WASHINGTON, September 3, 2014 — President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan met with residents of the Beylagan region last week and announced, “The Azerbaijan public is aware that at the beginning of this month Armenia tried to stage a provocation on the frontline. But the Azerbaijan army gave a fitting rebuff to the enemy.”
There have been enormous tensions on the frontline between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and these erupted into open conflict at the beginning of August; they have since died down. This led Aliyev to tweet in the middle of August, “the situation of neither peace nor war cannot last any longer.” That is, the ceasefire signed between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 1994 must come to some conclusion.
The two countries are contesting a significant territory known as Nagorno–Karabakh. Armenia has demanded the independence of this region, calling it the Nagorno–Karabakh Republic. Armenia took control of the territory of 146 000 people in 1994, but only after chasing away the resident Azeris. Azerbaijan rightly insists that there can be no real meaningful negotiations over the territory without the return of these refugees to their homes.
The ex-Soviet states are riven by numerous territorial disputes, largely ignored by the media unless Russia is involved, as in Georgia and Ukraine. Territorial disputes are emotional because everybody needs a home and because they usually create refugees. The international community has found it difficult to solve the dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Russia’s President Putin managed to stop the recent flare up, but no real solution was at hand at the Sochi meeting Putin chaired between Aliyev and Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan.
Armenia will not easily abandon its desire for the territory to be an independent state with a predominantly Armenian population. Azerbaijan will continue insisting that the Azeri refugees must be allowed to return. There is a deadlock.
Each party should consider the other’s proposals before real negotiations can take place for a lasting peace deal. Armenia must accept the return of the refugees, and Azerbaijan must allow the territory some independence; negotiations presuppose compromise, and that means accepting things each side would not normally accept. In this case that means that the territory will be shared by people of both sides.
On that basis, real negotiations can take place to protect the interests of both states, and the peoples in the disputed territory. Rigid social structures are for societies at war; the chain of command and hierarchy must be clear to deal with threats from enemies. But for a society to be at peace, rigid social structures have to done away with. A negotiated peace for Nagorno–Karabakh must consider that.
To put to rest the fears of Armenians, who believe they will be outnumbered by Azeris, the territory will need a government with a limited role. For the different peoples to get along within the territory, liberties must be increased, property rights strengthened, and government involvement in the economy limited. If a government gets involved, it will always favor somebody over somebody. Government involvement means people will rightly claim unfairness Armenians are favored over Azeris or the other way round.
The alternative is to waste time and risk war. Time — lost time that could have been used to build the region — is part of the cost to rebuild after a war. Armenia has been threatening to target Azeri cities with missiles.
The territory must have a no-visa, no-tariff arrangement with both Azerbaijan and Armenia. The money must be determined by the people, not the government. A 200 year deal on the territory will allow both Armenia and Azerbaijan to observe the benefits of freedom as he territory changes over time.
Everybody knows the benefits of freedom; elites hate freedom because they want to pretend they bring benefits to mankind. Both Aliyev and Sargsyan understand freedom, that is why both states demanded freedom from the USSR. Why not attempt this peace, what is there to lose, otherwise the territory will remain disputed and unproductive.
The free market will neutralize rule by oligarchs; the territory will prosper. Those who use governments are either greedy or envious, and desire the land to have a culture of greed and envy. Having access to government means you have money, how does a poor person influence government except as a rebel? Markets are a better check on would-be oligarchs and rebellion than war.
But who knows what grand schemes the trio of Washington, Paris, and Moscow — “the Minsk group” — have in mind, or what they are negotiating. The political systems in these countries are dominated by the greed and cronyism, and with the crisis in Ukraine dominating their attention, the Minsk group representatives are unlikely to focus on accommodation between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Hopefully both Armenia and Azerbaijan desire the benefits of peace, liberty and freedom. All leaders want to be seen as the peace seekers. A tweet by Aliyev said, “today, stability in the region is provided only thanks to the policy of the Azerbaijani state. Azerbaijan is a stabilizing country.” Will he pick up the phone and tell Sargsyan he accepts Armenia’s core demand for the territory, and will Armenia accept return of the refugees, for the sake of peace?