15 Nov 2010
Scapegoats of the Karabakh Conflict: Gloomy Present, Uncertain Future
The pain and anguish of a parent having lost a son in the army can hardly be relieved, especially when there is no officially declared war, but rather a situation under a fragile cease-fire accord sporadically breached in different parts along the line of contact between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan on the one hand, and between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the other.
The line of contact between Karabakh and Azerbaijan has since mid summer seen several cease-fire violations that have claimed human lives from both sides. The Armenian mass media shifts the blame on the Azerbaijanis for the acts of sabotage, while the Azerbaijani media claims it is the Armenian side to blame.
No one can predict when the Nagorno-Karabakh issue will be resolved given the complexity of this protracted conflict and the highly-sensitive and complicated geopolitical situation in the Caucasus region in general and the South Caucasus in particular. Unfortunately, the longer it remains unsettled, the more havoc it will wreak. More innocent soldiers will be exposed to the danger of being shot dead while doing their temporary military service in the army. The cease-fire violations on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and on the line of contact between Karabakh and Azerbaijan have become more frequent recently, and they are very often brought to the attention and judgment of the international community.
On October 7, 2010, the Armenian delegation to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) prepared a document that was signed by 25 delegates. The document referred to the controversial death of Manvel Saribekyan, an Armenian captive who, according to the official version reported by the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry and Military Prosecutor’s Office, committed suicide in his cell in Baku on October 5.
The Azerbaijani side claims that Manvel Saribekyan had been trained and crossed the border into Azerbaijan to conduct acts of terror in that country, while the Armenian side claims otherwise. It says he was a shepherd and was abducted by the Azerbaijani forces as he was searching for his lost cattle at a remote area near the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and was killed.
On the same day, the Azerbaijani delegation to PACE prepared a similar document that was signed by 22 PACE delegates. That document called for the return of the body of Mubariz Ibrahimov, an Azerbaijani officer, who according to Karabakh’s Defense Ministry, was one of the members of a group of Azerbaijani Armed Forces attacking one of the Karabakhi outposts.
Later, there were some political and public figures in Armenia saying that Manvel Saribekyan was definitely killed as “Azerbaijan needed a body” so that they would have something to exchange for the body of Mubariz Ibrahimov.
Naturally, this begs the question: what will these documents do? They may do a lot in terms of shaping an atmosphere or calling for restraint. But whatever they do, in reality they won’t do one thing for sure: they won’t bring back the lives that prompted their adoption.
Sadly, two Armenian soldiers were shot dead by Azerbaijani armed forces only in October. Vitaly Ashot Igityan, 22, was killed on October 24 and Harut Ashot Grigoryan, 20, was shot dead on October 26.
Who knows how many will be killed before this post is published … I hope nobody else.
Fortunately, the last week of October had some solace in store. A meeting by Armenian and Azerbaijani Presidents Serzh Sargsyan and Ilham Aliyev brokered by their Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev on October 27 in Astrakhan, Russia, brought some hope as they agreed to “strengthen the cease-fire regime and mutual trust in the military sphere to solve the conflict peacefully” and “repatriate the corpses.”
Importantly, it is the private citizens and the civil societies on both sides that must first of all realize how much damage this situation can cause to them, as it is they who bear the heaviest loads of this no-war-no-peace situation by becoming literally moving targets, while working on their farms near the line of contact, and by sending their sons to the army, unlike high-ranking officials, ministers and presidents whose sons carry quite a luxurious life and rarely serve in the army, if ever.