On December 27, an urgent session of the illegal "National Council of Karabakh separatists of Artsakh" is expected to take place where new theses of anti-constitutional President Araik Harutyunyan will be collectively supported.
Karabakh separatist versus Yerevan peace activist?
On December 26, Harutyunyan opposed the peace-loving statement of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan who said on December 24 that in 1993 the UN Security Council recognized Karabakh as an integral part of Azerbaijan, the question of Azeris living in Nagorno-Karabakh was not disputed, and "the Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous region has never been considered a purely Armenian entity." Earlier Pashinyan, after meeting with President Ilham Aliyev, informed Armenians about the constructive dialogue with the Azerbaijani President and the beginning of the era of peace.
It is worth remembering that Pashinyan's statements caused a storm in Yerevan. Member of the Armenian National Assembly Aram Vardevanian described the Pashinyan's speech as "international legal catastrophe".
Note that Harutyunyan also harshly responded to Pashinyan's speech. He repeated prewar slogans about the impossibility of Armenians living in the Azerbaijani state, demands to recognize the independence of the Armenian part of Karabakh and the eternal protection of Armenians by Russian peacekeepers.
"The international recognition of Artsakh's independence is our main vector, and no authority can allow any deviation from it. That means that the people and authorities of Artsakh will never and for nothing recognize any status within the limits of Azerbaijan," Harutyunyan noted.
He refused Pashinyan's right to speak on behalf of Karabakh Armenians: "Full recognition of the Karabakh people's right to self-determination cannot tolerate any reservations and compromises, and only its authorities have the right to speak on behalf of Karabakh residents."
Besides, Harutyunyan refused to accept results of the two "referendums".
Another demand of Karabakh separatists was the words of Harutyunyan that the territorial integrity of Karabakh must be restored on the territories where it was proclaimed in 1991. "Therefore, our territories must be de-occupied, and the residents must return to their homes," Harutyunyan said.
On September 2, 1991, at a joint session of the Nagorno-Karabakh Region and Shaumyan District Soviets of People's Deputies, an illegal proclamation of the "Nagorno-Karabakh Republic" within the borders of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region (NKAO) and the neighboring Shaumyan District of the Azerbaijan SSR was adopted. After that, on November 26, 1991, the Supreme Soviet of the Azerbaijan SSR adopted a decision on the dissolution of the NKAR. The Shaumyan region of the Azerbaijani Soviet Republic was liquidated and incorporated into the Geranboy region much earlier - on 12 February 1991, by decision of the Supreme Soviet of the Azerbaijan SSR.
One must bear in mind that the NKAR territory, now claimed by Harutyunyan, was 4,400 km². However, in 1993 Armenia won the first Karabakh war, occupying the lands of Azerbaijan which Armenians began to consider as their own. In 2006, the separatists held an illegal "referendum" declaring all Azerbaijani areas around Nagorno-Karabakh - 13,300 square kilometers - as "NKR" property. In 2017, there was held a second "referendum" where this territory was reaffirmed as the property of the self-proclaimed "NKR" with the new self-name "Artsakh".
In the fall of 2020, the Azerbaijani army liberated most of the captured territories. There is less land under the control of Russian peacekeepers than there was in the former NKAO - 3,170 square kilometers. So, from December 26, 2021, the main separatist Harutyunyan refused to recognize the results of the two "referendums" and now demands to give them the territory of the Soviet-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region, including Shusha, Hadrut and other districts liberated in 2020 by Azerbaijan.
As for Harutyunyan's demands, the Yerevan public activist and peace activist Ishkhan Verdyan wrote in FB: "I consider the "Artsakh government" criminals. And therefore, I can't consider their voiced nonsense to be politically interesting. The only thing I can say to them - you guys are in your right, if you want independence - go ahead, the flag in your hands, achieve it. Leave us alone.
Is this a game of Armenian leaders, or did Pashinyan step aside?
Azerbaijani society is expressing various versions of the cardinal divergence of Pashinyan's and Harutyunyan's political courses. Farhad Mammadov, former director of the Center for Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, gave two interpretations of what is happening.
1. This is Pashinyan's game. Pashinyan-Harutyunyan relations are notable for their closeness and Harutyunyan is Pashinyan's creature in Karabakh. The Armenian authorities often resorted to this trick: we agree but we do not agree in Karabakh. And Harutyunyan's current statement is a primitive move. Pashinyan met with Harutyunyan after Brussels and must have delivered his key messages. In so doing, Pashinyan is seeking to strengthen his negotiating position.
2. Pashinyan really wants to leave the Karabakh Armenians and deliberately creates checkpoints along the Zangezur corridor, realizing that Azerbaijan will take control of the Lachin corridor, and this way he will explain to Armenian citizens that he "won" in the dispute about the corridor, Sunik has not been yielded, and the Lachin corridor is Russia's responsibility and let it deal with it.
In turn, Mammadov believes that Pashinyan has in his hands only financial leverage against the separatists, since Armenia is the biggest sponsor of the Karabakh Armenians, providing up to $30 million a month for their subsistence. "The maximum that Armenia can hope for is to ensure its participation in the possible debates over the fate of the Karabakh Armenians (people, not territory) which Azerbaijan is not going to do and will never do.
Added to this can be that Armenia's future steps will reveal which way they go to: are they denying the Karabakh Armenians, or are they just playing their roles in a badly staged political spectacle?
Mammadov admits that Pashinyan is ready to fully surrender the Karabakh Armenians to Russia. "To do this, the financing of the separatists can be gradually stopped with the transfer of all obligations to Moscow. Will the game be worth the candle for Russia?" the analyst asks.
It should be added that the two Armenian politicians resumed the game of times of President Serzh Sargsyan who stated: Armenia wants peace with Azerbaijan, we have no claims to Baku. Let Azerbaijan negotiate with Stepanakert. However, at that time Baku did not fall into a trap.
Harutyunyan vs. Ocalan
If we are offered this game again, what will President Ilham Aliyev say? So far, official Baku is silent, without commenting on the statements of Pashinyan and his creature in Karabakh, Harutyunyan, who proclaimed the task to strengthen separatism up to separation from Azerbaijan, within the borders of the NKAR. Pashinyan has "stepped aside".
A question arises: will Baku agree to negotiate with the main militant separatist, against whom the General Prosecutor's Office opened a criminal case on charges of massacring Azerbaijani civilians?
Azerbaijani society demands that Aliyev repeat the phenomenal operation "Long Arms" of the Turkish commandos. Recall that deep in the night of February 15, 1999 several dozen Turkish commandos burst into the residence of the Greek Ambassador in Kenya, George Kostoulos. They arrested Kurdish separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan who was hiding in the residence, and used a military aircraft to take him from Africa to Turkey, duct-taped and sealed. While at the plane, Ocalan swore his love for Turks as saying that his mother was Turkish. He has since been serving a life sentence in a Turkish prison on the island of Imraly.
It has to be kept in mind that last week President Ilham Aliyev inaugurated a military base of Azerbaijani commandos in the Karabakh town of Hadrut. Note that the distance between Hadrut and Harutyunyan's residence is just 65 km...