postulating friendship of peoples, was to bring serenity. Indeed, despite some clashes and deportations of Azerbaijanis from Armenia in the 1947-1950s, it seemed for a long time that the conflict between the two peoples had come to an end. But the events in Karabakh showed that the Soviet period was only a calm before the storm.I think, however, that historical arguments should be omitted in order to resolve the Karabakh conflict. Referring to the traditional pages of history only aggravates the current conflict and slows its settlement. I, of course, do not call for putting history out of mind and wiping the slate clean. It is simply impossible. But arguments such as “you were not here” only brings us to a stalemate.- What is your evaluation of the actions of the Armenian and Azerbaijani authorities in the “hottest” period of the conflict, from 1990 to 1993?- The Armenian side was better prepared for the conflict, in military and ideological terms. Using the strength of the Armenian community, skillfully forming agitation, Armenia managed to attract the sympathy of the Western world to its side. Azerbaijan, on the contrary, was unprepared for serious confrontation.(Indeed, the plans and secret preparation of Armenian nationalists, supported and controlled by the USSR capital and abroad, was absolutely unexpected – Vestnik Kavkaza note). In those years, Azerbaijanis and Armenians had excellent relations in Azerbaijan, no one expected a conflict. Many leaders of Azerbaijan were idealists then. In addition, the Azerbaijani elites were dissociated on different issues. The situation changed when experienced politician Heydar Aliyev returned to power, managed to stop the war and give the country a break.- How fair are Azerbaijani accusations of Armenia committing military crimes and violating international law?- Azerbaijan accuses the Armenian side of a set of such crimes, the most outrageous of them is the Khojaly tragedy. Armenia is obviously denying guilt. But the guilt has been proved by many independent observers.- What is your evaluation of the path both countries gone through in the last two decades, from the ceasefire to today? How did the conflict affect the development of their economic, domestic and foreign policies?- The Karabakh conflict has been the center of political discourse in both republics. The Armenian side managed to gain control over Nagorno-Karabakh, but it seems to be a Pyrrhic victory today. Because of the long-running conflict, Armenia ended up in a blockade with a bad impact on its economic development. Russia, the closest ally of Armenia, as is known, has no land border with the republic. So Armenia has to strengthen ties with Iran, ruining its image in the West. Moreover, Armenia lacks an attractive economy for investors. The situation develops completely differently in Azerbaijan. Managing to recover from the repercussions of the war and postwar ruins, the resource-rich country managed to allocate major volumes of funds for modernization of the army. The growing economy makes Azerbaijan an ever more significant player in the Caucasus and the world.- And here is the main question. What are the positions of Armenia and Azerbaijan in the world arena? Whose are better in your opinion?- Doubtlessly, the Azerbaijani position is better. Armenia connected its fate with Russia and cooperates with Iran quite actively, which in the context of the crisis in relations between the West and Russia and the long-running negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program greatly weakens Armenia's positions. The problem is that Armenia has hardly any space for manoeuvre, not that it chose its allies and partners. If Russia refuses to support Armenia for some reason, it will simply run out of allies. Azerbaijan, being pro-Western on many issues, managed to maintain friendly ties with Russia. In other words, Azerbaijan has great potential for actions in the international arena.- How constructive is the position each side takes in resolving the conflict, in your opinion?- Unfortunately, settlement of the conflict has reach gridlock. Azerbaijan demands its territories back, I will remind you that it demands Nagorno-Karabakh itself and the surrounding Azerbaijani territories currently controlled by the Armenian side. The Armenian side denies the claims, calling the territories its own. On the other hand, we cannot ignore the fact that an Armenian population inhabits Nagorno-Karabakh, and Azerbaijan will have to form a system of relations with it volens nolens. Both sides are fed up with many years of fruitless talks, endless declarations and mutual accusations. I really hope that no new war will start and the Karabakh issue will be resolved peacefully.- What further scenarios of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict do you foresee?- In my opinion, the situation is developing according to the current scenario, i.e. the negotiation process will remain in a stalemate. Although, there have recently been certain prospects for progress in the Russian policy, maybe Russia will put pressure on Yerevan to ameliorate its position. But it is too early to talk about this.- And the final question for you, as a specialist: what is your evaluation of Azerbaijani and Armenian relations with Israel?- Armenia takes a very passive position. It is no secret that Azerbaijan is actively cooperating with Israel in various sectors, including the military sector. Israel has already chosen a path towards close cooperation with Azerbaijan. The cooperation is beneficial for both sides, each of them wants to make maximum profit from partnership relations.Moreover, there is an emotional moment. Israel remembers the many-centuries existence of a Jewish community on Azerbaijani land and knows that Azerbaijan has no anti-Semitism. Israel constantly declares its support for Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, hosts Azerbaijani festivals and commemorations for victims of Black January and the Khojaly trage

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