An Interview with Former Azerbaijani Prime Minister Hasan Hasanov: The Role of the UN Security Council in the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

The second part of Rasul Bakhshaliyev’s interview with former Azerbaijani Prime Minister Hasan Hasanov.  


RB: The biggest distinction of resolutions adopted by the Security Council from other legal and international agreements is the political pressure exerted by multiple political structures on the text of the resolution and its negotiation process. Could the Azerbaijani Permanent Mission overcome these pressures?


HH: Passing resolution №853 highlighted that in the UN you need to be prepared for unpleasant surprises and calculate how individual states, especially the “Big Five”, can influence the already agreed resolutions of the Council. To resist unexpected attacks, it is important to make strategically right decisions, based on the established routines and organizational nuances of the UN. At 12 pm, on July the 29th, 1993, literally 10 minutes before the beginning of the SC meeting, a Russian delegation appeared before the meeting hall. The Permanent Representative of Russia Y.Vorontsov approached us and declared that he has received new instructions from Moscow, which required certain amendments to the text of the resolution. These amendments could mercilessly nullify all our efforts and hopes. If they were added, then the resolution, as they say in the Security Council, would be “killed.” Nevertheless, we managed to defend the fundamentals of the resolution.


RB: Could you describe the amendments proposed by Mr.Vorontsov in more detail?


HH: The most unacceptable amendment proposed was substituting, “immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the occupying forces” with a less conclusive statement, “immediate, full withdrawal.” Removing, “unconditional” would once again, as with resolution №822 give the Armenian side advantageous conditions when withdrawing its armed formations from Agdam. Russians came up with another major change in the preamble. Instead of using, “Armenian forces” they offered, “local Armenian forces.” Additionally, they insisted on including a phrase that would highlight the importance of establishing contact between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh. After reading the amendments proposed by the Russian mission, I immediately realized that their main goal was to get Armenia out of the game and stipulate the withdrawal of the occupying troops from Agdam with a number of preliminary conditions. I told Y.Vorontsov that I am strongly against Russian amendments and requested him not to insist on their inclusion to the text of resolution, because they are subjective, unjust, and mirror the position of Armenia. Y. Vorontsov did not object at all, indicating by his silence that last-minute amendments were not of his initiative. The very fact that Y. Vorontsov informed me about the amendments, for he could make a big surprise during the Security Council meeting, reflected his personal inclination to support our efforts.


RB: How did you save the resolution?  


HH: After carefully analyzing the amendments and the text of the resolution we realized that our situation was not catastrophic, and we could even take advantage of it. Any attempts to make a change to the text could provide more benefits to us than to our opponents. Violating explicit or implicit principles of the Security Council could be used as a deadly counteraction. In the UN there are more conservatives per head than in UK, and any violation of traditions is considered as a disrespect. We agreed that if Russia proposes amendments, the members of the Non-Aligned Movement in SC would insist on a return to the initial harsh statements of the resolution which we presented as a primary basis for future discussions. These statements explicitly declared, “Armenian aggression in Agdam” and demanded imposing sanctions against the aggressor. The lesson learnt from this case is that it is very important to obtain the support of some SC member states, and thus submit your own report as a foundation of a future resolution. This also facilitates responding to significant changes in negotiations that are not favorable to your state.


In addition to many economic and governmental problems in a tough transitionary post-Soviet period, Azerbaijan faced a humanitarian challenge having to do with migrants and refugees. What kind of aid was provided by the UN?  


HH: In the system of UN humanitarian organizations there is a clear boundary between people who left their homes. Refugees are those who are forced to leave their homes and move to other countries with absolutely no chance of coming back home; yet, internally displaced people are those that are forced out of their homes, but still remain with-in the borders of their state. When providing humanitarian aid, the UN prioritizes refugees, because it is believed that refugees face more difficulties when moving to another state.


RB: What criteria influenced the size of financial aid provided by donor countries to Azerbaijan and Armenia? 


HH: Despite that Azerbaijan had considerably more refugees and internally displaced people, Armenia had better chances. Armenia presented itself as an earthquake victim of 1998 and unlike Azerbaijan it did not have its own energy resources and, in fact, lest other resources. This fact is particularly emphasized when governments finance aid programs.  Furthermore, thanks to its influential diaspora, Armenia could more effectively put pressure on donor governments to increase their contributions.Armenia stated that it had 250-300 thousand refugees, whereas Azerbaijan had 150-200 thousand. This figure was deliberately overstated as the Armenian refugees were mainly concentrated in Russia. Azerbaijan had fewer refugees than Armenia, but it had considerably more internally displaced people – 643 thousand – who were forced out of their homes by Armenian military forces. Keeping in mind, refugees are considered to be more disadvantaged than internally displaced people. A real battle with the enemy extended itself even to the virtuous and unblemished sphere of humanitarian aid. The more donor governments provided financial aid to Armenia, the less resources were made available for those who needed it in Azerbaijan, them being victims of Armenian aggression. Accepting a scenario where Armenia would obtain more aid than Azerbaijan was unforgivable.


RB: Why was it so important?  


HH: Objectively, Azerbaijan had more resources and opportunities. But it was impossible to tolerate the fact that an aggressor, which occupied Azerbaijani territories would receive more financial aid than the victim of aggression. Allocating more aid to the aggressor would practically justify its actions.


RB: Which resolution has recognized Armenia as an aggressor?  


HH: In resolutions №822 and №853, there is an illusive controversy surrounding Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan. Indeed, there is no such explicit statement which gives Armenian side the opportunity to speculate. It may seem that there is no legal evidence of Armenian “invasion”, but, in fact, the role of Armenia in this conflict is made explicit in the resolutions. We should not forget that a resolution can be only passed as a result of a common agreement between fifteen states. Direct assessments are often recorded in a diplomatic language, which is no less conclusive than any other language version. In numerous conversations with the Permanent Representatives of states in the SC, to my persistent appeals to include the phrasing, “Armenia – aggressor” in the resolutions I was always told that Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan will be definitely mentioned, but in such form that would allow future consensus. The Security Council will never adopt unilateral resolutions even if this is attempted by the permanent members. For the most part, the SC documents are balanced and are achieved by negotiations, which is a unique feature of multilateral diplomacy. Therefore, SC documents need to be read very closely. Sometimes the main message of resolution is expressed not through its text, but through subtext, style and even intonation.


RB: How can Azerbaijan respond to the invasion of its territories based on the statements and resolutions adopted by the UN?


HH: According to the UN Charter, Azerbaijan has the right for self-defense, so it can independently liberate its occupied territories, without the support of the world community. However, the aim of Azerbaijan is to avoid war and resolve the conflict by peaceful means. In addition, cutting all economic ties with Armenia is a form of self-defense that demonstrates Azerbaijan’s inclination to free its territories without bloodshed. But the realities of today show that this is not enough. Armenia blocks and prolongs any attempts to meaningful negotiations. World-leading states should realize this and demand the liberation of the occupied territories from Armenia in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions, as well as the basic principles of territorial integrity, and sovereignty inherent in international law.

Featured photo provided by The Archive of the Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland

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