Turkey appears behind Azerbaijan move to retake Nagorno-Karabakh

For background, see

“Armenia and Azerbaijan on the brink of war,” The Trenchant Observer, September 28, 2020.

See also news dispatches cited in this article,

Turkey backs Azerbaijani military action in Nagorno-Karabakh

After weeks of warlike rhetoric, Azerbaijan has announced a “major counter-offensive” on Sunday, using artillery, tanks, and aerial bombardments, .in response to “Armenian aggression”.  Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president called Monday on Armenia to end its ‘occupation’ of Nagarno-Karabakh. On Tuesday, Turkey reiterated its support: “Turkey will be fully engaged in aiding Azerbaijan to recover its occupied lands and to to defend its rights and interests in accordance with international law.”


Le Monde avec AFP , “Dans le Haut-Karabakh, les combats meurtriers continuent entre l’Azerbaïdjan et l’Arménie; Plusieurs dirigeants étrangers, dont la chancelière allemande, Angela Merkel, ont appelé à un cessez-le-feu immédiat. Le Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU se réunit en urgence mardi soir,“ Le Monde, le has 29 septembre 2020 (à 13h11, mis à jour à 17h01).

Le Monde reports,

L’Azerbaïdjan, pays turcophone à majorité chiite, réclame le retour sous son contrôle du Haut-Karabakh, province montagneuse peuplée majoritairement d’Arméniens, chrétiens, dont la sécession, en 1991, n’a pas été reconnue par la communauté internationale. Après des semaines de rhétorique guerrière, l’Azerbaïdjan a annoncé avoir lancé dimanche une « contre-offensive » majeure en réponse à une « aggression » arménienne, usant de son artillerie, de blindés et de bombardements aériens sur la province qui lui échappe depuis la chute de l’URSS et une guerre qui a fait 30 000 morts.

Le président turc, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a appelé lundi l’Arménie à mettre fin à « l’occupation du Haut-Karabakh » et a promis qu’Ankara resterait « aux côtés » de Bakou « par tous les moyens ». Mardi, Ankara a réitéré son soutien : « La Turquie sera pleinement engagée à aider l’Azerbaïdjan à recouvrer ses terres occupées et à défendre ses droits et intérêts selon le droit international », a déclaré le directeur de la communication de la présidence turque, Fahrettin Altun.

Additional factors to be taken into account: Turkey does not have diplomatic relations with Armenia, which insists that the genocide of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire beginning in 1915 be recognized as genocide. Turkey vehemently denies that any genocide took place.

Also, Azerbaijan, a former Soviet Republic for 70 years, has Shia (Shiite) religious traditions.

See also,

Andrew E. Kramer, “In Nagorno-Karabakh, Signs of Escalating and Widening Conflict; Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of using long-range weaponry in the disputed enclave and threatens to reciprocate, raising concerns that fighting could spread to the territories of both countries,” New York Times, Andrew E. Kramer September 29, 2020 (Updated 3:07 p.m. ET)

Azerbaijan actions violate cease-fire line and international law

Article 2 Paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter prohibits the use of force against “the territorial integrity” of any state. In a critically important interpretation of this principle, the U.N. General Assembly adopted the 1970 Declaration of Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation Among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations (G.A. Res. 2625 (XXXV), 25 GAOR, Supp. (No. 28) 121 (October 24, 1970) (hereinafter “The Declaration on Friendly Relations”).

In interpreting Article 2 (4), the Declaration states:

Every State has the duty to refrain from the threat or use of force to violate the existing international boundaries of another State, or as a means of resolving international disputes, including territorial disputes and problems concerning frontiers of states.

Every State likewise has the duty to refrain from the threat or use of force to violate international lines of demarcation, such as armistice lines, established by or pursuant to an international agreement to which it is a party or which it is otherwise bound to obey….

The Declaration on Friendly Relations is an authoritative statement of binding international law under the Charter of the United Nations.

Security Council Meeting on September 29, 2020

An emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council has been called to deal with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict for tonight, Tuesday evening, September 29, 2020.

Conclusion Regarding Lawfulness of Azerbaijan Actions Under International Law

Under international law, Azerbaijan is entitled to take military action against forces in Nagorno-Karabakh or Armenia, if at all, only in accordance with the right of self-defense in the case of an armed attack, under Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. This right is limited by the requirements of “necessity” of the action and “proportionality” of the response to the “armed attack”.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.