Aliyev's offer of amnesty for Karabakh Armenians, contingent upon specific conditions, was once again rejected by the region's leaders, who also sought support from Russia against Azerbaijan.
After the Second Karabakh War, a two-stage process continued in the name of normalization in the South Caucasus.
The first stage was the ongoing normalization process between Azerbaijan and Armenia, which is mostly directed toward the signing of the final peace agreement between the two countries, the demarcation and delimitation of their borders, and the opening of communication and transportation routes. The critical point in the negotiations for this was Armenia’s recognition of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, including its sovereignty over the Karabakh region.
The second stage was the reintegration of Armenian residents of Karabakh into Azerbaijan. There are some obstacles to the second process. One of them is that the Russian “peacekeepers” in Karabakh are sabotaging the dialogue process by supporting the illegal administration in Karabakh rather than the peace mission. At the same time, illegal structures in Karabakh oppose the process of reintegration into Azerbaijan. Moreover, illegal Armenian armed groups are present in the region, contrary to the tripartite statement signed on Nov. 10, 2020.
One of the most important issues that concerned the international community was the fate of Armenians in this region after Azerbaijan reestablished its sovereignty. In his previous speeches, President Ilham Aliyev stated that the rights and security of the Armenians living in Karabakh are guaranteed by the Azerbaijani state, its laws, and agreements signed in the international sphere. In addition, Azerbaijan appointed a special representative for the reintegration of the Armenians of Karabakh and twice invited them to Baku to discuss their problems, but they refused those invitations. Despite that, for a third time, Azerbaijan has taken a new positive step toward the Karabakh Armenians.
President Aliyev, who visited liberated Lachin on May 28, announced that he could declare an amnesty for the Armenians living in Karabakh and announced the conditions for that amnesty. Aliyev listed his conditions as follows: the “parliament” should be dissolved; the individual calling himself “president” should surrender; and all “ministers” and other “officials” should give up all their false duties and apply for Azerbaijani citizenship.
U.S. welcomed statement
Aliyev's statement was welcomed by the international community. Matthew Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, stated, “We welcome President Aliyev’s recent remarks on consideration of amnesty.” Addressing the separatists who demand “independence” and special status, European Council President Charles Michel wrote on his Twitter account that it is “important to refrain from maximalist positions and aim for dialogue.”
There are several groups that can benefit from an amnesty in Karabakh. First are those who disregard the sovereignty of Azerbaijan and have established a de facto administrative structure in Karabakh in violation of international law. This structure includes the de facto president, "deputies" and others who have assigned duties to themselves, such as members of "parliament" or the "ministry." This structure has almost fully assumed the rights of the people living in the region. Nevertheless, President Aliyev said that if these “officials” terminate themselves from their positions, they can benefit from the amnesty.
In the second group are civilian Armenians living in Karabakh whose loyalty has been captured by the military junta here over the last 30 years. The fact that these Armenians are citizens of Azerbaijan may be sufficient for their amnesty. They will have access to an easy procedure for obtaining Azerbaijani citizenship.
Third, there are illegal armed groups in Karabakh, contrary to the tripartite statement. These Armenians are illegal armed units existing within the borders of Azerbaijan in further violation of international law. After the customs crossing point is established in Lachin, they will be detained when they pass through the Azerbaijani checkpoint. Those who are not involved in war crimes can leave the area by laying down their weapons.
But there are those who, for example, ordered the missile attacks on cities in Azerbaijan, far from the front line – Barda, Ganja, Goranboy, Naftalan and Tartar. A Human Rights Watch report examined 18 of these strikes, which killed 40 civilians and wounded dozens more. Araik Arutunyan admitted that he had issued the directive for these attacks. Therefore, the situation of such people will be evaluated differently.
Offer was once again rejected
Following the statement of President Aliyev, leaders of the Karabakh Armenians once more rejected his offer. They also asked for support from Russia against Azerbaijan, but no word of support came from Moscow. Russian oligarch Ruben Vardanyan, who is illegally present in the region, also made a statement that the Armenian residents would not accept this offer from President Aliyev. Therefore, the illegal structure in Karabakh pushed back the hand of peace extended by Azerbaijan once again. The illegal Armenian troops and de facto rulers present here all constitute an obstacle to the peace and dialogue process in the region, beyond continuing to commit crimes in terms of international law.
The illegal structures in Karabakh have recently become isolated following Armenia and the international community’s recognition of Karabakh as the territory of Azerbaijan. The reason their calls for support did not receive backing from the international community is that this region has been accepted as a legal part of Azerbaijan. In this situation, the amnesty extended by Azerbaijan has turned out to be the most suitable offer for those involved. This will benefit these residents as well as serve the normalization process between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the creation of conditions for regional cooperation.