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Anomalous Autonomy As A Solution To The Mountainous Karabakh Conflict

18 June 2012 No Comment

By Professor Niyazi Mehdi

In the present phase of the conflict over Mountainous Karabakh, the deadlock in the peace process is due to symbolism. There is no solution through standard methods: the Armenians are not ready to give away the symbol of an independent republic, while the Azeris refuse the alteration of their borders. Similar situations exist in the conflicts between Chechnya and Russia, and between Abkhazia and Georgia. In order to resolve this deadlock, we are proposing a new autonomy model (‘nomy’ is law in Greek, ‘autonomy’ means ‘ruling oneself according to one’s own laws’).

Although the model we propose is thought of in the context of the Caucasus, it may be applied in other places, for example in Cyprus, or in Southern Azerbaijan which is tied to Iran, after the necessary transformations there. The autonomy we are proposing solves the conflicts with the principle of semiotic (related with the system of signs) anomalies. First, the model of anomalous autonomy is examined in the face of the facts of the Mountainous Karabakh case.

To give the context of the proposal, it is needed to present the current situation

Factors obstacles to a solution from the Armenian perspective: the Armenian army has succeeded in factually removing Mountainous Karabakh from the Azerbaijani state system. However, international law prevents this ‘fact’ from entering into force. There seems to be no way out from this problem. Naturally, the Mountainous Karabakh Armenians have the opportunity of conceding some political symbols to Azerbaijan while de facto continuing to live as an independent state. But the Armenians are worried about such a prospect.

Their first worry is that in case Azerbaijan is strengthened on the military-economic-mental level, and international attention on the Caucasus is reduced, Azerbaijan would take advantage of its symbolic sovereignty over Mountainous Karabakh to remove the factual independent situation of Mountainous Karabakh. That means that in the absence of totally reliable guarantees, the Armenians would be very cautious with regard to symbols that would connect them symbolically to Azerbaijan.

Secondly, in a paralyzed situation, the Armenians are worried of migration and the Azeri demographic dynamic. They argue that the ‘Nakhjivan version’ could be repeated in Mountainous Karabakh, implying that in Mountainous Karabakh, Azerbaijani demographic increase could pressurize the Armenians by peaceful means; that is, victory could be achieved through peaceful means. (This is the Armenian version and the Azerbaijani side has an answer to it.)

Third, the acceptance of Azerbaijani state symbols over Mountainous Karabakh is related to the show of strength of Armenia and the Mountainous Karabakh Armenians. Officials on the Armenian side note that after the efforts spent, society refuses to return to the past and accept Mountainous Karabakh’s previous status.

Factors obstacles to a solution from the Azerbaijani perspective: First of all, according to the Azerbaijani civil, national and state consciousness, Karabakh, together with its mountainous part, is a part of the nation’s geography. To separate out Mountainous Karabakh from the rest of the country would be a national disaster, close to a cosmic catastrophe, for the national consciousness.

Secondly, the system and logic of international law (for example, the inviolability of borders, the recognition by the UN of Azerbaijan in its present borders, etc.) is in Azerbaijan’s favour. Giving in from this favorable position would be absurd.

Thirdly, the prospect of the strengthening of the state should not be forgotten, that is, there is a possibility to reclaim the losses in the future.

Fourthly, international law has its own automatism. Accordingly, a small compromise in political symbolism carries the risk of a ‘japanese domino’, leading to the full loss of Mountainous Karabakh. For example, to carry out negotiations with the Karabakh Armenians as a party to the conflict, with the automatism of international law, immediately implies an important step towards the recognition of Mountainous Karabakh’s independence.

Hence, the vector of the motives of both parties takes the Mountainous Karabakh conflict into a corner, a deadlock.

The civilization order of the present international powers is in the pathos of creating stability; as such, the chance of removing the peace process from the deadlock is zero. If, as in the case of countries like Armenia and Azerbaijan, where there is a frightening degree of corruption at the leadership level with large bank accounts abroad, then the fear of this being discovered or the danger of ‘losing the bank accounts’ makes the leadership of these countries weak to foreign blackmail. This is the only serious method to exert pressure on a the leadership of countries like Azerbaijan.

Section 907 enacted by the US congress, Russia’s longtime lowering of trade with Azerbaijan with the intention to inflict damage, and certain analogical measures from the Iranian side showed that the country can survive this kind of actions. In this sense, the elementary show of honor by Azerbaijan can keep the conflict in its present blind alley.

Nevertheless, most people know that a solution that can solve the conflict and satisfy all sides to it (that is Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Mountainous Karabakh Armenians) would be beneficial. All sides approaching the problem agree that the Armenians of Mountainous Karabakh should live with maximum demographic, economic, and military security, whereas Azerbaijanis of Mountainous Karabakh would be able to live in their former lands, cities, and villages with maximum security. Naturally, after military victories the Mountainous Karabakh Armenians have a wish, that their place of residence should be a state of their own. Azerbaijan’s Armenian minority want Mountainous Karabakh to be factually a part of their national statehood consciousness. This wish creates severe difficulties.

In this context, we give the Mountainous Karabakh model for resolving the conflict peacefully. The methodology that permits this model is the following: first, the model acknowledges Mountainous Karabakh as an Azerbaijani anomaly. (Anomaly in Greek means something in law standing out of the norm.) This means, the status of Mountainous Karabakh is built on certain principles that do not fit squarely with the principles of international law, and becomes legally the Mountainous Karabakh anomaly. Secondly, it uses the procedures that lead to the situation, that we metaphorically term as stalemate situation. The situation of stalemate emerges in the game of chess, when it becomes impossible to create any new situation or development.

