The Azerbaijani-Armenian Relationship: A Study of Geopolitical Indications and Dimensions
Seema Ali Mahdi
The Azerbaijani-Armenian crisis is witnessing regional and international complications, based on the alliances and relations enjoyed by the two parties, in light of the current war between them, in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is controlled by Armenian separatists, in addition to adjacent Azeri regions occupied by Armenia, and the interests of the supporters of the two teams intertwine. , most notably Turkey, which supports Azerbaijan, and Russia, which supports Armenia - a history burdened with massacres and disputes extending from religious and national affiliation to the corridors of oil pipelines. However, history alone does not explain why hostilities broke out in such a violent and sudden manner. This is because skirmishes were not without intensity, in the seam areas between Azerbaijan and the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is located within its territory and which is inhabited by an Armenian majority (the internationally unrecognized Republic of Artsakh), especially in 2016; In addition to a permanent state of tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan due to the failure to reach a settlement that addresses the aftermath of the war in the 1990s, such as the return of refugees and the region remaining outside the authority of Baku despite the international recognition of its sovereignty over it.
The first axis: the Republic of Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan (Azeri: Azərbaycan) or officially the Republic of Azerbaijan (Azeri: Azərbaycan Respublikası Azerbaijan Respublikası) is one of the six independent Turkic states in the Caucasus region of Eurasia, to which Azerbaijan is named; Named after the military commander Atropitus. In another narration, it says that the name refers to the “ancient Zoroastrian” religion. Azerbaijan was mentioned in the Pahlavi geographical texts “Shahristaniya, i.e., Iranshahr” under the name of Adrobadajan, which in the modern Persian language means “the storekeeper of fire” (). Khazars ( ). Located at the crossroads between Eastern Europe and Western Asia, it is bordered by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to the south. Nakhichevan enclave borders Armenia to the north and east, Iran to the south and west, while Turkey is bordered by a short border to the northwest. The fortresses of Karki, Yokhari Uskipara, Prokhodarli and Suffolu are surrounded by Armenia, which has been controlled by Armenia since the Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) war. As for the Nagorno-Karabakh region (Artsakh), with an Armenian majority in the southwest of Azerbaijan, it declared itself independent from Azerbaijan in 1991, but this independence was not recognized diplomatically by any country and is still considered part of Azerbaijan de jure occupied by Armenian forces.
The total population of Azerbaijan is 10,139,177 million according to statistics (2020), 50 percent of whom live in rural areas, and the average population density is 97 people / square kilometer. It has diplomatic relations with 158 countries so far and holds membership in 38 international organizations. Observer status in the Non-Aligned Movement and the World Trade Organization and correspondent in the International Telecommunication Union. There are Azerbaijani communities in 42 countries, and there are dozens of ethnic minority centers within Azerbaijan, including (the German Cultural Society "Karl Haus", the Slavic Cultural Center, the Azerbaijani-Israeli Community, the Kurdish Cultural Center, the International Talysh Association, the National Lezghin Center "Sumur", the Azerbaijani Tatar community, the Crimean Tatar community ...etc). On May 9, 2006, Azerbaijan was elected to the newly established Human Rights Council by the United Nations General Assembly. The Council's term began on July 19, 2006, and it is a country with a Turkish ethnic and religious majority. The country is officially secular and a unitary republic with an ancient cultural and historical heritage. Azerbaijan was the first attempt to establish a democratic and secular republic in the Islamic world. In addition to being a founding member of GUAM and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, it joined the Commonwealth of Independent States in September of 1993. There is a special envoy of the European Commission in the country, which is also a member of the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Council of Europe, and the Partnership for Peace of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
First: the political history of the Republic of Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan declared its independence from the former Soviet Union on August 30, 1991, with the former First Secretary of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan (Ayaz Mutalibov) assuming the presidency, and in the aftermath of one of the Azerbaijani massacres committed in Khojaly in Nagorno-Karabakh in March 1992, Mutalibov resigned and the country witnessed a period of fragility political. The old guard returned Mutalibov to power in May 1992, but less than a week later, his efforts to suspend the scheduled presidential elections and ban all political activities prompted the opposition (Azerbaijan Popular Front Party) (BFP) to organize a resistance movement and seize power. Among the reforms implemented by the BFP party was the dissolution of the Supreme Council of Soviets, which has a communist majority, and the transfer of its functions to the Supreme Council of the Legislative Body, consisting of fifty members, which is the Azerbaijani National Assembly.
