“Rights and Security…” Who is listening?

When a wild animal senses a wounded victim, there is no pacifying their appetite. While Armenia continues to double down on its concessions of accepting Azerbaijani territorial integrity that includes Artsakh, the Azeri response this week is hardly optimistic. Dictator Aliyev, who has committed war crimes and ignored the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling on Berdzor (Lachin), arrogantly declared that he will not negotiate with Artsakh. He said that the Armenians must accept Azerbaijani rule or leave and demanded a corridor through sovereign RoA territory (so-called Zangezur). He openly displays disdain for all Armenians, particularly those that he claims are his citizens in Artsakh. 

The West, obsessed with beating the Russians to the punch, continues to offer empty words that overstate the prospects of a peace agreement. Russia is only concerned with maintaining control in the South Caucasus and will turn on Armenia in a moment to serve that objective. Agreements, such as the lauded and often referenced November 2020 trilateral agreement after the war, mean nothing as Russia and Azerbaijan violate its content on a daily basis. Sadly, Armenia continues to point out the violations with a victim mentality. Azerbaijan taunts Armenia with brazen comments such as last week’s threat that it can carry out any military operations against Artsakh. Aliyev further demanded the resignation of the Artsakh government and the dissolution of the parliament. Even a casual observer would conclude that any “peace” agreement in this environment would be absurd. Azerbaijan is so confident in its position that it openly threatens military actions if its demands are not met. Why not? It’s not as though following rules and abiding by agreements got them here. It has been quite the opposite. They have violated every agreement and continuously committed acts of aggression. 

the objective of self-determination remains in the hearts and minds of our brethren

While Armenia has wasted time with unilateral concessions, its military needs drastic attention. What is the difference between standing up with self-interest in the diplomatic process with an Azeri threat of violence and the inevitability of Azeri military action even with a peace deal? Both carry the threat of conflict, but the latter contains the false assumption that the Azeris want peace. The former is focused on the interests of the Armenian people, while the latter inadvertently has encouraged Azeri aggression. Apparently Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is sufficiently alarmed by Aliyev’s response that he publicly questions the latter’s commitment to recent agreements in Brussels. He has good reason to draw these conclusions. The Armenian strategy has been to use unilateral concessions to draw Azerbaijan into reciprocation or be identified as a non-committed party to be pressured by the mediators. Aliyev has not responded positively to any of the concessions. His comments have been focused on what remains, which is more of a surrender than a peace deal. The alternative of pressuring Azerbaijan is only viable if the mediators are willing to go to extremes such as sanctions and other economic mechanisms to influence Azerbaijan. They have been consistently unwilling to go down that path. Azerbaijan has committed war crimes, violated international laws, ignored agreements with their signature and failed to implement an ICJ ruling, yet the West and Russia have done nothing to enforce civility. Some blame it on the power of fossil fuel for addicted western nations. Do not underestimate the impact of the Israeli/Azerbaijani alliance as it relates to Iran and the United States. The western nations are operating as diplomatic mediators but are driven by countering Russia and are limited by the Turkey/NATO and Israel/Azerbaijan partnerships. This is the reality of geo-political alignments of self-interest, yet Armenia clings to the hope that continuous concessions will appeal to Azerbaijan’s sense of righteous relations. There is no such thing as a soul for that state. They are driven by a false sense of history, blind aggression fueled by racism and a series of profitable relationships.

In this context, the voices of Armenia speak of “rights and security” for Artsakh as a reciprocal agreement. What should we make of this “policy” statement? Probably the most important observation from a democratic perspective is that the people of Artsakh do not support this direction. On numerous occasions based on press statements from Stepanakert and political analysts, the objective of self-determination remains in the hearts and minds of our brethren. Before we criticize this as unrealistic, remember they are the only ones who live on the land, have sacrificed for their rights and will bear the consequences of alternatives. They understand what Azeri rule with its oppression and racism will mean. The Armenians in the Republic of Armenia don’t live there, and they have officially ended their long tenure as the security guarantor. Those of us in the diaspora don’t live there and certainly the non-Armenian, third party mediators do not reside in Artsakh. Moreover, Armenia is the only party that clearly states this as an objective. The Azeris display open disregard for this idea. In their view, the matter was resolved in 2020, and the Armenians of Artsakh either live under Azerbaijani rule (and its consequences) or leave. This is officially referred to as a deportation and is within the definition of genocide. The mediator parties have been intentionally vague on this matter. Without international guarantees (as Armenia has stated repeatedly), there will be no rights or security. 

