By Armen Dulian
A key United Nations committee has backed Azerbaijan’s calls for the UN General Assembly to discuss the resettlement of Armenian families on Armenian-controlled Azerbaijani territories around Nagorno-Karabakh.
Meeting in New York on Wednesday, the UN's General Committee voted to recommend the inclusion of the issue on the agenda of the assembly’s ongoing session. The move was demanded by Azerbaijan and strongly backed by representatives of Muslim nations, including Pakistan and Turkey, sitting on the panel.
The recommendation was considered to have passed, even though only 9 of the 28 committee members voted for it, while 14 others, including a U.S. diplomat, abstained. There were no votes against. The General Assembly now has to decide whether it wants to consider the issue.
Azerbaijan’s permanent representative to the UN, Yashar Aliev, was reported to accuse the Armenians of building illegal settlements on the occupied lands. “Azerbaijan will not tolerate colonization of its territory,” he said. Aliev called for international pressure on Yerevan which he said is keen to change “the demographic situation” in the zone of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Aliev’s Armenian opposite number, Armen Martirosian, opposed a debate on the issue and denied the existence of an Armenian policy of resettlement outside Karabakh. A French member of the UN committee, speaking on behalf of the French, Russian and U.S. co-chairs of the Minsk Group, also spoke out against raising the issue with the General Assembly, warning of “negative consequences” for the peace process.
“We state once again that there is no official policy of resettlement,” the spokesman for the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Hamlet Gasparian, said in a statement earlier on Wednesday. He accused Baku of seeking to deflect international attention from Karabakh’s future status. It is the main stumbling block in the long-running peace talks sponsored by the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Thousands of Armenians are known to have settled in some of the occupied Azerbaijani territories since the end of the Armenian-Azerbaijani war in 1994. The vast majority of them live in the Lachin district that provides for the shortest transport communication between Karabakh and Armenia. While being ready to withdraw from the six other Azerbaijani districts under a future peace accord, the Armenian side has ruled out an eventual return of the vital land corridor.
Continued Armenian control of Lachin seems to have been upheld by all peace proposals put forward by the mediators over the past decade.