Elections held in June 1992 resulted in the selection of BFP leader Abu (Al-Faz Al-Shaibi) as the country's second president. National presidential elections with 7 candidates were held on June 7, 1992 in which Elchibey was elected President of Azerbaijan, receiving 54% of the total votes and becoming the first democratically elected non-communist President of Azerbaijan. During the summer of 1992, Elchibey secured the complete withdrawal of the Soviet army from Azerbaijan, making it the first and only former Soviet republic (after the Baltic states) to be devoid of a Soviet military presence. At the same time, the Shebey government established the Caspian National Navy and managed to reach an agreement with Russia to receive a quarter of the Soviet Caspian Navy stationed in Baku. The National Assembly granted presidential powers to the new spokesperson (Heydar Aliyev), former First Secretary of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan (1969-1981), member of the Politburo of the USSR and the State Security Committee (KGB), and later Deputy Prime Minister of the USSR (until 1987). Elchibey was formally removed from office by national referendum in August 1993, and Aliyev was elected to a five-year term in October with only a token opposition. Aliyev won the presidential elections that took place in 1998. According to the findings of the OSCE ODIHR electoral monitoring report, “The authorities of the Republic of Azerbaijan showed a clear political will to significantly improve electoral practice in the country, Efforts in this direction began in the late spring of 1998 with a review of electoral legislation to bring it in line with OSCE commitments, with the official abolition of censorship in August 1998 and with the final approval of the new nationality law in late September 1998, and in this way the authorities responded positively. due to the concerns raised by the international community, and expressed its readiness to meet international standards in managing the electoral process.
Second: The official institutions of the Republic of Azerbaijan
Politics in Azerbaijan takes place within the framework of a semi-presidential republic, as Article 7 of the Azerbaijani Constitution stipulates that (the Azerbaijani state is a democratic, constitutional, secular, unitary republic, and the authority of the state in local matters is limited only by the law in force in the country. As for foreign affairs, they are subject to the provisions arising from treaties State authority in the Republic of Azerbaijan is based on the principle of distributing powers as follows:
(a) The legislative power exercised by the Milli Majlis (Parliament).
(b) Executive power is vested in the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
(c) The judicial power exercised by the courts.
Pursuant to the provisions of the Constitution, the legislative, executive and judicial powers interact with one another and remain independent within the scope of their respective mandates.
1- The Legislative Authority:
The unicameral National Assembly (the Milli Majlis) consists of 125 members (deputies). Representatives are elected for five-year terms through general, equal and direct elections, within a system of majority voting in single-seat constituencies. Voting is free, individual and confidential. Candidates may be self-nominated or nominated by political parties, blocs or groups of voters. All citizens over the age of 18 have the right to vote, except for those who are recognized by the court as ineligible to vote. Every citizen who is at least 25 years of age may be elected with some exceptions (such as dual citizenship, responsibilities to a foreign country, holder of office in the executive or judicial branches, paid activities - with certain exceptions, practicing a religious profession, ineligibility confirmed by Court, conviction of a serious crime or serving a sentence). The validity of the election results with regard to each candidate is verified by the Constitutional Court, and the Milli Majlis is formed based on its approval by 83 deputies. The Council adopts constitutional laws, laws, and decisions that fall within its competence, and its internal organization and workflow are governed by the Constitution, the Law of Approval of the Parliament’s Internal Regulations (Procedure Rules Law) and the Law of Permanent Committees of the House of Representatives. The Council elects the members of eleven standing committees and two (disciplinary) committees. Organizational, analytical and logistical support for their work is provided by the Parliamentary Office. The Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic (NAR) is part of Azerbaijan with its own elected parliament (Upper House) consisting of 45 deputies. Elections to the Supreme Council are regulated by the NAR Constitution. The Milli Majlis of the Republic of Azerbaijan holds two regular sessions in spring and autumn. The Chairman of the Milli Majlis convokes extraordinary sessions of the Milli Majlis of the Republic of Azerbaijan at the request of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan or 42 deputies of the Milli Majlis. Those who called this session prepare the agenda for the special session. After discussion of the issues on the agenda, the special session ends. The sessions of the Milli Majlis of the Republic of Azerbaijan shall be open to the public. The Milli Majlis session may be closed to the public at the request of the 83 members of Parliament or upon the proposal of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The meeting is chaired by the Milli Majlis Speaker with the assistance of the deputy first speaker of the Majlis and two vice-chairmen.
