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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Azerbaijan a threat to Nagorno-Karabakh

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Stephen Blank's concern about Iranian threats against Azerbaijan seem hollow in the face of Azerbaijan's ongoing efforts to deepen economic and political ties between the two countries ("America's drone in Iran's neighborhood," Commentary, Jan. 7).

Just last month, the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran held a trilateral meeting to explore areas of mutual cooperation. Coincidentally, the meeting was held in Nakhichevan, where Azerbaijani troops attempted to wipe out the last vestiges of a centuries-old Armenian community with the 2005 destruction of thousands of cross-stones at the Djulfa cemetery.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan is working with the Iranian-government-owned Naftrian Intertrade Co. (NICO) in the exploration of the Shah-Deniz natural gas field. This is surely a source of heartburn for officials in Washington, who have sought to sanction Iran for its nuclear efforts.

The threats Mr. Blank and the international community should be concerned about are those leveled by Azerbaijan against neighboring Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. Eighteen years after the establishment of a cease-fire in the Karabakh conflict - signed by leaders in Azerbaijan, Armenia and Karabakh - Azerbaijan opposes Karabakh's participation in the Minsk Group negotiations to secure a lasting solution to the conflict. Worse yet, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's ongoing threats to resolve the weekly cease-fire violations on the Azerbaijan-Karabakh line of contact only serve to destabilize the situation further.

For the past two decades, Nagorno-Karabakh has promoted the universal values of democracy and human rights within its borders while standing strong against an authoritarian and aggressive neighbor.

If it wants to stop being the target of threats itself, Azerbaijan may want to follow Karabakh's example on this score.

ABRAHAM NIZIBLIAN

Faculty of law, McGill University

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

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