We, the undersigned, call upon the government of the United Kingdom and other countries with interests in the region of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh to push for an immediate and full truce with parties returning to negotiations and outside military involvement halted. Human rights are not served by war and without such intervention, destruction and loss of life will only increase. The potential for much wider instability and turbulence is great.
On September 27, Azerbaijan began an unprovoked and sustained attack on the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, also called Artsakh. With direct and active military support from Turkey, this has great potential for destabilising the entire region. This is not, as some have portrayed it, a war of Muslim against Christian. It is an attack on human rights and lives are at stake. Although an 89 per cent majority in the 1926 census, Armenians there were forced to settle for an autonomous region within Azerbaijan until the fall of the Soviet Union. They are not an occupying force, but a majority, indigenous ethnic population who sought independence in 1991 because of decades of discrimination against them under Azerbaijan’s rule. The right to self-determination is enshrined in the 1975 Helsinki Act and we ask that this be upheld. It is of greatest concern that now President Ilham Aliyev demands that all Armenians leave Nagorno Karabakh before negotiations can begin.
Today’s war is not restricted to the disputed area but now includes Armenia where Turkish planes have invaded its airspace and Azeri shelling hits civilians, homes and schools in Nagorno-Karabakh and within the borders of Armenia. Threats have been voiced about destroying sites that would mean environmental disaster for the region. The war is now spreading to areas of Azerbaijan with a proportionate Armenian response in retaliation. Reports confirm that mercenaries brought from Syria through Turkey are fighting for the Azeris, in breach of a UN convention banning this practice. Azerbaijan is a party to the convention.
It is clear that there would have been no advantage to Armenia beginning such a war. The Armenian government has asked for a return to the negotiation table with the Minsk Group, a call rejected by Azerbaijan and Turkey. Meanwhile, a humanitarian crisis is quickly deepening across the region with tragic loss of life on both sides. Dangerous rhetoric by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues as he threatens to invade Armenia and “continue until the end”. The history of the past century demonstrates the real threat of ethnic cleansing of Armenians by Turkish forces. The Genocide of 1915 is still denied by Turkey and yet President Erdogan threatens to continue ridding the land of Armenians.
In Turkey itself, the Armenian minority are facing growing intimidation and hate speech since the war began. They are not part of the Caucasus conflict themselves and have called for peace but still are targeted. Clear and immediate action is needed to stop the fighting and prevent further ethnic cleansing. We call upon the United Kingdom, along with the United Nations, the OSCE Minsk Group and indeed the international community to act now.
n This letter was initiated by the Armenian Institute in the UK and signed by a group of academics, activists, artists, professionals and members of government and the House of Lords