An Armenian newspaper in the United States published an opinion piece that urged the use of universally banned weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) against Azerbaijan and its civilian population.
The piece by Stepan Altounian called on the Armenian government to use any nuclear weapon available to turn the Azerbaijani capital Baku into a “wasteland for the next 5,000 years.”
“I, as probably all Armenians, was devastated but not necessarily surprised over the news that Armenia lost to the Azeris,” Altounian wrote, referring to Armenia’s Nov. 10 surrender to Azerbaijan in the conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the occupation of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994. That war left not only Nagorno-Karabakh itself but large chunks of the surrounding lands in Armenian hands.
In 44 days of heavy fighting that began on Sept. 27, the Azerbaijani military routed Armenian forces and wedged deep into Nagorno-Karabakh, forcing Armenia to accept a Russia-brokered peace deal that took effect Nov. 10. The agreement saw the return of a significant part of Nagorno-Karabakh under Azerbaijan’s control and also requested Armenia to hand over all of the Azerbaijani territories it held outside the region.
In the controversial piece, endorsed and published by the Armenian media group Asbarez, Altounian asked, “Where was the nuclear option?” at a time when governments and the United Nations are urging nuclear disarmament.
“Why not take the nuclear waste from Metsamor and manufacture dirty bombs?” he wrote.
“Please do not tell me about weapons of mass destruction when the Turks and Azeris used them against civilians without any repercussion from anyone,” he claimed without providing any basis for the statement.
“Two can play that game and we should. It will definitely make them think twice if we could turn Baku into a radioactive wasteland for the next 5,000 years,” he said.
Charges that Turkey and Azerbaijan used banned weapons against Armenia have never been reported by U.N. agencies or independent media outlets.
Azerbaijan slams suggestion
Azerbaijan’s Consulate General in Los Angeles immediately slammed the Armenian news outlet and urged U.S. law enforcement to launch an investigation.
“Los Angeles-based Armenian Dashnak newspaper Asbarez publishes an article suggesting Armenian attacks on Baku, Azerbaijan turning it into a ‘radioactive wasteland for the next 5,000 years.’ We call on FBI & LAPD to investigate it,” it said in a statement.
Azerbaijan’s consul general in Los Angeles told Anadolu Agency (AA) that terrorist threats by Armenians against Azerbaijanis are an everyday thing.
”Unfortunately, it’s not the first time we witness such terrorist threats against Azerbaijan. It’s a result of a sick mindset, shaped by deep-rooted anti-Azerbaijani hatred, Azerbaijanophobia, promoting violence and destruction. I hope the American law enforcement agencies will continue to be vigilant against such threats and conduct a proper investigation into this outrageous promotion of violence by U.S.-based groups,” said Nasimi Aghayev.
The peace deal between Azerbaijan and Armenia, while welcomed by many, drew massive reactions in Armenia as hundreds of people flocked to the streets for days, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.
Chaotic scenes also erupted inside Armenia’s parliament after the announcement of the deal as angry protesters seized control of its chamber to denounce the country’s leadership and attack the parliament speaker.
Both the protests and the demands for Pashnian’s resignation continues, with police forces regularly interfering with harsh measures. On Tuesday, 35 protesters were detained and an investigation was launched against some of the demonstrators.
Baku eyes regional peace
While Armenia still struggles to accept the outcome of the six-week war, Azerbaijan is ready to move on, looking forward to broader regional security.
Speaking at the fourth TRT World Forum at a roundtable discussion, titled “War and Peace: The Fate of the Azerbaijan-Armenia Conflict,” Hikmet Hajiyev, an aide to the president of Azerbaijan, argued that with the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh now settled after weeks of fighting between Baku and Yerevan, Azerbaijan has destroyed the regional security paradigm imposed by Armenia, thus allowing the implementation of the U.N. Security Council’s resolutions on the matter.
Although the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is over, there are still disagreements between the two countries, said Hajiyev, adding: “Azerbaijan is looking forward to building comprehensive regional security.”
“We would like to see more regional ownership, regional participation and regional cooperation. We draw the attention on Russia and Turkey regarding regional ownership,” he continued. “In the long-term perspective, we expect the engagement of two sides, Russia and Turkey, to reinforce peace and security In the region.”
He suggested the need for a “national Marshall Plan” for Azerbaijan to rebuild the areas that had been occupied, after buildings and structures there were destroyed in the Armenian withdrawal following a cease-fire on Nov. 10.
“This can be described as a genocide of a city,” Hajiyev said, urging Armenia to respect its neighbors and the integrity of their lands and borders.
The session was also attended by Farid Shafiyev, chairperson of the Center of Analysis of International Relations; Sergey Markedonov, a researcher at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations; and Laurene Broers, Caucasus program director of the London-based peacebuilding organization Conciliation Resources.
Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani president on Wednesday declared Nov. 10, the day when Armenia accepted defeat and ended six weeks of fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, as Victory Day.
Ilham Aliyev also designated Sept. 27, when Baku began an operation to liberate its lands from occupation, as a Memorial Day for the Azerbaijani victims of the war.
Turkish, Russian center under construction
The war witnessed a strong alliance between Turkey and Azerbaijan, as Ankara provided major support for Baku while also participating in the peace process.
Following the peace deal, Turkey and Russia signed a memorandum of understanding to set up a joint center to monitor the deal. It is being established on the Azerbaijani territories liberated from Armenia’s occupation.
A Turkish-Russian joint center in Nagorno-Karabakh which will monitor the cease-fire deal between Azerbaijan and Armenia is under construction, according to Turkey’s defense minister on Wednesday.
“Now, it is under construction. In a very short time, our friends will start their duty there,” Hulusi Akar told visiting representatives of Turkish nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in the capital Ankara.
Turkish and Russian generals as well as other military officers will be at the center together, Akar said, adding that they will work toward making the cease-fire lasting.
Akar said Turkey and Azerbaijan continue training activities and drills and reiterated Ankara’s support for Baku’s “rightful cause.”
Speaking in the TRT World Forum on Wednesday, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also said Turkey has been supporting a negotiated solution to the conflict based on international law and U.N. Security Council (UNSC) decisions, with the consideration of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
“Upon the demand of Azerbaijan, Turkey will take the role of ensuring and monitoring the peace,” he said.