What would be helpful in this process would be a general criteria of “rights and security.” Today, we have polar opposite views expressed by Artsakh and Baku. In Artsakh, it is defined as the ability to live in cultural, religious and political freedom. There has been a functioning government for over 30 years and a defensive military. If you ask our brethren in Artsakh, the only “rights and security” come from defending yourself to maintain freedom without Azeri oppression. It is not a new idea. They have articulated it and sacrificed for it since 1988. On the other side of the spectrum, we have a defiant and belligerent Azerbaijan that ignores all standards of justice and civility declaring that all current infrastructure must be dissolved and Artsakh “reintegrated” into Azerbaijan. That is a huge gap. Armenia’s definition of “rights and security” has been left vague in deference to the negotiating process. Thus far, it has become a unilateral concession and resulted in a stalemate. Aliyev, who ignores all sense of diplomatic decorum, will usually initiate military operations when his tolerance is exceeded. I would assume that attributes have been released privately in order to gain support from the mediators. To date, Azerbaijan continues to respond with an approach befitting the dictatorship and racist regime it has become.

What is particularly ironic in this sea of anarchy and uncertainty is Armenia’s role as a nation that refused to recognize Artsakh for 30 years and now feels empowered to negotiate the future of those they claim no governmental responsibility over. Armenia has stated that it advocated direct talks between Artsakh and Azerbaijan. Initially, Aliyev, in a ploy to neutralize Ruben Vardanyan, stated he would only work with people native to Artsakh. When his demand was met, he immediately reneged by stating there will be no direct talks, only compliance to Azerbaijani rule. As a result, the concept of “rights and security” remains unclear because the designated Armenian party is not being given voice. An absurd sequence at best.

The entire concept of “rights and security” for Artsakh (a policy downgrade from 30 years of self-determination) is dependent on international guarantees. This is code for an on-site multinational peacekeeping force. It would be expected that the Europeans, particularly France, would shoulder most of the burden. The hole in this argument is that if you have already declared recognition for the “territorial integrity” of the 86.6 thousand square kilometers of Azerbaijan, why would you advocate a peacekeeping force on their “sovereign” territory? It seems as if the decision to unilaterally announce “territorial integrity” needed to succeed (not precede) the “rights and security” dialogue. Granted, the reasoning was to take a major issue off the table, but until it is reciprocated, it is meaningless and complicates the “security” issue. If Armenia has declared the inclusion of Artsakh in the 86.6 thousand square kilometers of Azerbaijan, what mediating party will commit troops to keep peace in an area already ceded? With a belligerent Azerbaijan, Armenia needs to make it easier for third party intervention. This sequence complicates that move.

The current negotiating environment is very unstable despite the public relations statements by the mediating parties. The parallel process between Moscow sponsored, EU sponsored and US sponsored diplomatic activity seems like an endless game of musical chairs. Armenia may have an opportunity to reset the parameters with Azerbaijan rejecting everything. Armenia needs to position them as the bad guys in a process that at least three outside parties are invested in. If the mediators sincerely believe this process has possibilities, then the party consistently blocking progress should be exposed. This is logical, but when layering in the political implications, it is uncertain. Regardless, Armenia must do something to use Aliyev’s lack of commitment to their advantage. Perhaps Pashinyan’s recent statement about Aliyev is that opportunity. If we simply leave this as a static dialogue of unilateral concessions, the inevitable military intervention by the Azeris will create intolerable risk for Artsakh’s “rights and security.” With Russia’s duplicitous adventures in the region and essentially ignoring Armenia, they would love to see the western mediating efforts fail. The ball is in the court of the Armenians to adjust since we have the most to lose. If Aliyev keeps reacting with more racist and threatening responses, the Armenians need to be in a position to exploit their barbarism with actions from the mediating parties. Enough of trying to be good faith compromisers. Armenia and Artsakh are in danger. Self-interest is the priority.

Stepan Piligian

Stepan Piligian

Stepan was raised in the Armenian community of Indian Orchard, MA at the St. Gregory Parish. A former member of the AYF Central Executive and the Eastern Prelacy Executive Council, he also served many years as a delegate to the Eastern Diocesan Assembly. Currently , he serves as a member of the board and executive committee of the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR). He also serves on the board of the Armenian Heritage Foundation. Stepan is a retired executive in the computer storage industry and resides in the Boston area with his wife Susan. He has spent many years as a volunteer teacher of Armenian history and contemporary issues to the young generation and adults at schools, camps and churches. His interests include the Armenian diaspora, Armenia, sports and reading.


