With no end in sight to the military conflict between Azerbaijan and the Armenian-populated enclave of Nagorno Karabakh that lies within Azeri territorial borders, one Moscow parliamentarian has raised the stakes to a dangerous level.
Konstantin Zatulin, the Deputy Chairman of the Duma's Eurasian Integration Committee has called for Russian intervention to save the landlocked Armenians who have declared themselves as an independent country — the Republic of Artsakh or Nagorno-Karabakh.
Zatulin's words should be read in context of the Armenia-Russia deal extending Russia's military presence in Armenia in exchange for security guarantees. The deal would see the lease on a Russian military base in Armenia extended from 2020 to 2044. It also calls for Russia to provide modern weapons and equipment to Armenia's military.
Azerbaijan's association with Nagorno Karabakh is a result of a Stalinist decision in 1923 that seized the territory from its indigenous people, annexing it to the Azerbaijani Soviet Republic. The fact is, prior to the establishment of the Soviet-Union, nor after its collapse, Azerbaijan has never had control over this territory.
Artsakh or Nagorno-Karabakh declared its independence utilizing the same legal framework for self-determination as Armenia, Azerbaijan and a host of other republics such as Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Georgia and Tajikistan did.
However, Azerbaijan categorically rejected the Nagorno-Karabakh peoples' legitimate right to self-determination and adopted actions that culminated in a bloody war from 1992-94. The war that caused enormous damage and long-term instability in the region ended with a ceasefire between Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Azerbaijan agreed in 1994 and 1995.
Supporters of Nagorno-Karabakh therefore insist the clash is not about disputed territory, but rather about the issue of self-determination, which they say is an integral part of basic Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
Unfortunately, lasting peace does not seem to be on either Baku's or Ankara's agenda, as evidenced by the enormous military build-up of Azerbaijan assisted with Turkish made weapons and deployment of jihadist foreign fighters.
On its part, Turkey is actively engaged in deploying its entire political and military arsenal to undermine the efforts of the international community and the Minsk Group co-chairs to help the parties to return to the negotiating table. Turkey sees the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh as an opportunity to exercise its power and influence to fulfil its neo-Ottoman agenda.
While Armenian Canadians have voiced their support of Ottawa's stand in the conflict, Azeri Canadians have come out on the streets to express their anger. On Oct. 18, about 2,000 pro-Azerbaijan demonstrators took to the streets in downtown Toronto, to voice their support for their homeland.
In a statement, the Canadian Azerbaijanis demanded Armenia stop the "occupation of internationally recognized lands of Azerbaijan" and withdraw from the occupied territories immediately and unconditionally." According to the statement, "During the Soviet Union collapse, Armenia used that opportunity to occupy 20% of Azerbaijan's lands. Karabakh has been under the Armenian occupation for almost 30 years. "
I asked the organizers of the pro-Azerbaijan protestors if they acknowledged that Karabakh now has an almost 100% Armenian population and that as a landlocked enclave it is surrounded on all sides by Azerbaijan. Did Nagorno Karabakh not declare itself an independent country after the collapse of the USSR?
To broaden the debate, I asked "If Kosovo, Eritrea and East Timur can become independent countries, why not Nagorno Karabakh? If Croatia and Slovenia can emerge as independent nations, why not other countries such as Nagorno Karabakh, Balochistan, Kurdistan or Western Sahara?"
I didn't get a response to the questions I raised.
Did the Turkish Azeris marching in Toronto realize that the memory of the Turkish Genocide of Armenians' forefathers one hundred years ago is etched in the soul of every Armenian?
Meanwhile, a look at a map of the region illustrates why Turkey is trying to link up with its Turkish brethren in Azerbaijan with an eye on uniting with the Turkic lands of central Asia and a return to the empire of the Ottoman Caliphate.
Tarek Fatah is a Robert J. and Abby B. Levine Fellow at the Middle East Forum, a founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, and a columnist at the Toronto Sun.