Azerbaijan International

Winter 2002 (10.4)
Page 9

Readers' Forum
Economic Ban-Aids

Nagorno-Karabakh has been a heartache for Azerbaijanis for more than a decade. The solution to the problem is constantly being discussed: some people beat the drums of war, while others urge peace.

For the past few years, the international community, including the Minsk Group of the Organization for the Security and Cooperation of Europe (OSCE), which is charged with finding a peaceful solution to the conflict, have been pressuring Azerbaijan to enter into dialogue and economic cooperation with Armenia. Most recently, Azerbaijan was pressured to establish a unified energy sector for the Caucasus region.

It seems quite a number of international observers and commentators place economic cooperation between Azerbaijan and Armenia as a pre-requisite for the solution of the conflict, reasoning that "The more you cooperate on trade and economics, the sooner you will find a political solution."

I see two problems if we embrace economic exchange before resolving the problem of aggression: First, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is not a war of economic interests. It is a war of emotions and hostilities, long steeped in history. Azerbaijanis care more about their attachment to the land than about the economic benefits of a compromised peace. Azerbaijanis are more concerned about losing Shusha, a town in Karabakh which symbolizes the heartbeat of Azeri culture, music and history, than about increased GDP which peace might bring. Therefore, one cannot solve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict simply by offering economic incentives or monetary benefits.

Secondly, one should never gloss over the fact that currently Armenia's military occupies a significant chunk of Azerbaijani territories and has forcibly expelled nearly 1 million Azeris from their homes and native lands, their entire social infrastructure, not to mention the sacred graves of their ancestors.

On the other hand, despite the fact that the U.S. Government and Armenian Diaspora have injected several billion dollars into the Armenian economy this past decade, still Armenia's economy lies dormant and stagnate. This explains why nearly half of Armenia's population of 3.5 million people has emigrated abroad. Perhaps slow economic development might be the only incentive that would entice Armenians to liberate our lands, but if we Azerbaijanis open our borders and start trading with Armenia before our lands are returned, then anyone in the world seriously expect Armenians to keep their part of the bargain?

Unfortunately, for many years, international negotiators have missed this point and still continue to do so. Pressuring Azerbaijan to enter into economic cooperation with Armenia is viewed as only benefiting Armenians. The problem has to be solved at a much deeper, more fundamental level before talk of economic cooperation can ever merit serious attention as a viable solution.

Fariz Ismayilzade
Baku, Azerbaijan

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