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Nagorno Karabakh

The 17-year-old conflict with Armenia over Nagorno Karabakh plays a key role in Azerbaijan’s domestic politics. In recent opinion surveys, Azerbaijani voters have listed the problem among their top three concerns. How have the country’s political parties and election alliances responded, and what are the chances for peaceful coexistence between Azerbaijanis and Armenians?

Pro-Government: Yeni Azerbaijan Party (YAP):

The ruling party stresses that the only solution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict is one that recognizes “the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan,” according to Deputy Executive Secretary Mubariz Gurbanly. While YAP backs peaceful negotiations, Gurbanly says that the party believes a solution to Nagorno Karabakh will only occur by strengthening Azerbaijan’s military capabilities and economic prosperity. The task of YAP MPs in the meantime is to “make the international community recognize Armenia as an occupying force,” he continues. “We have to work in the direction of neutralizing Armenia’s allies on the issue and making countries with doubts [about the territorial identity of Nagorno Karabakh] our allies.”

Opposition: Azadlig (Freedom) Bloc:

Democratic reform within Azerbaijan is the best approach for restoring control over Nagorno Karabakh, argues Azadlig deputy campaign head Fakhmin Hajiyev. “The international community will not let the Azerbaijani government, which is suppressing Azerbaijanis, exercise its power on the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh,” Hajiyev says. “The restoration of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity will occur when the Armenians of Karabakh see the creation of a positive democratic model in Azerbaijan.” While a strong Azerbaijani army and economy must also be part of any peace strategy, the country’s “international reputation” in this matter hinges on respect for democratic values, he says.

Opposition: Yeni Siyasat (YeS – New Policy) Bloc:

The party advocates peace through negotiations with the help of international mediators. “However, the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan has to be restored as a result of a peace solution,” says Rashid Hajili, the head of YeS’s campaign. “All Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) must return to their lands and the rights of Azerbaijanis and Armenians in Nagorno Karabakh must be protected.”

Opposition: Liberal Party of Azerbaijan (LPA):

The solution for the Nagorno Karabakh conflict should be found within the framework of United Nations Security Council resolutions, argues Deputy Chairman Avaz Temirkhan . While the Liberal Party maintains that it does not advocate war, Temirkhan also stresses that it is “absolutely against” an “unfair” peace agreement with Armenia that does not result in Azerbaijan regaining control over Nagorno Karabakh and the seven occupied territories. The party pledges to work for official recognition of ethnic Azerbaijani refugees from Armenia and calls on Armenia to grant the same status to Armenian citizens of Azerbaijani ethnicity.

Candidate: Rasim Musabekov, Independent
Constituency: # 23 Nasimi-Sabail
Location: Downtown Baku

Peace should occur through negotiations monitored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Minsk Group, the candidate argues, but “a tremendous amount of financial resources” should go toward modernizing Azerbaijan’s military and introducing contract service. “It will help rid the Armenians of their illusions and deprive them of their winner’s superiority complex,” says Musavekov. “As soon as Azerbaijan’s military superiority becomes clear, Armenia will give up its ardor for annexation.” The candidate looks to “great regional and world superpowers, international organizations and financial donors” to explain to Armenia “[the] military risk to which they expose themselves and the impossibility of normal economic development without cooperation with Azerbaijan.”

Candidate: Nasimi Mammadli, Umid (Hope) Party
Constituency: # 119, Agdam Village
Location: Agdam region, partly under Armenian occupation, on frontline with Nagorno Karabakh

The candidate advocates resolution of the conflict with Armenia through negotiations, coupled with domestic political reform. “When the nation realizes that everything, including oil, land, the army, and the police, are really here to serve the people, not a small group of corrupt bureaucrats, then the nation itself will became a catalyst for solving the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.” Mammadli adds that if international negotiations do not work, Azerbaijan should use military force to regain control over Karabakh and the occupied territories. “For Armenia, the Nagorno Karabakh conflict is about furthering the strategic interests of Russia in the South Caucasus region and occupying 20 percent of Azerbaijani territory.”

Candidate: Chingiz Mammadov, Independent
Constituency: # 38, Nizami 2nd
Location: Ganja, Azerbaijan’s second largest city (pop: 330,000)

The candidate advocates that Azerbaijan rely on itself for a peaceful outcome to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. “The keys to the conflict’s resolution lie not in Moscow or Washington. They are in Azerbaijan.” Mammadov deems “active participation” in the parliamentary elections “crucial” for Azerbaijanis to elect a democratic government and thereby hasten a resolution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.” Nonetheless, Mammadov cautions that a military solution for the conflict should also not be dismissed if Armenia does not agree to relinquish control over Azerbaijani territories peacefully: “We want peace, but have to get ready for war.”

AZERBAIJAN: ELECTIONS 2005 is a production of EurasiaNet.org with funding provided by the Open Society Institute.
Copyright © 2005 EurasiaNet.org.