The Stalemate situation created in this model gives to Azerbaijan that Mountainous Karabakh Armenians through some principal concessions and through the automatism of international law do not secede from Azerbaijan. For the Armenian side, the procedures leading to the Stalemate situation provide the opportunity of protection from a threat from Azerbaijan.

In this model the stalemate procedure leads to one concession in return of another, thereby securitizing and neutralizing the situation. Hence, the model creates a path for the fulfillment of the ambitions of both parties and as a result enables the two ethnoses of Mountainous Karabakh to live with their national consciousness.

The model we propose, if the tendencies of the 20th century are converted into grounds of resolution, may work. Events like Kosovo or Bosnia elucidates the tendencies:

  • It is not possible to suppress a national, ethnic minority; there is no perspective in succumbing to the wish to oust them from their place of inhabitancy;
  • The civilized world will not allow anyone to realize a wish to annihilate its ethnic or religious enemy.
  • The world will not allow that one party emerges winning of an ethnic conflict. On the level of ethnic and other minorities, progress and development is managed.
  • At the same time these minorities will not be given the opportunity to alter state borders through separatism.
  • Controversies that do arise must be solved through the coordinates of civilized relations.

From the Azerbaijani perspective, if this so-called world system is weakened, and the Mountainous Karabakh Armenians take the below-given autonomy model as a basis for separating from Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan must be ready to use force to counter that process. In this model, the ability of perpetual motion, and the inability to exit from this perpetual motion and create a new situation, paradoxically unite. This is what we intend by the term stalemate.

Below, the key principles of Mountainous Karabakh anomalous autonomy are given; the details and aspects can be elucidated by the work of experts. We here draw the conceptual lines as follows:

  1. Azerbaijan, Armenia, and the Armenian and Azerbaijani communities of Mountainous Karabakh agree to Mountainous Karabakh being an anomaly within Azerbaijan, and as such the problem is to be solved in an anomalous way.
     

    Having accepted this, a stalemate situation is created in order to solve the Mountainous Karabakh anomaly through the logic of new principles of international law; this situation is achieved through the following:

  2. Azerbaijan accepts Mountainous Karabakh as the ‘Mountainous Karabakh Republic’ – although this could mean the recognition of MKR’s independence; however, without a referendum in Azerbaijan, the MKR cannot change its name to exit from Azerbaijan’s borders (for example, the Armenians cannot unilaterally change the name to Artsakh or some other name, and this is a compensation for the recognition by Azerbaijan of the MKR. It is also possible that the MKR is permanently written into the documents of Azerbaijan.)
  3. MKR will nominally keep an army, however the institution known as its army will be under the inspection of Azerbaijan and functions as a police force, and is not converted into an army with heavy weaponry. (it cannot through the automatism of international law turn into a real army, as it is locked by the stalemate principle). Armenians and Azerbaijanis serve in this army in a proportion suitable with Mountainous Karabakh’s demography.
  4. MKR has a parliament of its own, and the Azerbaijani minority is represented through quotation. The parliament modifies the rules of the Milli Majlis of Azerbaijan, however it has legislative power on matters previously agreed upon.
  5. MKR is represented in the Azerbaijani Milli Majlis through a quota system, has the right to propose legislation, and participate in voting.
  6. Every five years the Azerbaijani parliament raises the issue of annulling the MKR, however in this matter (other symbolic matters could be added) the MKR representatives veto this proposition. As the matter comes up, the representatives of MKR automatically put a veto in the base of the official document. (The reason is that it would interrupt the the possible action of representatives who would not want to put the veto, due to corruption or accidents). Every five years the MKR parliament legislates to secede from Azerbaijan (create its own currency etc.) and the Azerbaijani minority vetoes this through documents given by Baku.
  7. This veto procedure follows the stalemate principle insofar as it is managed to guide highly loaded matters to a symbolic value. As time passes, anomalies through stalemate procedures lose their rhythm and strength, and transform into original rituals. Such rituals remain in certain English political actions. We call this semiotic anomalies: Their significance and importance in reality may have been annihilated, and although they may be pointless or discredited, their psychological value and cultural importance rises. That Elizabeth II is the head of state of Australia is one of such semiotic anomalies. The therapeutic and psychological factors that may serve as stalemate functions in the Azerbaijani-Armenian controversy may be further researched.
  8. If Armenia declares war on Azerbaijan or any other country, MKR would not through the automatism of its status as a republic have the right to enter into an alliance with Armenia. If Azerbaijan declares war on Armenia or another country, MKR will not need to take part in this war. Hence the ambitions of both sides are controlled through symbols. Thanks to the stalemate procedure, an imitation of the painful acts that would be understood as threatening to the other side is created. However, these acts have no chance of being realized, and are halted.

The given anomalous autonomy model should be guaranteed by the UN. Any party which tries to alter the agreed situation will be considered to have declared war on the UN and should be subjected to adequate responses.

As we have said, the paradigm of the anomalous autonomy is given as a key, introductory model. Beyond this model there must be agreements on Shusha, Lachin, Kelbajar, and Agdere (Mardakert). Here other anomalies or stalemate situations may be considered. (All examples given above are intended to open the principles. If all four sides are ready to solve the problem through the anomalous autonomy and stalemate model, keeping the principles outlined above, our examples of application may be altered or alternatives may be given.)


Professor Niyazi Mehdi is a philosopher, literary critic, translator, and a member of Azerbaijan Writers’ Union since 1989. Translated from Azerbaijani into English by Svante Cornell.

Caucasus Conflict Voices welcomes contributions from academics, civil society activists, journalists and others interested in providing alternative narratives and suggestions on resolution of conflict in the South Caucasus. Thanks to Professor Mehdi for his submission. Photo by MediaForum.Az

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