Motion to Call Upon the Government to Condemn the Joint Azerbaijani-Turkish Aggression against the Republic of Artsakh

By: The Hon. Pierre Dalphond

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Chateau Laurier, Ottawa

Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond: Honourable senators, I will speak to Motion No. 36, inviting this chamber, amongst other things, to:

. . . call upon the Government of Canada to . . . recognize the Republic of Artsakh’s inalienable right to self-determination and . . . recognize the independence of the Republic of Artsakh.

I thank Senator Housakos for bringing to our attention the civil war that was raging in the South Caucasus and that went largely ignored as the world focused on COVID-19 and the American election.

I had the privilege of visiting Armenia in 2008 as head of a delegation of Canadian judges when the Armenian judiciary was admitted as a member of the International Association of Judges, a body affiliated with the United Nations, which promotes an independent judiciary worldwide.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Honourable senators, we are experiencing technical issues, and some senators are not receiving translation. We will suspend to resolve the issue.

(The sitting of the Senate was suspended.)

(The sitting of the Senate was resumed.)

Senator Dalphond: On my first day in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, I was struck by the beauty of the town square. I was then pleasantly surprised to learn that Charles Aznavour’s French songs are regularly played over the loudspeakers there. As you may know, this famous French singer was a son of Armenia. I fell in love with Armenia and its people right then and there, and that love story still lives on today.

During my stay, I was invited to visit the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute which overlooks the scenic Ararat Valley and majestic Mount Ararat, where Noah’s ark is said to have sat. The museum is an impressive and beautiful building that serves as a reminder to Armenians and world of the atrocities committed against Armenians between 1914 and 1923, the final years of the Ottoman Empire, including the 1915 genocide. It is said that between 800,000 and 1.5 million Armenians living in this part of the world lost their lives due to pogroms and forced expulsion from their various homelands. In the last 20 years, many democratic countries have come to recognize the Armenian genocide.

In 2001, France passed the Loi relative à la reconnaissance du génocide arménien de 1915, a law recognizing the 1915 Armenian genocide. In 2019, President Macron signed a decree making April 24 an annual day of remembrance of the genocide for France.

In 2004, the House of Commons adopted a motion recognizing the existence of the Armenian genocide of 1915 and declared it a crime against humanity.

The Quebec National Assembly has unanimously supported every motion related to the Armenian genocide that has been moved since 1980. That support culminated in the passage of the Act to Proclaim Armenian Genocide Memorial Day in 2003, which made April 24 a day of remembrance of the genocide for Quebec.

Almost one year ago, the American House of Representatives passed a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide, and president-elect Joe Biden has committed to recognizing it.

Unfortunately, when boundaries between Armenia and Azerbaijan were drawn by the Soviets in the 1920s, the Armenian community located in the region called Nagorno-Karabakh ended up in what was called the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan, where it was granted the status of autonomous oblast, or region, in acknowledgment of its distinct, largely Armenian identity. However, this area is surrounded by various other parts of west Azerbaijan, inhabited by Kurds and Azeris.

In the beginning of the 1990s, while the Soviet regime was collapsing, a civil war erupted between the Azerbaijan army and the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh backed by the Armenian army. It led to a military victory by Armenian forces. By 1994, when a ceasefire was agreed upon, Armenian forces were in full control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region and all of its western surrounding regions, in whole representing about 20% of Azerbaijan territory. As a result, between 700,000 and 1 million Kurds and Azeris were displaced from their farms, villages and homelands and made refugees in Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, and other regions of Azerbaijan. Some international observers called it an ethnic cleansing.

These historical events, and many others affecting the ethnic groups living in this part of the world, have come to define them, the region and their relations with neighbouring countries. For example, Azerbaijanis are called “Turks” by many Armenians, and hate speeches are frequent by one group against the other.

After the 1994 ceasefire, most of the world forgot about this conflict, but tensions remained high between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and some experts wrote about a “frozen” conflict. In reality, an enduring state of hostility was present on both sides of the line of conflict. Despite three United Nations resolutions calling for a return of control of the western parts of Azerbaijan to the Baku government, and five proposals from the Minsk Group led by Russia, the United States and France, nothing changed.

On September 27, 2020, the unresolved tensions erupted in a new civil war in many parts along the line of conflict. This time, Azerbaijan was a superior military force, thanks to oil revenues that provided them the ability to buy military equipment from Russia, Israel and France, among other arms suppliers. Later on, it was reported that some military equipment sold by Canada to Turkey, a NATO ally, was being used in drones used by Azerbaijani forces in the ongoing civil war.

