There is an ironic twist in the proclamation of the 31st anniversary of independence of Karabakh. Under normal circumstances, this occasion should have been a moment of celebration and prospect of a promising future life. But instead, all official quarters have been full of gloom and doom in the shadow of defeat at the 44-Day War.
Karabakh held its own events marking this historic anniversary, without any high-level representation from Armenia. Somber speeches were given on the occasion by Arayik Harutyunyan, president of Karabakh, and statements read from Armenia’s president Vahagn Khachatryan and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. None of them came up with a positive tone or hopeful outcome. Arayik Harutyunyan referred to the destruction in the wake of the 44-Day War. Armenia’s president spoke of the “issues related to the threat of a new war, the status of Artsakh as well as the issues of humanitarian nature that [are] the permanent agenda priorities of Armenia and Artsakh.”
Pashinyan himself appealed to “the international community [which] is obliged to make efforts to address humanitarian problems caused by the 44-Day War and to prevent the implementation of the policy of the ethnic cleansing in Karabakh.”
The only person who spoke up against Azerbaijani leader Ilham Aliyev’s statements that the Karabakh issue was solved through the war was Armenia’s Parliament Speaker Alen Simonyan, who stated: “The issue of the status of Karabakh is being discussed on internal and external platforms. It is under the mandate of the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] Minsk Group co-chairs; all other discussions have nothing to do with reality.”
Many people participating in the commemorative event in Stepanakert who were interviewed expressed apprehension regarding a potential ethnic cleansing there in the mold of the evacuation of the three towns in Karabakh on August 25, namely Berdzor, Aghavno and Sus. But they also demonstrated resilience and expressed their determination to stay put “on territory of our ancestors.”
Once again, there were tumultuous discussions in the Armenian media reviewing the history and the legal developments of the Karabakh issue. There was an abundance of criticism and accusations about the negotiators of the past 31 years. Questions were raised as to whether Karabakh should have unified with Armenia or declared independence at all, and why Armenia failed to recognize Karabakh’s independence and thus rendered it an international pariah.