2- Executive Authority:
According to the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan is the head of the state and has the executive power. The President of the Republic of Azerbaijan represents the country in internal and external affairs. The President of Azerbaijan is elected for a seven-year term on the basis of universal suffrage. Any citizen of the Republic of Azerbaijan has the right to vote, and any citizen who has resided on the territory of Azerbaijan for more than 10 years, has a higher education, does not have dual citizenship, has no obligations to other countries, and has not been convicted of a serious crime can run for president. The decision to dismiss the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan is submitted to the National Assembly on the initiative of the Constitutional Court based on the decision of the Supreme Court. The decision to dismiss the president is adopted by a majority (95/125) of the votes of the deputies of the National Assembly, and the president of the Constitutional Court signs it within 7 days.
The president's terms of reference are:
· Appointing and dismissing vice presidents.
· Election of the National Assembly of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
· Referring the state budget and military doctrine to the National Assembly for approval.
· Approval of economic and social programmes.
· Appointment and dismissal of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan (with the approval of the Milli Majlis).
· Submission of proposals to the National Assembly regarding the appointment of judges of the Supreme Constitutional Court, the Court of Appeal and other courts of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
· Appointment and dismissal of the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Azerbaijan (with the approval of the Milli Majlis).
· Establish local and central executive bodies.
· Formation or dissolution of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
· Appointment and dismissal of members of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
· Cancellation of the decision of the Council of Ministers.
· Appointment and dismissal of the command staff of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
· Formation of the administration of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
· Appointment of the head of the administration of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
· Formation of the Security Council in the Republic of Azerbaijan.
· Calling for a referendum.
· Calling for early elections.
· Pardoning prisoners.
· Rewarding with prizes and positions.
· Signing and publishing laws.
· Declaring a state of emergency and martial law.
· Declaring war and concluding peace (with the approval of the Milli Majlis).
3- The judiciary:
Article 125 of the Constitution states that judicial power in Azerbaijan is exercised by the courts alone and on the basis of accepted procedures. The courts consist of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the Economic Court, and the general and special courts.
The second axis: the Republic of Armenia
Armenia has been known throughout the ages by many names, as its ancient name was “Haik”. And it was changed to become “Hayastan”, and the word Stan in Iranian means land. After that, the name of Armenia was found in Persian inscriptions and in Greek inscriptions the name of the Armenians, as both refer to the region of present-day Armenia . The Republic of Armenia is located in the Caucasus region of Eurasia, specifically at the meeting point of the European West with the Asian East, as it is located to the southeast of Turkey, to the south of Georgia, to the west of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan, and to the north of Iran. Armenia was formerly affiliated with the Soviet Union and gained its independence from the Soviet Union on September 21, 1991. The population of Armenia in 2019 was estimated at 2.96 million people, and it is ranked 137th in the world population ranking.
First: the political history of Armenia
In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed and Armenia regained its independence. It declared independence on August 23 of the same year and was the first republic outside the Baltic to declare separation. However, the first years after the collapse of the Soviet Union witnessed economic difficulties as well as the gradual development of large-scale armed confrontations between the Armenians of Karabakh and Azerbaijan. The economic problems had their roots in the beginnings of the Nagorny conflict when the Azerbaijani People's Front managed to pressure the Azerbaijan SSR into instigating an air and rail blockade against Armenia. This move crippled Armenia's economy as 85% of goods and commodities were arriving through rail traffic. In 1993, Türkiye joined the blockade of Armenia in support of Azerbaijan. The Karabakh war ended after a Russian mediation of a cease-fire in 1994. The war was a success for the Karabakh Armenian forces, who managed to control 14% of the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan, including Nagorno-Karabakh itself. Since then, Armenia and Azerbaijan have held peace talks mediated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The status of Karabakh has not yet been determined. The economies of the two countries have been hurt by the lack of a complete solution, and Armenia's borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan remain closed. With the agreement of a cease-fire between Azerbaijan and Armenia in 1994, an estimated 30,000 people had been killed and more than a million displaced. As Armenia enters the 21st century, it faces many hardships. However, I managed to make some improvements. The country has successfully completed the transition to a market economy and in 2009 was the 31st economically freest country in the world. Armenia's relations with Europe, the Middle East and the Commonwealth of Independent States allowed for increased trade. Gas, oil and other supplies arrive via two vital routes, Iran and Georgia, and Armenia maintains friendly relations with both countries.
