Azerbaijan denies Armenia's accusations of ethnic cleansing
In a heated session at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Thursday, longstanding adversaries Armenia and Azerbaijan clashed over allegations of "ethnic cleansing" in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, AFP reports. Yerevan accused Baku of carrying out these actions, prompting a vehement response from Azerbaijan, denouncing the charges as "unfounded."
This confrontation occurred just weeks after Azerbaijan launched a rapid military offensive, gaining control of Nagorno-Karabakh, which had been disputed for three decades. This military operation resulted in a mass exodus of ethnic Armenians, with the majority of the approximately 120,000 residents fleeing to Armenia.
Armenia's ICJ representative, Yeghishe Kirakosyan, stated, "Despite comprising for millennia the great majority of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh, almost no ethnic Armenians remain in Nagorno-Karabakh today. If this is not ethnic cleansing, I do not know what is."
In response, Azerbaijan's representative, Elnur Mammadov, criticized Armenia for repeatedly making accusations of ethnic cleansing, asserting that these claims had taken on a life of their own. Mammadov vehemently denied the allegations, labeling them as "unfounded" and "completely without merit," and insisting they did not reflect the reality of the situation in Karabakh. He stated, "Azerbaijan has not engaged and will not engage in ethnic cleansing or any form of attack on the civilian population of Karabakh."
The ICJ hearings revolved around Armenia's request for the court to mandate Azerbaijan to "withdraw all military and law-enforcement personnel from all civilian establishments in Nagorno-Karabakh." Armenia also urged the court to ensure that Azerbaijan refrains from actions that displace remaining ethnic Armenians and prevents the safe return of refugees.
While the ICJ's decisions are legally binding, it lacks the power to enforce them. Kirakosyan implored the judges to intervene, emphasizing, "There is still time to prevent the forced displacement of ethnic Armenians from becoming irreversible and to protect the very few ethnic Armenians who remain in Nagorno-Karabakh."
Azerbaijan countered by asserting that it encourages ethnic Armenians to return and guarantees their safe passage. Mammadov outlined a series of commitments from Azerbaijan, including safeguarding the property of those who have left and ensuring the security of those who remain. Baku pledged to facilitate the "safe and prompt" return of residents and the "safe and unimpeded departure" of anyone wishing to leave.
These hearings at the Peace Palace in The Hague mark the latest chapter in a protracted legal battle between the two nations. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have accused each other of violating the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), a United Nations treaty.