Notes from Lord Hylton, MA ARICS, resulting
from a visit to Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia 13-21 April 1998
The visit was under auspices of Christian Solidarity
Worldwide, whose President, the Lady Cox, was making her 36th
visit to the region. The British team comprised lawyers, dentists,
physiotherapists, an eye specialist, a journalist and others interested
in military ethics, including a piper.
A quotation from Andrei Sakharov, 1921-1989,
Nobel Peace Prize Winner: "For Azerbaijan the issue of Karabakh
is a matter of ambition, for the Armenians of Karabakh, it is
a matter of life and death". (November 1989)
1. FIFTEEN REASONS
1.1 There are acute memories of the Turkish
pogroms before 1914 and of the genocide of Armenians in Turkey,
during 1915 and 1916. These all but eliminated the Armenian population
of Turkey, and today cities like Van contain no Armenians. As
is well-known, the Azeri people speak a Turkic language, are linked
in many ways with Turkey, and have a short common frontier on
the western tip of Nakhichevan (since 1932).
1.2 There are acute memories of the pogroms
against the Armenian minority in Azerbaijan, eg at Baku and Sumgait
in 1905, 1988 and 1990; also at Kirovabad in 1988. As a result
of this violence some half-million Armenians fled Azerbaijan,
while 300,000 Azeris left Armenia. The gradual elimination of
the Armenians from Nakhicehvan is aso not forgotten. This population
declined from 40 per cent of the total in 1917, to just two villages
1.3 The activities of a joint Turkish-Azeri
army in 1919-20 removed areas on the east side of Nagorno-Karabakh
that had traditionally been part of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh),
and changed the ethnic majority in Shushi from Arminian to Azeri
forcing many of the former to move from Shushi to Stepanakert,
and murdering Bisop Vartan and numerous others.
1.4 In 1923 The Soviets placed the district
of Shaumyan and the town of Lachin (the main road link with the
Armenian SSR) under direct Azeri rule. They closed all churces
and monasteries from 1930 onwards.
1.5 From 1945 onwards the electricity and
water-supplies and main roads were planned and laid out from Azerbaijan
into the Autonomous Region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The inhabitants
of the Stepanakert, the capital of the region, were obliged to
do their major shopping in the Azeri city of Aghdam. Mills were
closed, so that Armenian farmers could not grind the corn they
1.6 12 July 1988: the Supreme Soviet of
Nagorno-Karabakh voted to secede from Azerbaijan. On 10 December
1991 this was confirmed by a referendum in favour of independence.
1.7 Economic blockade: Azerbaijan imposed
a blockade on Nagorno-Karabakh from the summer of 1989 onwards.
Later Azerbaijan and Turkey blockaded the Republic of Armenia
1.8 November 28 1989After a period
of "Direct-Rule" from Moscow, the Soviet Authorities
returned Nagorno-Karabakh to government by Azerbaijan.
1.9 This was followed in 1991 by attacks
onArmenian villages by both Soviet and Azeri military forces and
the arrest of many civilians. In May of that year an International
Visiting Commission (Sakharov Memorial Congress), verified killings,
torture, forced deportations and destruction of churches, schools,
homes and property. (See "Ethnic Cleansing in Progress",
published 1993, Institute for Religious Minorities in the Islamic
WorldISBN: 3-9520345-2-5). See also: Zori Balayan: "Between
Hell and Heaven", (eyewitness accounts)English edition.
1.10 January to April 1992
Azeri forces devastated Stepanakert with Alazan and
Grad rocket-propelled missiles, together with artillery. Attacks
were indiscriminate and caused heavy casualties among the civilian
population of some 80,000. These were later supplemented by air
attacks using 500kg bombs and cluster bombs. The war, which continued
until 1994, caused severe casualties among the civilians and soldiers.
It is well-established that the Karabakh forces repeatedly
tried to allow Azeri civilians to escape, eg Shushi and Khodaly,
while the Azeris deliberately killed civilians, sometimes beheading,
mutilating and dismembering their corpses eg at MaragharApril
1992. Azeris tortured and maltreated both civilian hostages and
military prisoners of war.
1.12 Attacks on historic Armenian Churches
Amaras: rendered unusable May 1991.
Shushi: cathedral bombed byAzerbaijan
after the capture of the town by Nagorno-Karabakh.
Gandsazar Monastery: deliberately
bombed by Azeri aircraft. A monastic building was destroyed but
the Church was fortunately missed.
other churches and cemeteries (eg
Buzlukh and Shushi) were deliberately damaged and deserated.
1.13 Attacks on border villages and civilians
in the Republic of Armenia from Azerbaijan proper and from Nakhichevan.
1.14 Sniping by Azeri forces in violation
of the cease-fire of May 1994 is still causing casualties. I heard
one such bullet when visiting the front-line east of Martuni.
1.15 In 1998, despite repairs and reconstruction
during the last four years, the ravages of war are still obvious.
I visited two schools still showing the scars of bombardment.
Countless buildings stand roofless.
1.16 Conclusion: Horizontal, contractual
relations with Azerbaijan are the only possible ones (so we were
told by the President of Nagorno Karabakh). Statehood, he said,
is not essential, provided we have its de facto attributes.
2.1 The status of Republics and other administrative
entities in the USSR was frequently changed without consultation
by decisions in Moscow. Incompatible peoples were sometimes lumped
together (Chechens and Ingush). Boundaries could be drawn and
re-drawn (eg in Moldova).
