Saturday, September 02, 2006

Arson in the occupied territories

In early 1992 Armenians took control of the Azerbaijani province of Karabakh by military force. They claimed a legitimate irredentist right to separate from Azerbaijan, which Azerbaijan has not accepted.

In 1993 Armenia gained control of additional lands to the east and the west of that province, lands to which it has no legitimate claim. The lands held by Armenia adjacent to Karabakh are internationally recognized as illegally occupied territories.

The same areas where ethnic Azeris and Armenians long lived peacefully side by side are now entirely populated by Armenians, after Armenian military forces ethnically cleansed the region of Azerbaijanis.

Azeri civilians had to flee or be killed by Armenian snipers, as they were in Khojali in February 1992, a horrific moment of modern history in which Armenians murdered Azeri residents in manners so cruel that they surpass the scope of human comprehension.

After taking these territories by force, Armenia then offered incentives to Armenians to move there. Armenians were offered free homes, which actually belonged to Azerbaijanis that had been forced to flee. The rightful owners of these homes have been living for 14 years in IDP camps in Azerbaijan.

Armenia promised Armenians free electricity and cash incentives to have more children if they moved to these occupied territories. In recent times they have reneged on both of these promises.

In spite of the goodies, Armenians simply didn't want to move to these regions.

Nowadays these occupied territories are almost entirely unpopulated. Electricity is rare and roads are bad.

Prospective Armenian settlers have shied away from living in these war-torn areas probably because they realize that raising their children amid landmines in a place that could either be attacked by an Azerbaijani offensive or returned diplomatically to Azerbaijan isn't ideal.

Countless displaced Azerbaijanis dream of returning to their homes and I've spoken to many of them. The international community should really get involved in helping pressure Armenia to return these homes to their rightful owners.

Sadly, this summer a series of mysterious fires have devastated the forests and fields of these occupied (actually pretty much unoccupied) territories.

Azerbaijan was helpless to douse the flames because they are behind military lines held by the Armenians.

Azerbaijan has loudly expressed outrage at the fires, which they believe were intentionally set by Armenia as a way to discourage the hopes of Azerbaijanis who want to return to their rightful homes.

Azerbaijan has aimed its wrath at Andrei Kasprzyk OSCE representative in charge of monitoring the ceasefires. Kasprzyk dismissed the fires and suggested that they were started by dry weather.

Azerbaijan has criticized Kazpryzyk heavily. However they have stopped short of asking for the Polish diplomat's ouster.

On Tuesday September 5, the government of Azerbaijan will bring the case to the United Nations General Asembly.


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