The risk of an open war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the near future is real and underestimated. There is a single road connecting the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. Only one. And this road has been blocked since December 12 . From essential products to medicines, nothing goes by. Residents are stuck on the Armenian side and cannot return to their homes. This situation can lead to a humanitarian disaster. The ultimate goal could be ethnic cleansing, making the life of the inhabitants so difficult that many of them would leave the territory, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former NATO Secretary General, Founder and Chairman of Rasmussen Global, tells in an interview with French Le Figaro
He said, he sent a message to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev urging him to lift the blockade. “He did not answer me, just as he never reacted to the various declarations of the international community. The International Court of Justice has itself ordered Azerbaijan to restore circulation. But the blockade is still there. I appreciate Emmanuel Macron's strong commitment on this subject, and I hope that France will be joined by the other main Member States of the European Union in increasing the pressure on President Aliyev”, said Rasmussen.
Former Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the European Commission and Azerbaijan are bound by an energy agreement . “Obviously, after cutting off the Russian gas supply, we need alternatives. But this agreement can precisely be an excellent basis for increasing the pressure on the Azerbaijani president. It is important to tell Baku that our energy interest will not make us look away from a potential humanitarian drama.
It could be that Ilham Aliev is an autocrat, like Vladimir Putin. But I firmly believe that he is aware of the disadvantage of being considered an international pariah, as is the case for his Russian counterpart. In my opinion, Aliyev carefully calculates the limits not to be exceeded in violations of international law. Because the blocking of Nagorno-Karabakh is a violation of the law, as well as the attacks carried out last September on Armenian soil, followed by the occupation of bits of territory. The European Union must make it clear to the Aliev regime that these violations will not go unpunished”, he stressed.
Rasmussen believes that a new conflict in this region at the gates of Europe “cannot serve us. First of all, this risks compromising our energy supply. Also, the passivity of Russia suggests the existence of an informal alliance between Moscow and Baku, and, behind, between Moscow and Ankara. This is why European states must engage in the South Caucasus.
I think the European Union has grasped what is at stake by deploying an observer mission to the Armenian border. For the moment, the group is too small, the means too limited, and the experts do not have access to the Azerbaijani side of the border. However, it's a good base. The objective is twofold: in the near future, to contain the threat - because Azerbaijan will not dare to attack as long as European observers can observe the facts. In a longer perspective, I encourage the European Union to make it a real fact-finding mission to establish documented facts on the humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh”, he said.
He expressed confidence the West must also urge President Aliyev to engage in peace negotiations. “The Armenian Prime Minister showed great flexibility in this regard, indicating that for him and his government, guarantees on the rights and security of the inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh would take precedence over any debate on the status”.
“This is unimaginable without a peaceful peacekeeping mission, which can warn of an imminent risk of ethnic cleansing. I therefore plead for the deployment of an international and armed mission, under a United Nations mandate” he said.
Rasmussen also touched upon the Ukraine and NATO-Turkey relations. “I foresee intense fights in the weeks to come. The Russians launched an offensive thanks to the long and painful decision-making process of the West to deliver tanks”, he said. On Turkey, he said, “Needless to hide that Turkey is a complex ally. We have seen them buy military equipment from Moscow, with whom they meet geopolitically through the interventions in Syria and Libya. Not to mention the internal concerns in terms of respect for human rights and freedoms. However, Turkey is necessary within NATO to bridge the gap between East and West. The example of Finland proves that in the long term, an agreement is always possible. I welcome this accession and I hope that Sweden will follow shortly. Remember that Turkey was opposed to my election to NATO in 2009*, but they ended up accepting and we ended up having an excellent relationship. Turkey is the member of the alliance that I have visited the most!”