Canada, allies have mentioned sanctioning Azerbaijan, committee hears

Canada and its allies have mentioned sanctioning Azerbaijan over its army incursion final month into the breakaway area of Nagorno-Karabakh — which triggered a mass exodus of greater than 100,000 ethnic Armenians into neighbouring Armenia — a senior diplomat instructed the Commons overseas affairs and worldwide improvement committee Monday.

“There completely have been discussions … continued debate about when it might be most acceptable to make use of that device,”  stated Andrew Turner, Canada’s lately appointed ambassador to Armenia, in response to questions from NDP overseas affairs critic Heather McPherson.

Talking by teleconference from Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, Turner additionally stated there is a threat that punitive actions might undermine efforts to reach at a peace settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

“The pursuit of sanctions proper now would threat disrupting the continuing efforts at peace,” he stated.

“Whereas now we have not seen anybody take the route of sanctions, now we have seen bulletins from France, for instance, about the potential of army assist, and that has triggered Azerbaijan to withdraw from deliberate worldwide conferences and discussions that would have helped advance the peace course of.”

Turner’s testimony got here a couple of days after International Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly visited Armenia to formally inaugurate Canada’s embassy. Requested by journalists in regards to the prospect of sanctions throughout her journey, Joly stated “the whole lot is on the desk” — which prompted criticism from Azerbajian’s overseas affairs division.

Previous to September’s army shelling operation, Nagorno-Karabakh had a majority ethnic Armenian inhabitants. Because the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan and Armenia have fought two wars over the area, which is acknowledged as a part of Azerbaijan underneath worldwide regulation however had a de-facto ethnic Armenian authorities. 

Refugees unlikely to return: Worldwide Disaster Group 

Turner additionally identified that Ottawa has instructed Azerbaijan that refugees who fled Nagorno-Karabakh ought to be assured the best to return.

Canada has signed a multi-country declaration to the United Nations Human Rights Council to that impact.

Whereas Azerbaijan has stated repeatedly that refugees are welcome to return, one skilled instructed the Parliamentary committee that few refugees are more likely to take up that supply.

“In my conferences with displaced individuals scattered all through Armenia,” stated Olesya Vartanyan, a senior analyst with the Worldwide Disaster Group, “I’ve not met a single one that is contemplating returning to Nagorno-Karabakh any time quickly.

“They haven’t any belief in [Azerbaijan’s] rule and are too afraid to return.”

Kids sit on a curb as residents collect in central Stepanakert to depart Nagorno-Karabakh, a area inhabited by ethnic Armenians, on September 25, 2023. (REUTERS)

Vartanyan stated Azerbaijan might construct some belief by permitting displaced refugees to not less than go to their properties and the graves of relations who’ve been killed, maybe with help from worldwide our bodies such because the Worldwide Committee of the Pink Cross.

Among the specialists who testified disagreed with the ambassador’s suggestion that punitive actions might drive Azerbaijan out of peace talks.

“Now’s the time for focused sanctions to be imposed on Azerbaijan,” stated College of Windsor regulation professor Christopher Waters.

“They might be a warning that Canada expects Azerbaijan to guard cultural heritage, to safeguard the few remaining ethnic Armenians, to protect the potential of the best of return for individuals who fled, and to make sure truthful therapy for civilian leaders who’ve been detained by the [Azerbaijani] regime underneath the guise that they’re terrorists.”

He reminded the committee of how Canadian-manufactured drone elements wound up being offered to Turkey, Azerbaijan’s ally in its battle with Armenia, after which utilized in drones by Azerbaijan in opposition to Armenia in 2020.

Waters additionally pointed to how Azerbaijan has taken over some elements of Armenia’s sovereign territory itself, and to Azerbaijani authorities rhetoric claiming one other strip of land inside Armenia.

Jean-François Ratelle, an skilled in insurgency and the politics of Caucasus states at the College of Ottawa, additionally advised the Worldwide Felony Courtroom might be one other avenue for justice. He stated Canada ought to assist Armenia’s latest transfer to ratify becoming a member of the physique, which might result in a probe of alleged ethnic cleaning in the Nagorno-Karabakh area.

He cited the financial blockade imposed by Azerbaijan on Nagorno-Karabakh within the practically 10 months previous to its army incursion, which largely stopped meals and drugs from making its method to the native inhabitants, in addition to the exodus itself.

Two politicians on a foreign trip.
Bloc Québécois MP Stéphane Bergeron and NDP MP Lyndsay Mathyssen converse to media in Yerevan, Armenia on October 25, 2023, as they accompany an official Canadian authorities go to. (Fin DePencier/CBC)

Bloc Québécois MP Stéphane Bergeron, additionally a member of the committee, advised Azerbaijan might really feel emboldened to assault due to its latest army successes.

“I discover it specific to level to France, which has been Armenia’s solely ally in the previous few months,” he stated, citing how Paris introduced up the battle on the UN Safety Council and offered defensive weaponry to Armenia.

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