"NK was not a red line for the West, but Armenia could be" - Azerbaijani expert
Arif Yunusov on the reintegration of Armenians
Azerbaijani conflictologist Arif Yunusov believes that Azerbaijan’s military actions in Nagorno-Karabakh on September 19-20 “were not a shock for the West at all, they were just, once again, unpleasantly surprised”. In an interview with Radio Azatutyun (Liberty) he said that the attitude of the Western partners to the Karabakh events was natural. In this case, they were of the opinion that the hostilities were taking place on the territory of Azerbaijan. However, the penetration of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces into the territory of Armenia could be considered a “red line”.
“If on Karabakh we can say that the fighting took place on the territory of Azerbaijan, legally it is the territory of Azerbaijan, then in case it happens, say, around the “Zangezur corridor”, no matter where and what, it will be Azerbaijani aggression against Armenia. Then maybe, I emphasize that I am not very sure, but maybe more effective steps can be taken against Azerbaijan. And actions are a matter of sanctions,” he said.
Arif Yunusov is an expert on the Karabakh conflict and a former political prisoner. The Azerbaijani authorities accused him of spying in favor of Armenians. In 2016, he sought political asylum in the Netherlands and has not resided in Azerbaijan since then.
There will be no reaction as in the case of Ukraine
Yunusov still believes that in case of an attack by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces on Armenia, there will not be such a serious reaction as was observed in the beginning of Russia’s war in Ukraine. And one should not expect that “troops or something more serious” will be sent against Azerbaijan, as in the case of Ukraine against Russia.
“Perhaps, as we see now, the French will start helping Armenia, for example with military equipment or in the field of intelligence. But so far it is more at the level of words,” he clarified.
In the expert’s opinion, at the moment we can count on strengthening of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border through significant expansion of the EU observation mission. In addition, he believes, Aliyev is under hidden pressure so that he “does not continue to serve as a tool in the hands of Putin“.
Baku’s reintegration program is not for Armenians, but for the West
“Aliyev cannot openly say that I don’t need Karabakh with Armenians. That’s why they start playing games with the plan of reintegration of Armenians when they are not there. It is unclear who to reintegrate.”
Yunusov says the reintegration program presented by Azerbaijan is intended not for Armenians or its internal audience, but for the West. It is needed, he said, so that the Azerbaijani authorities, when criticism is voiced against them, will say:
“They ran away on their own, on the contrary we even asked them to stay, gave them food. But they ran away. And we want them back. We even have a reintegration plan, we even have a special commission that will deal with socio-economic problems of Karabakh Armenians.”
The expert considers this program a propaganda move. With its help Baku is trying to show the West that it is “doing everything for the return of Armenians”.
But in reality, according to Yunusov, the return of Armenians to the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh “is unrealistic without firm security guarantees.
“I jokingly told journalists that there is a new category of Armenians – forest Armenians”
After the exodus of almost the entire Armenian population from NK, the question arose as to whom the Russian peacekeepers stationed there would now protect. Yunusov believes Baku and Moscow are looking for reasons to keep them there:
“And Aliyev said the other day that some Armenian guerrillas are still roaming the forests there, so Russian troops will stay there.”
The Azerbaijani expert says no one knows who these Armenians in the forests are, but they are presented as “some scary people” and claim that for their sake the Russian army should stay in the region.
“Our conflict and the region are not a priority.”
According to Yunusov, the West’s position on the South Caucasus is based on confrontation with Russia, and its task is to push Russia out of the region.
“In Europe, there is a notion of realpolitik. That is, sympathy or dislike is one thing, but real interests are another. And real interests dictate that the main thing now is to solve problems related to Russia, because when we talk about our region, we are talking about Aliyev and Putin.”
The conflictologist believes that in addition to Russia and Ukraine, the list of world priorities includes the Middle East, Iran, and at the moment, Palestine.
Arif Yunusov on the reintegration of Armenians