Second: the official institutions of Armenia
In December 2015, a referendum was held to transform Armenia from a semi-presidential system into a parliamentary republic. As a result, the president is stripped of his veto power, the president is not allowed to be a member of any political party, and re-election is prohibited. Due to the immediate effects, the amendments reduced the number of parliamentary seats from 131 to 101. As for the official institutions, they consist of :
1- The Legislative Authority: The legislative authority in Armenia consists of one chamber, which is the National Assembly (or Parliament), and it consists of 131 seats, and its members are chosen by popular vote (90 members from party lists, and 41 members by direct vote), for a period of 5 years.
2- The Executive Authority: The Executive Authority consists of the President of the Republic (symbolically) and the Prime Minister. The president is elected by direct popular vote for a five-year term (renewable for a second term). As for the Prime Minister, he is appointed by the President of the Republic, based on a majority or unanimous vote in Parliament. The Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers must resign if the National Assembly rejects their programme.
3- The Judicial Authority: The judicial authority in Armenia is represented by the Constitutional Court and the Court of Appeal.
The third axis: the dimensions of the Azerbaijani-Armenian relationship
The roots of the conflict begin in the 1920s during the Soviet era during the rule of (Joseph Stalin). Things began to ignite as soon as the Soviet authority in 1932 annexed the Armenian minority in the region to the Azeri borders. On the other hand, the Azerbaijani minority was left isolated in the “Nakhchivan” region, within the Republic of Armenia. In addition, the Soviet state granted the region the right to self-rule with its subordination to Azerbaijan, which contributed to turning it into a time bomb ready to explode at any moment.
The current clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan bring back memories of the first strong blows dealt to the territorial integrity of the Soviet Union. As both countries were part of Soviet territory. And by February 1988, coinciding with the signs of the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was a state of deep anxiety that would last for months in the region - Nagorno-Karabakh - whose sovereignty was disputed between the two countries. After that, conflicts on an ethnic basis began to erupt, as a result of which he appealed to the local parliament - of the region that was subject to autonomy at the time - to the then Russian President (Mikhail Gorbachev), and demanded the transfer of the autonomy authority from under the banner of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic to Armenia, and soon What the Azeris' leaders in Moscow objected to, and clashes erupted between the two sides, which turned surprisingly quickly into a civil war that left dead, wounded, and refugees on both sides. Things became more complicated after the Armenian Soviet Council announced the unification of the Nagorno-Karabakh region under the Armenian flag. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the region's separatists declared their independence from Azerbaijan and refused to join Armenia.
After that, Armenia provided the Karabakh fighters with weapons and men, and its forces then penetrated into Azerbaijan. It occupied the geographical strip called - the Lagin corridor - in addition to the lands of 6 other provinces east and south of Karabakh. As a result of all these movements, hundreds of thousands of Azeris fled their homes in 1993 to escape the incursion of Armenian forces. In 1994, all parties, including Azerbaijan, agreed to sign a cease-fire agreement and resort to peaceful negotiations, and the main mediator in the negotiations was the European Union.
It should also be noted that Armenia had secured for itself complete control not only over a vast part of Karabakh but also across many areas between it and Azerbaijan, during its war with Azerbaijan in the early 1990s. This is something that Azerbaijan has never accepted smoothly, especially in light of international law, which still recognizes that - Nagorno-Karabakh - is part of the Azerbaijani lands. And the matter continued as it was, in light of the stable convictions in the hearts of the Azeris that they would recover their lost lands sooner or later, matched by great self-confidence on the part of the Armenians who were determined to keep the land in their possession forever. Border skirmishes erupt between the two countries from time to time since the signing of the ceasefire agreement, and in many cases escalate into more serious hostilities, the latest of which was in 2016.
