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Armenia, problem child of South Caucasus

04 February 2015 [15:13] - TODAY.AZ

/By AzerNews/

By Mushvig Mehdiyev

While many of the countries that formed the Soviet Union have found peace and stability this has not been the case in the south Caucasus, where Armenia and Azerbaijan have been fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh.

What is it that has prevented the two countries from resolving their differences and find a solution to the 25-year old conflict? Why is it that the Minsk Group, established by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and that comprises mediators from the U.S., France and Russia, have failed to achieve any breakthrough in more than two decades?

Armenia is the problem child of the South Caucasus. They repeatedly blocked the way to a peaceful settlement of the conflict.

Close to the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1988, Azerbaijani troops and Armenian separatists began a bloody war over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is the part of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territory. Although the war ended in a truce in 1994, it fueled the forcible occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh alongside seven other adjacent Azerbaijani districts, killing dozens and displacing tens of thousands of ethnic Azerbaijanis.

One reason why solving this dispute is important is because it provides fuel to keep the fires of discord burning, a situation that may erupt in open warfare at any moment pulling the rest of the region in a deadly and disastrous chain of events.

“No one can ignore the simple fact that Armenia is an aggressor nation that continues to occupy Azerbaijan’s territory, and constitutes a belligerent threat to peace and security in the entire post-Soviet region,” said the Hill, a Washington, DC-based newspaper.

Adding to the tension, Armenia’s rulers, its president and military brass have periodically delivered threats against Azerbaijan.

For instance, on November 8, 2012, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, President Serzh Sargsyan said Armenia would strike Azerbaijan in a disproportionately hard way.

Sargsyan’s regular speeches of intimidating Azerbaijan has become a tradition, as on November 14, 2010, he threatened a devastating and decisive air strike on the rival country, evoking not too-distant memories of the Great Patriotic War (WWII), when Nazi war planes bombarded parts of Azerbaijan.

Artak Davtyan, a high-ranking Armenian official added: “Armenian forces can attack military units of the supposed rival with missiles, as well as its strategic and economic objects at a distance of 300 kilometers and more."

These words proves Armenia's clear stance on Nagorno-Karabakh dispute - the post-Soviet country opts for constructive attempts rather than coming with peace-building actions.

Georgia, another country in the South Caucasus region, faces severe problems caused by Armenia. In the historical Georgian province of Samtskhe-Javakheti Armenians triggered ethnic tension when they claimed the regions and provinces belonged to Armenia.

The history of the compact Armenian population in Samtskhe-Javakheti started 170 years ago, according to the Institute for Central Asian and Caucasian Studies in Sweden and the Institute of Strategic Studies of the South Caucasus in Azerbaijan. After winning the 1828-1829 war against the Ottoman Empire and seizing the Black Sea coast between the Kuban River and the port of Poti, as well as a large chunk of Meskheti and Javakheti, Russia started to move Armenians from Turkey to the Central Caucasus and Georgia in great numbers. The newcomers who settled in the Akhalkalaki (Javakheti) soon outnumbered all the local Georgians, says the source.

Since Samtskhe-Javakheti is a transit territory for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which is called an “official enemy” by all Armenians, the local Armenians present a potential threat to the pipeline. Therefore, terrorism and subversion attempts cannot be completely excluded. The Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline, which ends in Turkey, as well as the Baku-Supsa oil pipeline may also face the same threats from Armenians.

The investigative institutes claim that today Javakheti is another delayed action bomb in the South Caucasus region, as the insistent demands from Armenians for autonomy fuels the region’s instability.

Moreover Yerevan is also very active behind the scenes, even resorting to issuing threats and warning Georgia if it engages in acts of violence against the Armenian political movements in Javakheti, it will not remain impartial to the fate of its fellow countrymen living in the region..

Meanwhile, the religious elite of Armenia have very recently urged Georgia to return hundreds of Georgian Orthodox churches to Armenian control. The Armenian side filed a claim against its neighbor demanding for restoration of its ownership over 442 churches in the territory of Georgia.

One of the churches, Zugdidi, has supposedly been built in in 70-80s of the XVIII century, according to the Armenian historians and scholars. But the scholars in Georgia claim that a documentary fact proves that until the abolition of the Georgian statehood in 1801, it has been strictly forbidden for the Armenians to build their churches in the country’s territory.

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