Memorandum submitted by Christian Solidarity
I understand that the Foreign Affairs Committee
will be discussing the FCO's role in promoting British interests
in and relations with countries of the Transcaucasus and Central
Asia. I also understand that the Foreign Affairs Committee is
planning to visit the region in May 1999.
In view of these events, may I bring to your
attention the tragic conflict in Nagorno Karabakh, which has caused
so much suffering for both Armenians and Azeris and continues
to affect the lives of Armenians and Azeris. There are a number
of issues, which are critical to any consideration of the conflict.
I am therefore enclosing an "Update" briefing and a
report by an independent member of the House of Lords, both of
which might be pertinent to discussions on the Transcaucasus region.
After reading these documents, it will be apparent
that our sympathies are now with the Armenians, especially with
those who live in their ancient homeland of Nagorno Karabakh.
However, may I emphasise two points:
First, Baroness Cox, the President of CSW originally
visited the region, on behalf of the Andrei Sakharov Conference
on Human Rights which was being held in Moscow in May 1991. Lady
Cox was accompanied by an international delegation of independent
human rights experts. On that occasion, they visited Armenia and
met victims of deportations then being carried out by Azerbaijan,
in conjunction with Soviet 4th Army troops. They also crossed
the border to speak to Azeris to hear their point of view, but
felt that they should visit Baku to obtain a more systematic account
of Azeri policies regarding Nagorno Karabakh. They subsequently
returned to the region, visiting Baku and met the Azeri political
leaders. The delegation concluded that there was cause for grave
concern over Azerbaijan's policies.
CSW subsequently returned to the region, visiting
Karabakh in January 1992 as Azerbaijan was escalating its military
offensives against Armenians of Karabakh. The evidence obtained
throughout all subsequent visits has led us to the conclusion
that Azerbaijan has been the primary aggressor throughout these
Of course we are concerned for the many Azeris
who suffer as a result of the conflict and the continuing political
impasse. Indeed, Lady Cox helped to raise the money for one of
the humanitarian initiatives carried out by MERLIN (Medical Emergency
Relief International) working with Azeri refugees in Azerbaijan.
However, all the evidence which we have obtained
has persuaded us that the Armenians of Karabakh have been the
primary victims; that the suffering of Azeri civilians has been
largely caused by Azerbaijan's continuing and repeated attempts
to try to impose a military solution on the political problems
of the status of Karabakh; and that the Armenians of Karabakh
can not be expected ever again to accept Azeri sovereignty, given
the suffering they have experienced at the hands of the Azeris,
not only in recent years but over many decades.
Azerbaijan has the resources and the freedom
to invite many politicians and representatives of the media. Moreover,
the development of Azerbaijan's oil industry means that many people
with commercial interests are based in Azerbaijan or visit frequently.
Thus many people from the international community have the opportunity
to hear and to represent the situation in Azerbaijan and the Azeri
version of events, both historical and contemporary.
But the people of Nagorno Karabakh are generally
denied the opportunity to show their suffering or to present their
case. Consequently, the plight of the people of Karabakh cannot
be seen at first hand by most of those people representing the
international community whose decisions shape their destiny.
While it is clear that we have moved from a
position of impartiality to a position of advocacy, we wish to
assure you that this advocacy is not based on an uncritical commitment
to one side of the conflict; it is rooted and grounded in first-hand
experience and evidence.
I would be most grateful for your consideration
of this information. Please do not hesitate to contact us should
you require further information or wish to discuss these issues
with our President, Lady Cox, or myself. We would also be delighted
to arrange a meeting with one of the founders and leading figures
of the Karabakh independence movement, eminent writer and speaker,
Dr Zori Balayan of the Artsakh Committee1, should you be included
in the forthcoming visit to Armenia.