In response, Minister Champagne announced that Canada was suspending the export of military equipment to Turkey pending an investigation on how they made their way into the civil war zone.

It was also reported by credible sources that Turkey was providing other forms of support to the Baku government, including the provision of war mercenaries recruited in Syria, ready to inflict exactions, brutality and even murders on civilian Armenians living in the western parts of Azerbaijan, especially those living in the former Kurdish and Azeri regions under the control of Armenian forces since 1994.

Prime Minister Trudeau called on the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan to urge an immediate ceasefire and a resumption of negotiations. Subsequently, Minister Champagne travelled to Europe to support a ceasefire, seeking the intervention especially of the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group: France, the United States and Russia.

Incidentally, the OSCE this year celebrates its thirtieth anniversary since the Charter of Paris was entered into in 1990. It has committed to try again to bring the parties to reach a settlement in the long-lasting conflict over the status of Nagorno-Karabakh.

So far, the acts of the Canadian government are in line with our commitment to multilateralism, respect for international law principles, peaceful solutions to conflicts and deployment of neutral forces when required.

As you know, on November 9 — 10 days after Senator Housakos’s motion, and after six weeks of violent fights — a ceasefire has been agreed to between the Government of Armenia and the Government of Azerbaijan under the supervision of Russia. Pursuant to it, peacekeeping operations will be conducted by Russia to preserve the ceasefire, prisoners will be exchanged, humanitarian assistance will become available and negotiations will be held on the future of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Unfortunately, since September 27, too many civilians — men, women and children — on both sides of the line of conflict have died or were injured, destruction has been widespread and tens of thousands of people were once again displaced, this time toward Armenia. The peace talks must consider the situation of the displaced civilians and see to their safe return to the parts of Nagorno-Karabakh where they used to live before the 1990 civil war.

Displacement of ethnic groups is not an answer to conflicts. A desire to end hate and to accommodate differences should be favoured. We, as Canadians, know that a pluralistic and tolerant society is workable and beneficial to all of its components.

We also know that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is not just a local conflict. It has been exacerbated by influences from neighbouring countries, including Turkey, Iran and Russia. Russia has actually entered into a defence pact with Armenia and is its primary weapons supplier.

Unlike Iran and Russia, Turkey is one of Canada’s NATO allies. Under article 5 of this defence pact, if Turkey were attacked, Canada would have to come to its assistance. That’s how strong our ties are.

Because we share with our NATO allies the desire to protect freedom and peace in Europe and around the world, the Government of Canada and other NATO member countries must not hesitate to speak to President Erdoğan, the leader of an allied, friendly country, about our growing concerns regarding certain actions by his government that are contrary to the principles that unite us in NATO. This includes ensuring the freedom and security of the person among populations covered by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Europe, all in accordance with the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law, which also includes freedom of the press, freedom of expression and freedom of association.

Friendship sometimes requires difficult trade-offs, and our alliance requires one ally to relinquish certain ambitions for the common good of the entire alliance.

NATO must also ask the Ankara government to quickly repatriate Syrian fighters. The Government of Canada must ensure that the war crimes committed in the past six weeks, by both sides, which included the use of unconventional weapons and the use of torture, do not go unpunished. It is regrettable that neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

Through international organizations, our government must also ensure that the Lachin corridor linking Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia is fully secured by international troops, and that the religious and cultural monuments of all faiths found in Nagorno-Karabakh and the rest of western Azerbaijan are preserved, mainly under the supervision of UNESCO.

Finally, I believe that our government must endeavour to provide humanitarian aid without delay, especially for the refugees who have ended up in Armenia.

In conclusion, unlike Senator Housakos, I am of the opinion that a unilateral declaration of the recognition of the Republic of Artsakh would only make things more difficult rather than contributing to the resolution of a crisis, especially since no international guarantee of the recognition of this new state can be realistically envisaged. I would remind senators that no country has opted for the recognition proposed by Senator Housakos, not even Armenia or Greece.

What we should do instead is advocate for international protection of Nagorno-Karabakh through the channels I identified earlier, in partnership with our allies and in a manner that respects the principles of international law, including peoples’ right to self-determination and the right to territorial integrity.

Thank you. Shnorhakalut’yun. Tesekkür ederim.

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