On Sept. 13, a small territory called Nagorno-Karabakh in the South Caucasus region conducted so-called “local” elections. Surprisingly, the international community, including major powers like the US, Indonesia, the UK, Germany and Turkey, strongly denounced the elections as “illegal” and declared that they would not recognize the results.
Major international organizations such as the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) also joined the fray, as did the EU.
Nagorno-Karabakh region is in Azerbaijani territory. In 1992, Armenia, with the help of former Soviet Union troops, brutally attacked and occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent districts of Azerbaijan, in clear violation of international law. Armenia established a puppet regime, which declared the territory an independent state; however, no country in the world, not even Armenia, recognizes the separatist regime of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Sept. 13 elections have widely been seen as an attempt by Armenia to legitimize its illegal occupation. Yerevan, however, says the elections were necessary.
Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation and a close friend of Azerbaijan, joined condemnation of the illegal elections.
“Nagorno-Karabakh is a part of Azerbaijan,” Mahfuz Sidik, chairman of the Indonesian House of Representatives’ (Parliament) Commission I overseeing foreign affairs, said in a press release.
According to Mahfuz, the elections violated the principles of international law and Azerbaijan’s constitution.
Expressing a similar view, an Indonesian youth leader said that the elections were illegal and should be condemned and nullified.
“The elections were in clear violation of the OSCE resolutions. Elections in the Armenian-occupied territories of Azerbaijan would threaten the very fragile cease-fire and slow-moving peace talks,”OIC Youth Indonesia president Tan Taufiq Lubis said in Jakarta recently.
The US, the world’s sole superpower, meanwhile stated clearly that it had no intention of recognizing the elections in Nagorno-Karabakh.
“The United States does not recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent sovereign state, and we will not accept the results of the so-called elections on Sept. 13,” US State Department spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Sept. 11.
The US position was backed by the EU, a powerful regional force.
“As stated before, the European Union does not recognize the constitutional and legal framework within which “elections” are being held in Nagorno-Karabakh. Such procedures cannot prejudice the determination of the future status of Nagorno-Karabakh or impact the negotiation process,” Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for the EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, told Trend website on Sept. 5.
Germany, Britain, Turkey and Ukraine issued similar statements.
From Asia, meanwhile, Pakistan also condemned the illegal elections in Nagorno-Karabakh.
“The holding of these illegal elections is a blatant violation of international law and is thus a major blow to the peace talks. This is indicative of another attempt made by the Armenian side to legitimize the occupation of Azerbaijani territories and also of this country being uninterested in finding a political solution to the conflict and having chosen the way of provocation and escalation,” Pakistan’s Senate Standing Committee on Defense said in a statement.
China, the world’s second-largest economy, joined the condemnation.
“China’s position on the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh is clear and consistent. It is hoped that parties concerned will find a mutually acceptable solution through consultation and dialogue based on well-recognized norms of international law and the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei told journalists on Sept. 14.
The OIC, the world’s second-largest intergovernmental organization, also made clear its stance on the elections.
“The general secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, in line with its principled position, deems the so-called elections for the “self-governing bodies” to be held in the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region of the Republic of Azerbaijan on 13 September 2015 illegal and in contravention of the resolutions of the UN Security Council, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the OIC,” the organization said in a statement on Sept. 12.
The OSCE expressed similar sentiments.
“We do not accept the results of these “elections” as affecting the legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh, and stress that they in no way prejudge the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh or the outcome of the ongoing negotiations to bring a lasting and peaceful settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” the OSCE’s press service said in a statement.
Azerbaijan, an oil-rich country, outrightly rejected the Sept. 13 elections as an illegal act.
“This mock election exercise constitutes a clear violation of the constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the norms and principles of international law, and, therefore, shall have no legal effect whatsoever,” the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Azerbaijan called on all members of the international community not to recognize Armenian occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The crux of the problem is the illegal occupation of 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s territory by Armenia. While a majority of people living in Nagorno-Karabakh region are ethnic Armenians, the territory nonetheless belongs to Muslim-majority Azerbaijan.
The international community has repeatedly and strongly condemned Armenian aggression. The UN Security Council (UNSC) passed four resolutions – Resolution 822 (in 1993), 853 (1993), 874 (1993) and 884 (1993) – asking Armenia to withdraw its troops from Azerbaijani territory. The Council of Europe, European Parliament, OSCE and OIC have issued similar statements and resolutions. But Armenia has not implemented any of the UNSC resolutions.
The results of the 1992 war between Armenia and Azerbaijan were devastating. Azerbaijan was the biggest victim, with 20,000 deaths, 50,000 disabled and around one million internally displaced. These refugees, who are originally from Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent districts, are still living and suffering in refugee camps. It has been estimated that the war and subsequent refugee crisis cost Azerbaijan around US$60 billion.
Under the leadership of Russia, France and the US – as co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group — the peace talks have lead nowhere over the course of two decades.
If war breaks out again, it will have a devastating effect on the region, with a debilitating knock-on effect for Europe, which gets much of its oil and gas from Azerbaijan. The international community must put pressure on Armenia to withdraw from the occupied territories. Azerbaijan has already offered greater autonomy to the Nagorno-Karabakh region if a peace agreement is reached.