Vol. 4, No. 22 (November 15, 2011)

Call to resettle Armenians in Karabakh threatens peace process

Paul Goble
Publications Advisor
Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy

An Armenian diaspora effort to convince Armenians living abroad to resettle in the Nagorno-Karabakh not only violates international law, which specifies that an occupying power cannot change the ethnic mix of a region in advance of a referendum by introducing its citizens or co-ethnics into a region, but threatens progress under the aegis of the OSCE Minsk Group to a resolution of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Elman Abdullayev, the press secretary of the Azerbaijan Foreign Ministry, noted that in connection with the 20th anniversary of the independence of Armenia, Armenian groups have launched a program called Armenia-3500, which is intended to convince 3500 Armenians living in the diaspora to move to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, thus continuing Yerevan’s policy of “artificial and illegal settlement of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan,” a policy that “contradicts all norms and principles of international law.” [1] 

While the Armenian project appears intended in the first instance to try to attract members of the Armenian diaspora to come to Armenia and thus help compensate for that republic’s loss of more than 1.3 million residents since 1991—an effort that has failed up to now to convince more than 10,000 Armenians to return—[2] it is clear from the project’s website and coverage in the Armenian media that the organizers are most interested in getting Armenians from the diaspora to move to Nagorno-Karabakh.

That is because, as the Armenia 3500 project notes, [3] those Armenians from the diaspora who elect to move to occupied Nagorno-Karabakh will receive free housing, something that those who move to the Republic of Armenia will not get.  But according to an article on Eurasianet, such incentives have not had much effect: Only 12 diaspora Armenians have agreed to move to Armenia itself since the project was announced at the end of September 2011—and apparently none of them has agreed to move to Nagorno-Karabakh. [4] 

The exact relationship of this project to the Armenian government is not clear, but those Armenian activists behind it appear to be acting on the basis of two calculations.  On the one hand, they may hope, despite past failures to attract members of the diaspora, to change the ethnic balance in Nagorno-Karabakh and thus give Armenians a stronger voice in any future referendum there.  And on the other, they may believe that the appearance of even a miniscule number of new members of the Armenian diaspora in Nagorno-Karabakh will have an impact on the governments of the countries from which they come. 

However that may be and despite the likelihood that Yerevan will fail in this effort, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry’s Abdullayev is clearly right when he observes that “the attempts of the Armenian leadership to change the demographic situation in the country unilaterally and illegally will inflict great harm to the negotiating process for the resolution of the conflict” and that “once again Armenia is demonstrating its destructive position,” something that all countries and international organizations interested in peace should take note of and condemn.


[1] See http://news.day.az/politics/297308.html (accessed 7 November 2011).

[2] See http://www.eurasianet.org/node/64435 (accessed 7 November 2011). 

[3] See http://armenia3500.wordpress.com/ and http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Armenia3500-Project/126888134080033 (accessed 7 November 2011).

[4] See http://www.eurasianet.org/node/64435 (accessed 7 November 2011).