Selective Policies on Occupations, Protracted Conflicts, and Territorial Disputes

Recently, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies published a report. The report is called – Occupied Elsewhere: Selective Policies on Occupations, Protracted Conflicts, and Territorial Disputes. The authors of the report are Svante Cornell – the Director of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program Joint Center, and Brenda Shaffer, Adjunct Professor – Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies.
The paper examines the selective approach of the world community to the legal assessment of long-standing conflicts, the development of trade relationships, and ways of interacting with the countries involved in the conflicts.
The authors reviewed multiple conflicts, including those in Crimea, Donbas, Northern Cyprus, the West Bank, Kashmir, The Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Transnistria, and Western Sahara.
“The problem is not simply that the United Nations, United States, European Union, private corporations, and NGOs act in a highly inconsistent manner. It is that their policies are selective and often reveal biases that underscore deeper problems in the international system”, – the report says.
The United States and European Union demand specific labeling of goods produced in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and prohibit them from being labeled Israeli products. Yet products from Nagorno-Karabakh – which the United States and European Union recognize as part of Azerbaijan – freely enter Western markets labeled as products of Armenia.
It is no secret that Israel is the most criticized country for its settlement policy in the West Bank.
However, the world community, represented by the U.S. and E.U., is quite lenient towards Armenia, which expelled the entire Azerbaijani population from the occupied territories during the Nagorno-Karabakh war.
The war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region was one of the most lethal post-Soviet conflicts. It led to close to 30,000 deaths, created over a million refugees, and left the region economically shattered for years after the independence of the two states.
After the Soviet collapse in late 1991, a full war erupted between newly independent Armenia and Azerbaijan. Armenia aimed to capture Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding territories, especially those that could create a geographic link between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. Russian forces took part in certain battles, stoking the conflict.
According to Serzh Sarkisian, who commanded the Armenian forces during the war and later became the country’s president, Armenia employed a deliberate policy of mass killing to cause the civilian Azerbaijani population to flee.
Nagorno-Karabakh is recognized as part of the Republic of Azerbaijan by almost all of the international community, including the United States. Yerevan formally maintains that Nagorno-Karabakh is separate from Armenia proper. Yet Armenia has not recognized Nagorno-Karabakh as a state. Nor has it formally annexed Nagorno-Karabakh. Yerevan is deterred from formal annexation or recognition since Azerbaijan would consider such a move a casus belli. Moreover, Armenia refrains from annexation to circumvent international responsibility for its occupation of Azerbaijani territories and for the displaced persons it expelled.
Indeed, Armenian military units serve along the line of contact between the occupied territories and Azerbaijan’s military forces. The official website of Armenia’s Ministry of Defense acknowledges that the country’s soldiers fought and died in Nagorno-Karabakh and still serve on the front lines of the conflict.
Illustrative of the fact that forces of Armenia control the occupied territories is that the son of the current prime minister of Armenia is currently serving his compulsory military service in the occupied regions contingent to Nagorno-Karabakh.
During their capture of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts of Azerbaijan in 1992-94, Armenian forces evicted all the Azerbaijani residents of the region, who numbered over 700,000. Officials in Armenia, local authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh, and diaspora organizations have since touted their efforts to bring Armenian settlers to the occupied territories. A local official stated that settlers are recruited from both Armenia and foreign countries.
Independent observers, such as fact-finding missions from the OSCE, have documented evidence of the Armenian settlements. According to the OSCE, 3,000 Armenian settlers live in the town of Lachin, mostly in former homes of Azerbaijanis, who fled during the war.
There are three categories of Armenian-occupied territories of Azerbaijan: Nagorno-Karabakh proper; the regions of Lachin and Kelbajar that lie between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh; and five additional adjacent administrative regions of Azerbaijan.

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