Staunton, July 18 – In calling for a peace treaty between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev says that “the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has been resolved and that there is no territorial unit named Nagorno-Karabakh.” What there is instead is Qarabagh.
Yerevan has not responded to his request, Aliyev continues; but it should think seriously about what may happen if it doesn’t and should agree to a peace based on mutual recognition of territorial integrity, borders and “the start to work on delimitation” (doshdu.com/prezident-azerbajdzhana-dopustil-podpisanie-mirnogo-dogovora-s-armeniej/).
Given that the issue of the status of Qarabagh/Nagorno-Karabakh is what the conflict has been about from the beginning, it is no surprise that Baku has struck a hard line and that Yerevan has refused to agree. But Aliyev’s insistence on the name has one consequence that all observers, commentators and governments should take note of.
If they continue to use the expression “Nagorno-Karabakh,” they are implicitly accepting the Armenian position even if they assert that they support the territorial integrity of both countries, while if they use the term “Qarabagh,” they are likely to be seen as implicitly supporting Azerbaijan’s.
In fact, however, the term Qarabagh long predated the Soviet Russian term “Nagorno-Karabakh” and survives as the name for a region in Azerbaijan. Thus, using it is much less political than “Nagorno-Karabakh,” however often that term has been used by political leaders, commentators and journalists.
Another point to keep in mind as long as the conflict continues is that the use of force on both sides has both a tactical and a strategic dimension. Tactically, it is all about defending the residents of one or the other country as talk about agreeing to the border proceeds (news.am/eng/news/653389.html).
But strategically, the use of force is about the territorial integrity of the two countries and about the prospects for the development of corridors like the one proposed to cross from Azerbaijan proper to Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan autonomy (ednews.net/ru/news/analytical-wing/469186-obstreli-s-armyanskoy-storoni-delayutsya-tchtobi-ne-dopustit-sozdaniya-koridora-mejdu-azerbaydjanom-i-naxitchevanom).
These two kinds of the use of force may bleed into each other, but in assessing what is going on and the disputes between the two sides as to who started what, it is useful to keep this distinction in mind at least analytically.