EurasiaNet.org is posting a letter from Adil Baguirov, co-founder and member of the Board of Directors of the US Azeris Network, who responds to criticism of his remarks posted last month in The Bug Pit.
International Law is on Azerbaijan’s Side
Gabriel Armas-Cardona takes issue with my comments about Khojaly airport. In my comments posted on EurasiaNet.org on January 16 I limited my responses and analysis, including reiterating the right for military action by Azerbaijan, to military or "state" aircraft.
I would remind Armas-Cardona and others that Armenia has no right to operate any flights into the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. Article 4 of the 1946 Chicago Convention states: "Each contracting State agrees not to use civilian aviation for any purpose inconsistent with the aims of this Convention."
An airport can operate legally under the Chicago Convention's terms if the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has assigned it a three-letter code. Khojaly airport has no such designation. If that wasn't enough, the Convention's Article 89, titled "War and Emergency Conditions," states that "in case of war, the provisions of this Convention shall not affect the freedom of action of any of the contracting States affected, whether as belligerents or as neutrals." Given that Armenia and Azerbaijan remain officially at war, this Convention provision enables Azerbaijan to view any unauthorized Armenian flight into Karabakh as military in nature, and take appropriate action.
Armenia's Defense Minister Gen. Seyran Ohanyan recently stated that "the Armenian Air Force will provide the operation and the flight of the civil aircraft [to/from the Khojaly airport]." This statement makes it impossible for Armenians to claim that flights into occupied Karabakh would be purely civilian.
Armas-Carmona speculates that "[t]he [Chicago] Convention is superseded by ... the Armenian-Azerbaijan cease-fire agreement ... which prohibits the shooting down of a civil aircraft." While it is refreshing to see the Armenian side remember the ceasefire agreement, there is no escaping the fact that it would be an obvious violation of the ceasefire agreement to fly a plane into the airspace of another country, as recognized by the international community.
Indeed, if the ceasefire agreement (a.k.a. the Bishkek Protocol) supersedes other international agreements, then Armenia should start immediately fulfilling that document's obligations; specifically undertaking the "withdrawal of troops from occupied territories and ... [the] return of refugees." Unfortunately, Armenia and Armas-Carmona prefer to overlook this binding provision.
International law is squarely on Azerbaijan's side. Armenia's intent with attempting to operate flights into Khojaly is to reinforce what is an unacceptable status quo for Azerbaijan. This can be interpreted as “perfidy," as that term is understood in the laws of war. More specifically, the laws define perfidy as “[a]cts inviting the confidence of an adversary to lead him to believe that he is entitled to, or is obliged to accord, protection under the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, with intent to betray that confidence." Such action is prohibited under Article 37 of Protocol I to the Geneva Convention. There is only one way to produce peace, security and prosperity in the region: that recipe was provided for in four UN Security Council resolutions in 1993, resolutions that are being ignored by the government of Armenia in general, and Armas-Carmona in particular.
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