Nagorno-Karabakh: thousands of Armenians in Brussels and France to denounce Europe’s “complicity”

European leaders are “criminals against the Armenian people, they are shedding the blood of the Armenian people

Nagorno-Karabakh: thousands of Armenians in Brussels and France to denounce Europe’s “complicity”

European leaders are “criminals against the Armenian people, they are shedding the blood of the Armenian people.” These words are those of one of the organizers of a demonstration which took place on Sunday October 1 in Brussels, Belgium. Thousands of Armenians from several European countries converged there to denounce Europe's "complicity" after a lightning offensive by Azerbaijan to reconquer Nagorno-Karabakh, controlled for three decades by Armenian separatists who ended up capitulating and agreeing to lay down their arms last week. Since then, the enclave has been almost entirely deserted by its inhabitants, more than 100,000 refugees having fled to Armenia for fear of reprisals from Azerbaijan.

Gathered on the Robert-Schuman roundabout, in the heart of the European institutions, the demonstrators attacked with emotion and anger the European Union (EU), guilty, according to them, of turning a blind eye to the tragedy of the Armenians in exchange for Azerbaijani gas that the EU buys to partly compensate for the loss of Russian gas. “Sell 2000 years of Armenian civilization for Azeri gas,” read a sign held up by a demonstrator, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Among the thousands of people, often young people, from France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, around fifty buses made the trip from Ile-de-France, where part of the community lives Armenian culture in France, one of the most important in Europe. Some 10,000 people were present in Brussels, according to the organizers, more than 3,000, according to the capital's police, specifying that this is an estimate made at the start of the demonstration.

Similar rallies were to be held in several other cities in Europe and France, notably in Marseille, where more than a thousand people, according to the police, and some 5,000, according to the organizers, also gathered to support the Armenians who have fled Nagorno-Karabakh are demanding stronger action from the international community, noted an AFP journalist. “We are here to denounce the silence of the international community,” said Julien Harounyan, president of the coordinating council of Armenian associations of France for the south of the country.

Marseille (Bouches-du-Rhône) has a large community of Armenian origin, generally estimated at around 80,000 people, arriving notably in the 1920s after the massacres and deportations by the troops of the Ottoman Empire.

Participants in this demonstration, called by the network of organizations Europeans for Artsakh, the Armenian name for Nagorno-Karabakh, accuse Azerbaijan of carrying out “ethnic cleansing” in this region. The latter refutes these accusations and assures that the inhabitants of the enclave are free to leave or stay.

“Humanitarian drama”

“France condemns Azerbaijan’s action” in Nagorno-Karabakh, government spokesperson Olivier Véran said on Sunday. It is “a humanitarian drama”, “almost the entire Armenian population was forced to leave (…) a territory in which they live legitimately”, he noted on BFM-TV. “Things must be done within the framework of the United Nations,” added Mr. Véran, citing three priorities: “the restoration of humanitarian conditions, support for the population and the mobilization of the international community.”

Also on Sunday, Armenia's ambassador to France, Hasmik Tolmajian, called on the international community and the United Nations to establish "decent conditions" for the return of Armenian refugees to Nagorno-Karabakh. “There is another alternative to being a refugee”, namely the return of these populations, she declared on Franceinfo, stressing that “no one wants to be a refugee when they can stay in their country”.

A United Nations mission arrived in Nagorno-Karabakh the same day – for the first time in thirty years – in order to assess the humanitarian needs there.

“The history of humanity has shown that impunity encourages the recurrence of crime”

“If the international community, with all the international mechanisms, the United Nations system, the entire prevention system, was not able to prevent the crime, we cannot say that the international community was up to the task, that she did not fail in her mission,” responded Hasmik Tolmajian. She also urged sanctions, while “the history of humanity has shown that impunity favors the recurrence of crime.”

“To stop the aggressors, the crime, we need sanctions which can be economic, diplomatic. Without action, autocrats, criminals never stop,” she insisted. “Since the creation of the United Nations, this is the first time that we have seen a republic disappear before our eyes,” the diplomat ended up lamenting, warning that this could create a precedent.

The self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh has not been recognized by any member state of the United Nations.