Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence - Sixth Report

Annex 2

Notes from Lord Hylton, MA ARICS, resulting from a visit to Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia 13-21 April 1998


  The visit was under auspices of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, whose President, the Lady Cox, was making her 36th visit to the region. The British team comprised lawyers, dentists, physiotherapists, an eye specialist, a journalist and others interested in military ethics, including a piper.

  A quotation from Andrei Sakharov, 1921-1989, Nobel Peace Prize Winner: "For Azerbaijan the issue of Karabakh is a matter of ambition, for the Armenians of Karabakh, it is a matter of life and death". (November 1989)


  1.1  There are acute memories of the Turkish pogroms before 1914 and of the genocide of Armenians in Turkey, during 1915 and 1916. These all but eliminated the Armenian population of Turkey, and today cities like Van contain no Armenians. As is well-known, the Azeri people speak a Turkic language, are linked in many ways with Turkey, and have a short common frontier on the western tip of Nakhichevan (since 1932).

  1.2  There are acute memories of the pogroms against the Armenian minority in Azerbaijan, eg at Baku and Sumgait in 1905, 1988 and 1990; also at Kirovabad in 1988. As a result of this violence some half-million Armenians fled Azerbaijan, while 300,000 Azeris left Armenia. The gradual elimination of the Armenians from Nakhicehvan is aso not forgotten. This population declined from 40 per cent of the total in 1917, to just two villages in 1987.

  1.3  The activities of a joint Turkish-Azeri army in 1919-20 removed areas on the east side of Nagorno-Karabakh that had traditionally been part of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), and changed the ethnic majority in Shushi from Arminian to Azeri forcing many of the former to move from Shushi to Stepanakert, and murdering Bisop Vartan and numerous others.

  1.4  In 1923 The Soviets placed the district of Shaumyan and the town of Lachin (the main road link with the Armenian SSR) under direct Azeri rule. They closed all churces and monasteries from 1930 onwards.

  1.5  From 1945 onwards the electricity and water-supplies and main roads were planned and laid out from Azerbaijan into the Autonomous Region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The inhabitants of the Stepanakert, the capital of the region, were obliged to do their major shopping in the Azeri city of Aghdam. Mills were closed, so that Armenian farmers could not grind the corn they produced.

  1.6  12 July 1988: the Supreme Soviet of Nagorno-Karabakh voted to secede from Azerbaijan. On 10 December 1991 this was confirmed by a referendum in favour of independence.

  1.7  Economic blockade: Azerbaijan imposed a blockade on Nagorno-Karabakh from the summer of 1989 onwards. Later Azerbaijan and Turkey blockaded the Republic of Armenia as well.

  1.8  November 28 1989—After a period of "Direct-Rule" from Moscow, the Soviet Authorities returned Nagorno-Karabakh to government by Azerbaijan.

  1.9  This was followed in 1991 by attacks onArmenian villages by both Soviet and Azeri military forces and the arrest of many civilians. In May of that year an International Visiting Commission (Sakharov Memorial Congress), verified killings, torture, forced deportations and destruction of churches, schools, homes and property. (See "Ethnic Cleansing in Progress", published 1993, Institute for Religious Minorities in the Islamic World—ISBN: 3-9520345-2-5). See also: Zori Balayan: "Between Hell and Heaven", (eyewitness accounts)—English edition. Amaras—Yerevan 1997.

  1.10  January to April 1992

Azeri forces devastated Stepanakert with Alazan and Grad rocket-propelled missiles, together with artillery. Attacks were indiscriminate and caused heavy casualties among the civilian population of some 80,000. These were later supplemented by air attacks using 500kg bombs and cluster bombs. The war, which continued until 1994, caused severe casualties among the civilians and soldiers.

  1.11  Atrocities

It is well-established that the Karabakh forces repeatedly tried to allow Azeri civilians to escape, eg Shushi and Khodaly, while the Azeris deliberately killed civilians, sometimes beheading, mutilating and dismembering their corpses eg at Maraghar—April 1992. Azeris tortured and maltreated both civilian hostages and military prisoners of war.

  1.12  Attacks on historic Armenian Churches and Monasteries

    —  Amaras: rendered unusable May 1991.

    —  Shushi: cathedral bombed byAzerbaijan after the capture of the town by Nagorno-Karabakh.

    —  Gandsazar Monastery: deliberately bombed by Azeri aircraft. A monastic building was destroyed but the Church was fortunately missed.

    —  other churches and cemeteries (eg Buzlukh and Shushi) were deliberately damaged and deserated.

  1.13  Attacks on border villages and civilians in the Republic of Armenia from Azerbaijan proper and from Nakhichevan.

  1.14  Sniping by Azeri forces in violation of the cease-fire of May 1994 is still causing casualties. I heard one such bullet when visiting the front-line east of Martuni.

  1.15  In 1998, despite repairs and reconstruction during the last four years, the ravages of war are still obvious. I visited two schools still showing the scars of bombardment. Countless buildings stand roofless.

  1.16  Conclusion: Horizontal, contractual relations with Azerbaijan are the only possible ones (so we were told by the President of Nagorno Karabakh). Statehood, he said, is not essential, provided we have its de facto attributes.


  2.1  The status of Republics and other administrative entities in the USSR was frequently changed without consultation by decisions in Moscow. Incompatible peoples were sometimes lumped together (Chechens and Ingush). Boundaries could be drawn and re-drawn (eg in Moldova).

