One of the bloodiest episodes of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was the capture of the town of Khojaly by Karabakh Armenian forces, during which hundreds of Azeri civilians were reportedly killed. Ten years after the tragedy, officials in Baku are asserting that the Khojaly events constitute genocide. Such rhetoric seems destined to complicate international efforts to promote a political settlement to the Karabakh conflict.
The OSCE Minsk Group is preparing a new set of proposals designed to produce a political solution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. The OSCE's chairman, Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama, was in Armenia on March 5, striving to get negotiations back on track. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archives].
The continuing debate over the Khojaly events, however, indicates that Armenia-Azerbaijan tension remains high. Rhetoric employed by both Armenian and Azerbaijani officials also suggests that both sides remain unprepared to compromise.
Azerbaijan commemorated the 10th anniversary of the loss of Khojaly, a town located within Karabakh, on February 26. Traditionally, the anniversary has been commemorated in Azerbaijan with a presidential address, a parliamentary debate and repeated television broadcasts on the tragedy. This year, however, the main focus of the commemoration appeared to be the campaign to have the Khojaly events recognised internationally as an act of genocide.
In an address printed by the Bakinskii Rabochi newspaper, President Heidar Aliyev described the Khojaly events as "the bloodiest page in the policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide regularly perpetrated by Armenian chauvinists."
"Today, the government and the people of Azerbaijan are facing the task of informing countries [around the world], parliaments and the general public about the Khojaly genocide
Clare Doyle is a freelance journalist based in Baku.