The European Union can play a card in building peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia

The European Union can play a card in building peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia

[Cette tribune a été publiée quelques minutes avant que la rédaction prenne connaissance des évènements de ce jour sur la reprise des hostilités entre l’Azerbaïdjan et l’Arménie.]

Since the signing of the ceasefire between Armenians and Azerbaijanis on November 10, 2020, after 44 days of war during which Baku retook Karabakh, recognized as its own by three United Nations resolutions since 1992, pacifying the region has been an important issue for both countries . Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, who had to persuade his people to accept this new reality, is still in charge and multiplies meetings with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev under the returning aegis of the European Union.

Sébastien Boussois is a PhD in Political Science, Lecturer in International Relations, Associate, Researcher on Euro-Arab Relations/Terrorism and Radicalization associated with the CECID (Free University of Brussels), at UQAM (OMAN University of Montreal) and for SAVE BELGIUM (Society Against Violent Extremism).

After Russian mediation to end the fighting and in a current context where Russia is embroiled on the Ukrainian front, Brussels plays an important role in its diplomacy here. Through Charles Michel, the President of the European Council hopes to once again become a diplomatic and mediating force. This is good for the security of the South Caucasus, but also for our own security. Especially since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Europe has had a major energy policy interest in Azerbaijan, with whom it signed a new gas partnership agreement this summer in order to resolve its Russian energy dependency more quickly.

Beyond nearly thirty years of Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territory, after nearly 800,000 Azerbaijanis were driven from their homes, Baku has stolen just nearly 20% of its original territory since gaining independence in 1991, turning it into a lawless, militarized zone , whose most important historical sites were destroyed.

The Karabakh region has long been an integral part of the history and culture of Azerbaijan. The diversity of the populations living in this region, as well as its geographical position, have made this place an invaluable asset for the entire Caucasus, in urgent need of rehabilitation. But the two countries concerned cannot do it alone.

Between 1991 and 1994 the first Karabakh war had devastating consequences for the social, economic and cultural life of this region. The second of 2020 was also violent.

The Mediation Union

After the war, therefore, it is time to build the road to peace, which involves resolving several issues that have occupied Brussels for months. As part of its Eastern Partnership, the European Union has already committed itself to supporting the two countries in this direction, promoting dialogue and supporting many ongoing and future projects.

First, throughout the occupation, Armenia set up huge minefields in these areas of Karabakh, endangering all civilians living there. Clearing the Liberated Areas is essential to continue the development process of the region.

As stated in the November 10, 2020 tripartite statement that ended the conflict, Armenia had agreed to transfer to Azerbaijan the maps detailing the locations of these mines. Another obstacle to the rehabilitation of Karabakh concerns the pollution of rivers originating from neighboring countries. Armenia intentionally pollutes them by discharging various wastes, including chemicals and heavy metals.

Another urgency for peace: the return of Azerbaijani refugees to their homeland and the reconstruction of the liberated areas are a priority in Azerbaijan’s post-war strategy… but not only.

During the occupation, Azerbaijan’s cultural, historical and religious heritage was destroyed in flagrant violation of key articles of the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in Times of Armed Conflict. All houses, museums, libraries and government buildings were destroyed. Mosques, bridges and temples in these regions have not only been destroyed, but in many cases have been reused in ways that are wholly inappropriate and offensive to the people of Azerbaijan. Aghdam, the country’s cultural landmark since the 19th century, was completely razed and destroyed by Armenia. We will have to rebuild places and local lives.

In less than a year, major reconstruction and rehabilitation projects were immediately launched from Baku to restore normal life in the Azerbaijani districts devastated by the occupation. The construction of the necessary infrastructure – roads, airports, smart cities – is aimed not only at bringing the displaced people back to their homes, but also at securing peace and improving the economy of the South Caucasus region.

peace sets in

Charles Michel, at the end of the 4th century The round of talks held in Brussels on August 31 between the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia took stock of the parties’ and Europe’s commitment.

« As agreed at our last meeting in May, today I welcomed the President of Azerbaijan, Mr. Aliyev, and the Prime Minister of Armenia, Mr. Pashinian. It was our fourth meeting in this constellation. Our discussions focused on the recent developments in the South Caucasus and on the relations between the EU and the two countries (…). It is encouraging to see that a number of steps have been taken to advance the agreements reached at our last meeting. »

Today, it is clearly in the interests of both countries to move towards peace: economic prosperity, pacifying relations between the two societies, regional cooperation, opening up of Armenia and global dynamics of exchanges between all neighboring countries.

Specifically, Europe has pushed the parties to intensify the substantive work aimed at advancing the peace treaty between the two countries in order to arrive at a final text. The topic of demining, prisoners and missing persons was the focus of the talks that Charles Michel had with the two heads of state. It will be necessary to arrive at an official redefinition of the borders between the two countries and the issue will be discussed again at a future meeting in Brussels.

Europe will also support the opening up of the region and the restoration of roads and railways to facilitate transportation and the movement of people. The next tripartite meeting will take place in November in the Union’s capital, Brussels.


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