September 1999


There are several very important points that must be clarified and added in
regards to the Mr. Paul Harris’ "Karabakhis preside over an uneasy
truce" article in the September 1999 Volume 11 issue of JIR.  

The very ambiguous way the Armenians of Karabakh, brief way the history of
Karabakh, are portrayed is very deceptive. I do not want to bore everyone
with historic references and official censuses and treaties firmly proving
that Karabakh always belonged to Azerbaijan. However, a reference to the
report of the Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Francis
M. Deng, submitted pursuant to Commission on Human Rights, resolution 1998/50
(E/CN.4/1999/79/Add.1, 25 January 1999, Original: English), would sum up some
of the points:

"Nagorno-Karabakh is a region to which both Azerbaijan and Armenia claim
historical ties stretching back centuries. However, the roots of the present
conflict can be traced to the early twentieth century. After the Russian
revolution, Azerbaijan and Armenia fought as newly independent States over
Nagorno-Karabakh. The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 recognized Azerbaijan's
claim to the territory. After Azerbaijan and Armenia were incorporated in the
Soviet Union, this territorial arrangement for Nagorno-Karabakh was retained,
while Armenia was awarded the district of Zangezur which had connected
Azerbaijan to its westernmost region of Nakhichevan. Thus, on the resulting
map of the region, Nagorno-Karabakh and Nakhichevan were enclaves whose
inhabitants were separated from their ethnic kin in the titular republics of
Armenia and Azerbaijan respectively.” (See also Bill Frelick, Faultlines of
Nationality Conflict: Refugees and Displaced Persons from Armenia and
Azerbaijan, Washington, U.S. Committee for Refugees, March 1994, pp. 7-9.)"

Therefore, Karabakh could never have been “arbitrarily split from Armenia,”
as the article claims, as it never belonged to it in the first place.

Another issue is the misunderstanding of the Soviet
territorial-administrative division, where the author identifies Karabakh
(then NKAO) as "Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous REPUBLIC" as opposed to simply
oblast' (province). Karabakh was an oblast', which lacked the broad legal
rights which Autonomous (e.g., Naxcivan within Azerbaijan) and Union
Republics (e.g., Azerbaijan or Armenia) enjoyed, such as its own
constitution, flag, coat of arms, foreign representation, and ability to
declare sovereignty and ultimately independence (at least on paper). Karabakh
could not declare independence, as it was just an autonomous oblast' within
Azerbaijan SSR -- a Union Republic. In fact, not only the Azerbaijani Supreme
Soviet annulled both illegal Armenian and NKAO resolutions, but so did the
USSR Supreme Soviet, the ultimate legislative organ of the Soviet Union. 

Moreover, the author is simply confused himself when he, with all due
seriousness, states that "98% of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh voted to
split from Azerbaijan and adopt an independent status" during the illegal 10
December 1991 activity, referred to as "referendum on independence." As
mentioned above, the oblast and its regional leaders lacked any capacity to
declare any independence from Azerbaijan SSR -- it was unconstitutional and
illegal. Moreover, that would have contradicted many previous
(illegitimate) acts of NKAO Oblast Soviet and Armenian Parliament to annex
Karabakh to Armenia, all of which were illegal, and declared null and void by
Azerbaijani Parliament, and the USSR Supreme Soviet. It is very important to
keep in mind that Azerbaijanis made up 25% of the population of Karabakh
region until 1988 (over 40,000 people), and have been subjected to "ethnic
cleansing" since until there was none left as it is the case today.

In response to the author’s downplaying of the massacre of peaceful civilians
in Khojaly, as well as omitting to mention nearly one million displaced
Azerbaijanis (at least 10% of population) due to Armenian aggression, here’s
another relevant quote from Mr. Deng’s official report:

"A series of violent attacks, by which Karabakh forces gained control of the
cities of Khojaly and Shusha in Nagorno-Karabakh in the spring of 1992 and of
a land corridor between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia in the area around
Lachin in June 1992, resulted in the wholesale displacement of the ethnic
Azerbaijani and Kurdish populations, as well as of Meskhetian Turk refugees
settled in these areas."