  1. I have increasingly become disenchanted with Pashinyan’s dealings with Azerbaijan. Based on what we read, it seems that the following happened during the 44 day war and the past two and half years.
    1) Pashinyan had no military experience and was overwhelmed by the Azeri attack. He panicked instead of rallying the people and mobilizing. Pashinyan is no Zelensky. He had to rely on the generals which he did not trust. Of course the Armenian military leadership did not help the situation with their own incompetence and corruption; the Russian army debacle in Ukraine shows how badly military reforms are needed. The lack of military preparation was partly his fault but also that of former president Sargsyan.
    2) he has consistently lied to his people about how bad the situation is in Artsakh and Armenia. Instead he makes secret deals( or is coerced by Russia/Azerbaijan) and then announces them drip by drip. Examples include ceding the Goris Kapan highway and Berdzor, the closing of the Lachin highway /installation of Azeri checkpoint, the recognition of Azerbaijan with Artsakh in it, the ceding of enclaves in Armenia proper and so on. Pashinyan seems to be out of his depth being constantly outmaneuvered by Aliyev and Putin. Amazingly he never accepts responsibility for minor or major issues that afflict his government; for example his speeding motorcade killed a pregnant woman, or the fact that his government could not resist the invasion of Armenia proper in 2022 resulting in the death of 200 soldiers; or that there are more than 100 POW in Baku with two more kidnapped last week. It is correct to say that the Nov 10th 2020 trilateral agreement has been thoroughly shredded. What makes anyone think that any “peace” agreement will not have a similar fate?
    3) His vision is an Armenia economically and militarily connected to the West, free from the Russian orbit. For that he is willing to sacrifice Artsakh, memory of Ararat and Western Armenia, Tsiternakaberd and Diaspora. He imagines an Armenia without a history living in peace with Turkey. But that Disneyland fantasy does not exist in the South Caucasus. Turkey has shown no sign of real reproachment; Cavusoglu recently said that Armenian genocide was a fiction and no country including the US reprimanded him.
    4) Pashinyan is the favorite leader of US, EU and even Azerbaijan because he is not defending his people but serving the interests of foreigners. He may even get invited to the White House after he signs a peace agreement. Pashinyan should resign, just as Neville Chamberlain did, and let a leader with military experience and backbone take over. Hopefully that leader will be a true patriot and not just a Russian lackey nor some corrupt oligarch

  2. The bigest problem of Armenia is that they have very little to offer to superpowers, and they keep misreading international Geostrategy priorities, as usual Armenians act like they coudn’t understand that the corrupt world functions with bribes and interests, and most countries rights are overrided by powerfuls interests, remeber: MIGHT is RIGHT

    • I have to agree with you whole-heartedly. The international community watches as Armenia/Artsakh get bullied to the point of genocide by the brutal dictator Aliyev and complicit Turkey. Armenians are being squeezed into a corner and the only way out is to fight. And it seems that the inevitable outcome of this could very well be regional war from Turkey to Iran and southward to the entire Middle East.

    • You are not correct, Raffi.

      Armenia has much to offer and is highly prized.

      Without Armenia, Russia loses the entire Caucasus.

      WITH Armenia, the West (along with Georgia and Azerbaijan) wins the entire Caucasus.

      This is why Armenia is being fought over. This is why Russia is so angry at Armenia and why Russia is holding Artsakh hostage.

      Armenia represents the tipping point for Russia vs. the West.

      Russia’s only foothold in the Caucasus is Armenian land. Without that, Russia has no foothold.

      This is elementary geography and geopolitics.

      Do Georgia and Azerbaijan want to be under Russia’s boot? No they do not.

  3. His entire life, Nikol dreamed of abandoning Artsakh, forgetting about the Armenian Genocide, unconditionally opening Armenia’s borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey and, last but not least, bring Armenia out of Russia’s orbit his entire life. This naturally did not escape the attention of foreign intelligence services. Western and Turkish interests therefore placed Nikol into power in 2018 exactly for this purpose. To it’s utter disgrace, the Armenian world, both native and diasporan, preferred to keep Nikol in power not once, but twice. That’s when Russia, having had enough of Armenian duplicity and incompetence, pulled its protective hand away just slightly. Moscow would use the opportunity to punish Armenians by collaboratong with Turks. The rest is history, as they say. All in all, the tragedy of the last 5 years in Armenia was the by-product of westernization, democracy and the self-destructive efforts of Armenians, both native and diasporan, to use the West as a hedge against Russia. Armenians maneuvered Armenia into today’s dead end. Armenians have no right to complain today, as they were the main authors of the country’s latest tragedy…

  4. Yes, Russia has betrayed Armenia and is holding Artsakh hostage.

    Yes, Pashinyan is terrible, but history also says that Russia gives away Armenian land and betrays Armenians.

    Just because the West is bad does not make Russia good. That would be illogical.

    And may I say that all Armenian governments since 1991 have been corrupt, stolen from the people, and played with the West in all sorts of ways.

    No Armenian government has reached out to the Diaspora with sincerity.

    The Diaspora has had to force its way in.

  5. This is a pretty good article.

    But it says that “Russia is only concerned with maintaining control in the South Caucasus and will turn on Armenia in a moment to serve that objective.”

    Russia has <> turned on Armenia, as witness the 2020 war, the blockade of Artsakh that Russia is supporting, and Russia’s not doing anything about the Azeri incursions into Armenia.

    Also, the article says “Sadly, Armenia continues to point out the violations with a victim mentality.”

    I don’t think pointing out Azerbaijan’s many sins is being a “victim.”

    In fact, the article later admits that “Armenia may have an opportunity to reset the parameters with Azerbaijan rejecting everything. Armenia needs to position them as the BAD GUYS in a process that at least three outside parties are invested in.”

    I do not understand.

    The author says criticizing Azerbaijan is like acting as a victim.
    Then the author says Armenia should criticize Azerbaijan.

    Which is it?

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