Although the region does not have oil or gas that arouses ambitions for occupation and control, its location and mountainous terrain give it a strategic advantage for Armenia over oil- and gas-rich Azerbaijan, and its population works mainly in agriculture, benefiting from the multiplicity of rivers and rainwater that falls in summer for irrigation and electric power generation. Some of them also practice economic activities such as animal development and light industries. The region is more like Armenia than Azerbaijan in terms of its economy being dependent on agriculture and the mining industry, as its mountains are rich in precious and semi-precious metals such as gold and copper. Armenia is the main trading partner of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan, with the support of its strong ally Turkey, since the signing of the peace agreement between it and its neighbor Armenia in 1994, has been keen that its neighbor not benefit from any regional projects, especially those related to oil and gas pipelines to Europe. And those lines pass through the borders between Azerbaijan and Georgia, and then to Türkiye.
Armenia suffers from an economic blockade by closing the borders between it and Azerbaijan on the one hand, and between it and Turkey on the other hand, and it has only short borders with Iran in the south and Georgia in the north. Consequently, Armenia, along with the Nagorno-Karabakh region, has been in a difficult economic situation for years, due to the lack of any sea outlet for it, as for all of its neighbors, and for the narrowing of its longer borders with the two hostile neighbours. While Azerbaijan relies on oil and gas exports as a major source of income (energy exports constitute about 90 percent of Azerbaijan's exports), Armenia relies on exports of precious and non-precious metals, machinery and equipment, and diamond polishing. The industry sector is a major component of Armenia's gross domestic product, which amounts to about $14 billion. Although Azerbaijan's GDP is over $47 billion, the per capita GDP of the two countries is almost the same at $4.6 thousand. The population of Azerbaijan is about 10 million, while the population of Armenia does not exceed 3 million. As for the Nagorno-Karabakh region itself, its gross domestic product does not reach one billion dollars (in the past year 2019 it was a little more than 710 million dollars), and the population of the region is about 150 thousand people. Like Armenia, the region relied on tourism because of the ancient monuments and mountain forests it contains, but that almost all stopped with the spread of the Corona virus (Covid-19), as is the case with Armenia as well.
There are no economic temptations that arouse ambitions in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, but only its strategic importance, although Azerbaijan's occupation of it will not solve the problem that it has no land borders with Turkey. Although the war is considered to have a greater negative impact on Armenia, due to the pressures on its economy that increased with the Corona epidemic crisis, Azerbaijan also has a weak point represented in the oil and gas pipelines from its lands to Georgia. What we can understand from Turkey's position is that Erdogan is using it as a primary pretext to intervene in favor of supporting his main ally (Ilham Aliyev) first, and secondly, what will follow after the conflict intensifies and the size of Turkish support and the expansion of his influence in that vital region. In a way that helps him to revive his Ottoman influence, which extended in the past across vast areas of the continent. In addition, (Erdogan) sees in fueling this dispute at the present time what pleases him by raising tensions in the Russian geopolitical sphere of influence, and causing more troubles for Russia, with which he is currently linked by controversial positions on other conflict fronts, such as Libya. As for Iran's tendency towards Armenia and its preference over Azerbaijan, it comes on top of that Iran views Armenia as its first strategic partner in the South Caucasus region. The two countries are also linked to each other by distinguished commercial companies, with cooperation in the fields of energy. Yerevan needs Tehran for its oil and gas imports, while Azerbaijan is a competitor to Tehran in the field of energy exports. The Iranian gas pipeline to Armenia, which was considered by the former Iranian President (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad), is one of the most important aspects of cooperation between the two countries. As for Ukraine, Armenia called for the necessity of respecting the Azerbaijani sovereignty over its lands. It is a position that is understood in light of Ukraine's consideration that - the Crimea peninsula - a territory occupied by Russia. The same is the case with Azerbaijan, which Ukraine looks at with the same position, which is that part of its territory is occupied by another party. This is in addition to the fact that Azerbaijan, unlike Armenia, has something to offer to Ukraine. Oil comes first and foremost, and secondly, the large number of Azerbaijani business partnerships with Ukraine.
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