By Florence Avakian
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
UNITED NATIONS, NY ' Monday, September 9 was a special day at the United Nations for the Karabagh question. Through the eloquent words of Baroness Caroline Cox, the issue received attention before an international audience. It was part of the 55th annual conference at the world body, entitled "Rebuilding Societies Emerging from Conflict: A Shared Responsibility," under the aegis of the Department of Public Information (DPI) and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO).
The baroness who is the deputy speaker at the British House of Lords, spoke at a panel discussion, attended by the Karabagh Representative in Washington, Sarkis Kotanjian, the Azerbaijani deputy ambassador, and close to a hundred UN personnel and journalists, entitled, "Working Towards Reconciliation in the Caucasus." The workshop was sponsored by the Diocese of the Armenian Church (Eastern Diocese) and the Armenian Women's Association of Canada. Also on the panel were Dr. Paul Crego from the Library of Congress who addressed the Abkhazian issue, and Dr. Khatoune Temisjian from the University of Montreal Centre for Ethnic Studies, who focused on the technical aspects of reconciliation in post-conflict situations. The workshop was moderated by Aram Arkun, from the Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center. Working tirelessly on this project was Adrienne Alexanian, NGO representative at the United Nations. Her family's fund (the Alexanian Fund) donated the expenses of the baroness' travel to the United States. While here, Baroness Cox also addressed a standing-room-only audiences on the Karabagh question at St. James Episcopal Church, and St. Bartholomew's Church. Cox, who has been a long-time member of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, has traveled to Karabagh more than 50 times, bringing much-needed medical supplies with each trip. Starting her inspiring address, she gave a brief accounting of the conflict's history, including the 70-year economic and cultural exploitation of the region, the annulment of Karabagh's autonomous status in 1991, the overwhelming mandate of the Karabagh people for independence, and the election of their first Parliament.
Addressing the current conflict, she listed the ethnic cleansing which followed the 1988 Karabagh protests with Azerbaijan using its formidable military might (only Azerbaijan used grad missiles, daily aerial bombardment, ground to air missiles). Azerbaijan, with its seven million population, unleashed this devastating weaponry against the Karabagh population of only 150,000, she stated, adding, "These virtually impossible odds were exacerbated with Turkish military support, experienced military personnel, and mujahadeen mercenaries.
In addition, the speaker pointed out that major aid organizations such as UNHCR and UNICEF, which have been readily available to Azeri civilians, have been denied to Karabagh because it is not recognized as an independent republic. And still, both Turkey and Azerbaijan are continuing the blockade of Armenia and Karabagh, causing incalculable suffering, she noted. Turning to the courage of the Karabagh Armenians to rebuild their shattered lives and lands, she pointed out the development of democracy, including the recent "open, free and fair elections; the rebuilding of a civil society ` their churches, schools, cultural institutes, colleges and university; progress in social welfare and health care, including rehabilitation clinics for the injured; the revival of the economy and agriculture; and measures to promote healing especially for those still suffering from the torture and abuse they received as prisoners and hostages.
Problems Needing Resolution
The baroness related the continuing conflict be
tween the principles of territorial integrity, (artificially contrived by Stalin), and the right of self-determination. "There must be a flexibility of approach to the definition of territorial integrity, and international sanctioned criteria for the rights of victimized minorities suffering threats to survival to seek independence, and for that independence to achieve international recognition," she declared.
One of the most callous acts by Azerbaijan, she continued, is keeping the Azeri refugees (approximately 600,000) in harsh conditions in camps, for political gain. She pointed out that Armenia "has approximately comparable numbers of people rendered homeless by Azeri massacres in Sumgait, Baku, Kirovabad, and by war. "Why has Armenia with a population of less than three million, still suffering from the effects of a massive earthquake, and from a blockade imposed by Azerbaijan and Turkey, been able to find some accommodation for all its displaced persons, while Azerbaijan, with a population of seven million, with no earthquake and no blockade, and massive oil revenues, been unable to find comparable accommodations for its displace people. What has Azerbaijan done with the international money made available for the displaced?"
The speaker unequivocally stated that the demands by Azerbaijan for the return of the historic Armenian city of Shushi, and Lachin "cannot be seriously considered" by the Karabagh Armenians. Rating the efforts of the OSCE Minsk group to achieve consensus so far as a "failure," she reiterated that the Armenia and Karabagh have been prepared to make important concessions, such as "foregoing claims for the independence of Karabagh, and discussing the return of occupied territories."
She stressed that the Karabagh Armenians, "as the people most directly involved in the situation, and most affected by the outcomes of any agreement, need to have a place at the negotiating table, and be part of any finally agreed solution." And for the Armenians of Karabagh, security is a key issue, following their fearful history with Azeri-Turkish policies, the lost of Western Armenia, the total eviction of Armenians from Nakhichevan, including the destruction of their historic churches and monuments, the deportations from the historic Armenia villages in Karabagh and Shahumyan, and the courageous efforts to prevent wholesale eviction from Karabagh.
These issues, she concluded, "must be recognized in any attempts by the international community to achieve a political solution which can have any hope of bringing peace with justice to a region where so many thousands of people, both Armenians and Azeris, are still suffering."
© Mirror Spectator, sept 2002