It is time to take a side
“We don’t want to take sides” this is the response that I hear frequently from the european counterparts during our conversations about the need for further NL actions to implement more than a dozen of the Tweede Kamer motions in order to contribute to the peace in the Caucasus and halt the aggressive rhetoric and antagonistic actions by the Azerbaijani dictator.
Although my interlocutors generally agree and rarely contest my arguments, they claim that it is important to support the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairmanship in finding a lasting solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while turning a blind eye on the fact that by avoiding to take sides they are hindering the efficiency of the Minsk Group Co-chairmanships’ efforts, which are undermined by the Aliyev regime on the daily basis.
During the conversations I feel and understand how tired my interlocutors are of the mess that is going on in the South Caucasus, with constant warnings of new violence. What I can’t understand is the fact that the issues of fundamental human rights in the South Caucasus seem less important than elsewhere.
And at the end of the day, if we put aside consequences of last year’s Azerbaijani-Turkish aggression, Aliyev’s territorial claims against Armenia and constant provocations, and just focus on the regime’s wrongdoings in Azerbaijan itself, any observer can conclude that Ilham Aliyev and his thuggish tactics of exporting corruption and bribing European politicians, as well as attacking and killing his opponents in foreign countries (recently two prominent opposition bloggers were found dead in Istanbul and Tbilisi in unclear circumstances) are not something new for the West. He has stolen numerous elections (in 2013 the results of the elections were published a day before the vote), brutally suppressed the opposition, and flouted international rules and norms for years. Europe has turned a blind eye, tried to appease, please, negotiate and reach out, ultimately to no avail.
During Aliyev family’s decades-long autocratic rule thousands of innocent Azerbaijani citizens have been arrested, tortured and killed for protesting against the falsification of elections, robbing the country’s hydrocarbon wealth, and promoting corruption.
While writing these lines, which could be regarded as too undiplomatic or a desperate cry, I still continue to believe in justice and I am convinced that downgrading the existing threats will only worsen the situation. And now Iask myself what is the rationale behind refusal to take sides with the:
Millions of Armenians and Azerbaijanis, who don’t want to war with each other, and wish to live in peace and harmony;
Several thousand political prisoners, oppressed or brutally murdered journalists, opposition members, civil society activists, human rights defenders, bloggers in Azerbaijan;
Hundreds of Armenian PoWs and civilians illegally kept and tortured in Azerbaijani custody and tens of thousands of victims of Azerbaijani military aggression;
Indeginous people of the region, whose centuries old cultural monuments are being subjected to destruction, desecration and alteration by a UNESCO member country,
Aliyev has become a promoter of war and conflict, an exporter of chaos and instability. The aggressive behaviour of the Aliyev regime is moving beyond the borders of the South Caucasus, affecting the neighboring countries and posing threat to the entire region.
Reluctance of Europe to take a side is ruining the belief in the European values, the hopes for reconciliation, cherished by millions of Armenians and Azerbaijanis.
I would like to conclude with the words of Elie Wiesel, who coined it perfectly “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant.”
(Tigran Balayan, Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to The Netherlands)