  2.2  This is particularly the case in Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh), where the line drawn reflected earlier military violence (see 1.3 and 1.4). In 1926 Stalin arbitrarily created "Red Kurdistan" between Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia, in the "Lachin Corridor", only to abolish it again in 1930.

  2.3  Recommendation: The FCO and the OSCE should make a careful study of the Gyulistan Treaty signed in Karabakh in 1813, whereby a much larger Artsakh, which had previously enjoyed varying degrees of independence, came under the sovereignty of the Russian Empire. Further examination should be made of the arbitrary nature of most former Soviet administrative boundaries of the legality, or otherwise, of the Constitutional Law passed on September 17 1989 by the Supreme Soviet of the Azerbaijani SSR. The treaties of Moscow (16 March 1921) and Kars (13 October 1921) may also be relevant.


  3.1  The existence of large oil reserves beneath the Caspian Sea and to the east in nearby Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, is well-known. Baku, the original Caucasian oil-town, lies almost at the centre of them.

  3.2  The geo-political question is—"how shall the oil be moved to markets remote from the Caspian?"

    Russia already has a functioning pipeline from Baku via Grozny to Novorossisk, (though not a large one). Georgia would welcome a new line from Baku to Poti, or possibly Batumi, on its Black Sea coast. The most direct line, however, is from Baku to Ceyhan, on the Mediterranean coast of southern Turkey, crossing Armenia and possibly Nagorno Karabakh and Nakhichevan as well (depending on the precise route chosen). A further line from Ceyhan to Samsun, on Turkey's Black Sea coast, has also been chosen.

  3.3  There has been some talk of a possible Caucasian Common Market, which may prove to be a mirage. Nevertheless, it appears to be in the interest of all the countries involved to co-operate, so as to share the potential benefits of oil and pipelines in a win-win manner. Europe and America should support such an approach to ensuring stability in the region, to protect their investments and to obtain diversified supplies from a variety of sources. Turkey has a major interest in securing its energy needs, while assisting its allies in Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. It would enhance its real interests, by pursuing political and diplomatic solutions to its long-standing persecution of the Kurds and its traditional hostility to Armenia.


  4.1  Internal rather than inter-state wars are causing the greatest current problems. This is true in the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, in Sri Lanka, the Middle East, Africa and South America.

  4.2  The need for a status, which will enable very diverse peoples to manage their own affairs in ways satisfactory to them, is becoming ever more clear. Such a status would not, in most cases, entail international recognition, diplomatic status and a seat at the United Nations regional groups. It corresponds to the devolution and susbsidiarity, which the wiser and more democratic larger states have practised, or are introducing, (eg USA, Germany, Spain, Italy, UK).

  4.3  Such a status is likely to help to meet the reasonable needs and aspirations of places and peoples as diverse as Nagorno Karabakh (Azerbaijan); Priednestrovia (Moldovia); Kosova and Volvodina (former Republic of Yugoslavia); Hungarians in Romania and Slovakia; Chechnya (Russian Federation); Kurds in Turkey, Iran and Iraq; Abkhaz, Ossetians, etc, in Georgia; and Lesgins in Dagestan and Azerbaijan.


5.1 OSCE

    I have met each successive Head of the OSCE Long-Term Mission in Moldova since 1993-94, but have not had a chance to talk with staff dealing with Nagorno Karabakh or with members of the "Minsk Group". It seems to me that the mediating and security functions of the OSCE have been to some extent hampered by an over-riding interpretation of the principle of "territorial integrity", without full appreciation of the historical background.

5.2  Nagorno Karabakh

  The military tasks for implementation of OSCE proposals are set out on page 54 C W Blandy: "The Impact of Baku Oil on Nagorno Karabakh"—Conflict Studies Research Centre-December 1997-S33. They appear totally unrealistic, since they require the return of Shushi and Lachin to Azerbaijan, the leasing of the Lachin corridor by the OSCE (permanently?) and the creation of a "Buffer Zone" around Nagorno Karabakh by the OSCE. Who would pay for this and its policing? Elsewhere in his paper, Mr Blandy casts doubt on these paper proposals. He points out correctly that the Nagorno Karabakh forces now hold positions giving them optimum defensive security.

5.3  A Caspian Sea Regulatory Authority

  The question of national entitlements to the natural resources of this inland sea is not yet resolved. An agreed inter-governmental or supra-national body would be a helpful instrument for achieving the best and most economic development of the available resources. It would also be a means of avoiding the most serious ecological damage (remembering the harm done to the Aral Sea and to Lake Baikal by Soviet over-exploitation).

5.4  The International Committee of the Red Cross

  I was impressed by the personality and ability of the ICRC representative in Nagorno Karabakh (who is locally recruited). I understood that ICRC is assisting a diversified range of projects, some of them connected with developments rather than humanitarian relief. The ICRC is to be congratulated on overcoming problems connected with the blockade and Azerbaijan.


6.1 In Nagorno Karabakh:

      The President

      The Minister of Defence

      The Bishop of Shushi

      The Abbot of Gandzasar

      The Speaker and most of the Members of the Parliament

      The local representative of ICRC

  Towns:  Stepanakert, Shushi, Martuni, Mardakert.

  Villages:  Talysh, Mataghis, Maraghar, Gandzasar.

6.2  In Armenia—Yerevan and Echmiadzin

  The President

  The Prime Minister

  The Representative of Nagorno Karabakh

  The Rector of Yerevan State University

  The Professor of Medicine and senior staff of the principal hospital in Yerevan

  Dr Zori Balayan—former member of Supreme Soviet of USSR—author—member of the Artsakh committee

  Theological students at Echmiadzin, and old priest at St Guiyane's Church

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