Top UN court to rule on Armenia-Azerbaijan Karabakh dispute
November 17, 2023 12:54 PM
The UN's top court will Friday rule on a long-running clash between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, which Baku seized in September in a lightning offensive.
Armenia has dragged Azerbaijan before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), hoping judges will force Baku to stop displacing ethnic Armenians from the territory and facilitate the return of anyone who wished to return.
Azerbaijan's one-day offensive, which gave it complete control of the mountainous breakaway region for the first time in three decades, sparked a mass exodus of ethnic Armenians.
The majority of the 120,000-strong population fled into Armenia in a matter of days along the narrow Lachin Corridor road and amid chaotic scenes on the border between the two bitter rivals.
Last week, Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev oversaw a military parade in the region's main city of Khankendi, which Armenians refer to as Stepanakert, during which blue-red-green Azerbaijani flags were hoisted.
Armenia has petitioned the ICJ for so-called "provisional measures" to force Azerbaijan to stop any action "aimed at... displacing the remaining ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh".
Yerevan also wants the court to order Baku to refrain from "any actions... preventing the safe and expeditious return to their homes of persons displaced in the course of the recent military attack".
When AFP visited Nagorno-Karabakh in the immediate aftermath of the attack, the region was completely deserted, with the vast majority of ethnic Armenians having already fled.
During the October 12 hearings at the court in The Hague, the two sides traded barbs over what Armenia described as the "ethnic cleansing" of Nagorno-Karabakh.
"Despite comprising for millennia the great majority of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh, almost no ethnic Armenians remain in Nagorno-Karabakh today," said Armenia's ICJ representative Yeghishe Kirakosyan at the time.
"If this is not ethnic cleansing, I do not know what is."
Kirakosyan said the ICJ "still had time to prevent the forced displacement of ethnic Armenians from becoming irreversible" and to "protect the very few ethnic Armenians who remain in Nagorno-Karabakh".
- Diplomatic impasse -
Responding for Azerbaijan, representative Elnur Mammadov said Armenia had repeated its accusations of ethnic cleansing so often that the claims "have taken on a life of their own".
Dismissing the ethnic cleansing accusations as "unfounded" and "completely without merit", Mammadov said they "do not reflect the reality of what has actually been going on in Karabakh".
"Azerbaijan has not engaged and will not engage in ethnic cleansing or any form of attack on the civilian population of Karabakh," he said.
Baku has repeatedly stressed it was encouraging ethnic Armenians to return and would afford them safe passage.
The ICJ rules on disputes between states, but while its decisions are legally binding, it has no power to enforce them.
Meanwhile, internationally mediated talks to achieve a comprehensive peace agreement between the arch-foe Caucasus neighbours have so far failed to produce a breakthrough.