2.2 This is particularly the case in Nagorno
Karabakh (Artsakh), where the line drawn reflected earlier military
violence (see 1.3 and 1.4). In 1926 Stalin arbitrarily created
"Red Kurdistan" between Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia,
in the "Lachin Corridor", only to abolish it again in
2.3 Recommendation: The FCO and the
OSCE should make a careful study of the Gyulistan Treaty signed
in Karabakh in 1813, whereby a much larger Artsakh, which had
previously enjoyed varying degrees of independence, came under
the sovereignty of the Russian Empire. Further examination should
be made of the arbitrary nature of most former Soviet administrative
boundaries of the legality, or otherwise, of the Constitutional
Law passed on September 17 1989 by the Supreme Soviet of the Azerbaijani
SSR. The treaties of Moscow (16 March 1921) and Kars (13 October
1921) may also be relevant.
3. OIL AND
3.1 The existence of large oil reserves
beneath the Caspian Sea and to the east in nearby Kazakhstan and
Turkmenistan, is well-known. Baku, the original Caucasian oil-town,
lies almost at the centre of them.
3.2 The geo-political question is"how
shall the oil be moved to markets remote from the Caspian?"
Russia already has a functioning pipeline
from Baku via Grozny to Novorossisk, (though not a large one).
Georgia would welcome a new line from Baku to Poti, or possibly
Batumi, on its Black Sea coast. The most direct line, however,
is from Baku to Ceyhan, on the Mediterranean coast of southern
Turkey, crossing Armenia and possibly Nagorno Karabakh and Nakhichevan
as well (depending on the precise route chosen). A further line
from Ceyhan to Samsun, on Turkey's Black Sea coast, has also been
3.3 There has been some talk of a possible
Caucasian Common Market, which may prove to be a mirage. Nevertheless,
it appears to be in the interest of all the countries involved
to co-operate, so as to share the potential benefits of oil and
pipelines in a win-win manner. Europe and America should support
such an approach to ensuring stability in the region, to protect
their investments and to obtain diversified supplies from a variety
of sources. Turkey has a major interest in securing its energy
needs, while assisting its allies in Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.
It would enhance its real interests, by pursuing political and
diplomatic solutions to its long-standing persecution of the Kurds
and its traditional hostility to Armenia.
4. AN INTERNATIONALLY
4.1 Internal rather than inter-state wars
are causing the greatest current problems. This is true in the
former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, in Sri Lanka, the Middle East,
Africa and South America.
4.2 The need for a status, which will enable
very diverse peoples to manage their own affairs in ways satisfactory
to them, is becoming ever more clear. Such a status would not,
in most cases, entail international recognition, diplomatic status
and a seat at the United Nations regional groups. It corresponds
to the devolution and susbsidiarity, which the wiser and more
democratic larger states have practised, or are introducing, (eg
USA, Germany, Spain, Italy, UK).
4.3 Such a status is likely to help to meet
the reasonable needs and aspirations of places and peoples as
diverse as Nagorno Karabakh (Azerbaijan); Priednestrovia (Moldovia);
Kosova and Volvodina (former Republic of Yugoslavia); Hungarians
in Romania and Slovakia; Chechnya (Russian Federation); Kurds
in Turkey, Iran and Iraq; Abkhaz, Ossetians, etc, in Georgia;
and Lesgins in Dagestan and Azerbaijan.
5. THE WORK
I have met each successive Head of the
OSCE Long-Term Mission in Moldova since 1993-94, but have not
had a chance to talk with staff dealing with Nagorno Karabakh
or with members of the "Minsk Group". It seems to me
that the mediating and security functions of the OSCE have been
to some extent hampered by an over-riding interpretation of the
principle of "territorial integrity", without full appreciation
of the historical background.
5.2 Nagorno Karabakh
The military tasks for implementation of OSCE
proposals are set out on page 54 C W Blandy: "The Impact
of Baku Oil on Nagorno Karabakh"Conflict Studies Research
Centre-December 1997-S33. They appear totally unrealistic, since
they require the return of Shushi and Lachin to Azerbaijan, the
leasing of the Lachin corridor by the OSCE (permanently?) and
the creation of a "Buffer Zone" around Nagorno Karabakh
by the OSCE. Who would pay for this and its policing? Elsewhere
in his paper, Mr Blandy casts doubt on these paper proposals.
He points out correctly that the Nagorno Karabakh forces now hold
positions giving them optimum defensive security.
5.3 A Caspian Sea Regulatory Authority
The question of national entitlements to the
natural resources of this inland sea is not yet resolved. An agreed
inter-governmental or supra-national body would be a helpful instrument
for achieving the best and most economic development of the available
resources. It would also be a means of avoiding the most serious
ecological damage (remembering the harm done to the Aral Sea and
to Lake Baikal by Soviet over-exploitation).
5.4 The International Committee of the Red
I was impressed by the personality and ability
of the ICRC representative in Nagorno Karabakh (who is locally
recruited). I understood that ICRC is assisting a diversified
range of projects, some of them connected with developments rather
than humanitarian relief. The ICRC is to be congratulated on overcoming
problems connected with the blockade and Azerbaijan.
6. LIST OF
6.1 In Nagorno Karabakh:
The Speaker and most of the Members of the
The local representative of ICRC
Towns: Stepanakert, Shushi, Martuni, Mardakert.
Villages: Talysh, Mataghis, Maraghar, Gandzasar.
6.2 In ArmeniaYerevan and Echmiadzin
The Prime Minister
The Representative of Nagorno Karabakh
The Rector of Yerevan State University
The Professor of Medicine and senior staff of
the principal hospital in Yerevan
Dr Zori Balayanformer member of Supreme
Soviet of USSRauthormember of the Artsakh committee
Theological students at Echmiadzin, and old
priest at St Guiyane's Church