Europe and the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan

Europe and the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan

Sep 20, 2023, 7:01:54 PM UTC
On 21 September, the Armenian people celebrate the independence of the Republic of Armenia. However, the mood is far from festive.
Volt France - Conflit entre l'Armenie et l'Azerbaidjan

Paris, 20th of September 2023

by Jean-Luc Perron and Sven Franck

On September 21st, the Armenian people celebrate the independence of the Republic of Armenia, which was achieved in 1991 in the final days of the USSR. However, the atmosphere is far from festive: in violation of the ceasefire agreement reached on November 10, 2020, under the auspices of Russia, Azerbaijan has just launched a campaign of intense shelling against the populations and the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. This military aggression comes as, for nearly 300 days, the 120,000 Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh have remained cut off from essential supplies such as food, medicine, and energy, due to the blockade by Azerbaijani forces of the Lachin corridor, the only land route of communication between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azerbaijan continues to maintain this blockade despite the injunction from the International Court of Justice on February 23, 2023. While a Red Cross International Committee aid truck was indeed allowed to enter Nagorno-Karabakh a few days ago, dozens of others are prevented from doing so at Lachin. Azerbaijan's unmistakable goal is to starve the inhabitants of the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh, the Armenian name for the territory enclosed within Azerbaijan, and perhaps even to provoke ethnic cleansing by pushing its residents to leave their ancestral lands. Luis Moreno Ocampo, former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, does not hesitate to speak of an attempted genocide. Although Armenia and Azerbaijan have held peace talks for decades within the framework of the OSCE's Minsk Group, no real solution has emerged for Nagorno-Karabakh. VOLT calls for an immediate cessation of all military actions, respect for the ceasefire, and the opening of new negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations to resolve the conflict.

What role for the European political community?

On 30 May, at its meeting in Chisinau, VOLT alerted the European political community to the existential threats posed by Azerbaijan to the populations of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, by sending an open letter to the main European leaders. However, despite the mobilisation of Charles Michel, President of the European Council, the situation on the ground has only worsened. In this context, the European Political Community remains a community without constraints: its members - including Armenia and Azerbaijan - are supposed to engage in dialogue, but the European Political Community has no means of exerting pressure to obtain concrete results.

The European Union itself is keeping a low profile: after signing a memorandum of understanding in July 2022 with Azerbaijan to significantly increase the transfer of gas via the Southern Corridor pipeline, the European Union is confining itself to verbal incantations, calling for peace alongside France and Germany. We are still a long way from seeing any European Union foreign policy action worthy of the name. Europe seems to be satisfied with its economic dimension alone and worried about its gas supply, without taking into account the strategic importance of the region, or the issues linked to peace, democracy and human rights. We cannot retreat behind our economic interests alone, nor behind the rivalry between Russia and the United States in this region.

The European Political Community can act as an interface for dialogue between Member States and neighbouring countries, but it is up to the European Union to live up to its responsibilities and ambitions.

For a committed and imaginative European foreign policy

The European Union is already involved in military and civilian missions around the world as part of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). It took the initiative of creating the EUM ARMENIA mission, tasked with observing the borders of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. But given the new situation created by Azerbaijan's aggression, the European Union must go further by securing not only the Latchin corridor, but also by promoting and guaranteeing an effective ceasefire.

Faced with Russia's inaction in guaranteeing the safety of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh, the European Union should take initiatives to ensure supplies to the population of Nagorno-Karabakh, and ensure that a new ceasefire takes effect. The establishment of a humanitarian air bridge would enable the population of Nagorno-Karabakh to survive the winter. History is full of precedents: in 1948-1949, for example, an airlift organised by the Allies was used to supply the population of West Berlin's 2.2 million inhabitants.

Europe must also contribute to a stable long-term solution for Nagorno-Karabakh. Innovative solutions developed and discussed to resolve this conflict could set a precedent and inspire other areas of tension. A mandate could be given by the UN to a coalition of European countries ready to commit to guaranteeing the security and development of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh for twenty years, sheltered from an international police force. Such a solution would not call into question the principle that Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to Azerbaijan. A "dual sovereignty" arrangement could be devised, recognising two co-sovereign entities over the same territory, with Azerbaijan being able to exercise its sovereignty only within the limits set to guarantee the free administration of Nagorno-Karabakh by its elected representatives. There are already examples of co-sovereignty over a given territory. The South Schleswig Association, for example, is a Danish minority living in northern Germany. It is not subject to the mandatory 5% threshold for elections, and is therefore represented in municipal, regional and national parliaments. In democracies, political representation offers an alternative way of creating the conditions for stability and cooperation.

There are several ways in which the European Union can have an impact on the conflict. To really establish its geopolitical influence, it must develop its own foreign policy doctrine and try it out to ease conflicts on the continent's doorstep. The European Union must commit itself resolutely as a peacemaker in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, in order to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and find a peaceful and stable solution for the future.

About Volt 

As the first truly pan-European party, Volt is committed to reforming the European Union and responding to today's challenges in a coordinated way at European level. Volt's vision: a progressive Europe with an inclusive society, a climate-friendly economy, an adaptable education system and self-determined digitalisation.

Volt is convinced that only the democratic participation of all European citizens will prepare us for a sustainable, economically strong and socially just future. This is why Volt acts at all levels - from local to European, as a movement and as a party. The movement gives everyone a voice and the opportunity to engage politically from within society. Today, Volt is present all over Europe: thousands of people of all ages and professions are involved in 30 European countries with teams in hundreds of cities.


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Sven Franck

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Updated the 19th of September 2023