The author goes on to make several more far-reaching statements, such as that
"Despite these deliveries to Armenia [of S-300 SAM and 18 MiG-29's], it is
probable that Azerbaijan is armed twice as heavily. A report by the US Arms
Control and Disarmament Agency estimates that Azerbaijan imported arms valued
at US$115 million during the period 1992-96, with Armenia's imports standing
at $60 million." First, Azerbaijan is twice as big as Armenia and hosts no
foreign bases to "protect" itself -- as Armenia -- and is the victim of
aggression with land still occupied, and thus needs more weapons than
Armenia. Second, even if we are to determine how one side is armed based on
dollar figures -- as opposed to actual quantity -- then it would be a good
idea to mention the covert and illegal arms deliveries to Armenia from late
1992 till 1996, worth close to TWO BILLION DOLLARS according to the late
General L.Rokhlin, then Chair of the Duma Defense Committee. It included such
arms as 84 T-72 tanks, 50 BMP-2, 32 SCUD-B ballistic missiles, 18 GRAD
launchers, as well as Igla's, Krug's, Osa's and other systems, missiles and
howitzers (for more details, please refer to Jane's Defence Weekly, April 16,
1997, ASIA PACIFIC; Vol. 27; No. 15; Pg. 15 "Russia details illegal
deliveries to Armenia" BY: Nikolai Novichkov, in Moscow.) Meanwhile, if we
are to speak about real arms holdings, already in 1997 Armenia had placed an
estimated 253 battle tanks, 278 armoured vehicles and 298 artillery units in
the occupied territories of Azerbaijan (including Karabakh region) -- that is
in addition to the weapons stationed on its own territory and that of foreign
bases stationed on its territory. 

Mr. Harris seems to be at ease with ignoring the correct figures and
statistics regarding Azerbaijani casualties, while coming up with some
astronomical figures for the Armenians, as is the claim about "an estimated
22,000 Karabakhis....died." Estimated by whom, may I ask? Only if by
“Karabakhis” the author means all Armenian casualties (i.e., combined forces
of Republic of Armenia, Armenians of Azerbaijan, Diaspora and mercenaries),
it might be correct. Human Rights Watch/Helsinki in its 1994 book  “Seven
Years of Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh” estimated total losses for both sides
at around 25,000, while the official Azerbaijani estimates are twice as
much. Although, there is little doubt that most casualties were Azerbaijanis,
as the Armenian aggression was conducted entirely on Azerbaijani territory. A
very strange note about some "allies" -- the author obviously implies
mercenaries -- of Azerbaijan who died in the war opens another issue.

Mr. Harris ignores the proof and evidence by UN, OSCE, HRW, etc., about the
participation of mercenaries and foreign volunteers on both sides. Moreover,
the author goes on to claim that "There has been no evidence of foreign
trainers in the country." I beg to disagree. Anatoliy Vladimirovich Zinevich
is a Major General and even "Chief of the Nagorno-Karabakh Army
Headquarters." (One can read his interview in Yerevan's VREMYA newspaper in
Russian, 24 August 1996, p. 3, by Ara Tatevosyan, MOSKOVSKIYE NOVOSTI staff
correspondent, entitled "Once a Russian General...")

Meanwhile extensive cases of mercenaries fighting on Armenia’s side are well
noted by Enrique Bernales Ballesteros, the UN Special Rapporteur on
Mercenaries (see: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Question of the Use
of Mercenaries E/CN.4/1994/23). Here is an excerpt:

"(a) On 26 January 1992, a French mercenary was killed during an Azerbaijani
attack on the village of Karin-Tak, near Stepanakert; 

(b) In February 1992, a foreign mercenary fighting with the Armenian
self-defence forces was killed in the attack on the Azerbaijani town of

(c) From 12 to 14 June 1992, nine foreign mercenaries fighting in the
Armenian forces were killed in the battles around Askeran; 

(d) On 1 July 1992, the commander of a battalion of the self-defence forces
of Azerbaijan, stated to the Turan News Agency that, in a battle in the
Mardakert region, a foreign mercenary who had sided with the Armenian
National Army was killed; 

(e) On 1 June 1993, six former Russian soldiers [members of elite Spetsnaz
forces] were captured in action, after reportedly carrying out subversive
operations in Nagorny Karabakh. According to the information received, they
were recruited by Russian officers to train Armenian units in Nagorny
Karabakh after their Russian units in Armenia had been dissolved and they had
been discharged. They were reportedly convicted as mercenaries; 

(f) It is reported that foreign mercenaries working for payment for the
Nagorny Karabakh and the Armenian forces, but also for the Azerbaijani
forces, have shelled houses, hospitals and churches, looted and burned
houses, and intentionally terrorized and forced the civilian population out
of villages, by killing and wounding civilians, including women and children,
and by taking civilian hostages;"

Interestingly, out of the three Trans-Caucasian states, only two have both
signed and ratified the International Convention against Mercenaries (adopted
by UN GA in 1989). Armenia is not one of those countries.


Adil Baguirov