While the Baku regime, with its puppet “eco-activists”, has been blocking the Armenia-Artsakh land road for two weeks, violating all its international obligations, the Armenian government continues to talk about the need for statements and targeted actions by the international community towards Azerbaijan, that will allegedly force that country to fulfill its Artsakh 2020 war ceasefire obligations.
As the Baku dictatorial regime, with the indulgence of Russian peacekeepers, keeps the roadway closed, the Armenian government hasn’t even availed itself of the limited, but practical opportunities, it has to enact countermeasures, and allows Azerbaijani aircraft to fly from Baku to Nakhijevan and vice versa, via Armenian airspace.
One year after the 44-day war, starting on October 6, 2021, the national air carrier of Azerbaijan AZAL, has operated daily Baku-Nakhijevan-Baku flights via Armenia’s airspace.
Between 2014 and 2021, the Azerbaijanis did not enter Armenia’s airspace. On November 12, 2014, they shot down an unarmed Mi-24 helicopter on a training flight over Artsakh, killing three Armenian officers. Baku, fearing an Armenian response, flew to and from Nakhijevan exclusively via Iranian airspace.
After the 2020 war, when talk of unblocking transport links and the signing a peace treaty began, the Azerbaijanis, acting from the position of the victors and feeling much safer, began to use Armenia’s airspace in October 2021. The Armenian government has yet to object to this.
Officially, the skies of Armenia were not closed to aircraft with Azerbaijani registration, except during the 2020 war, from September 30 to November 17. In turn, Armenian planes did not enter and still do not enter the skies of Azerbaijan, because they do not make flights to the east. Occasionally, Armenian government aircraft fly in that direction (for example, to Central Asia), but due to safety concerns, they usually bypass the skies of Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijani government flights do not fly through the territory of Armenia either. In other words, in this case we are talking about choice and not prohibition.
Armenia’s Civil Aviation Committee has stated several times, including in response to our inquiries, that the provisions of Article 9 of the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation stipulate that each member-state of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) cannot apply a discriminatory approach regarding the use of its airspace. Article 9 of the Convention provides that each State Party may, in exceptional circumstances, in an emergency or in the interests of public safety, temporarily restrict or prohibit flights over all or part of its territory, provided that such restriction or prohibition is applied against aircraft of all other states, regardless of their nationality.
Despite this provision, there are constant cases when the same Turkey has banned airplanes registered in Armenia or even registered in another country, but operated by an Armenian carrier, from flying via its skies to other countries, without giving any reason, thus ignoring its own international obligations.
Unlike Turkey, Armenia has never taken countersteps, which would be very logical. Instead, the Armenian authorities have always dutifully and, one might say, blindly followed the provisions of the convention, which regulate the scope of restrictive actions of the given state.
Currently, there are no restrictions in Turkey against Armenian aircraft. There are not and have not been any bans on Armenia’s part against Turkish aircraft that even made intra-Azerbaijani flights, for example, Nakhijevan-Ganja or vice versa.
However, Armenian authorities, constantly pointing out that the Chicago Convention prohibits a discriminatory approach, forget or rather, “obsessed with pacifism”, ignore Article 89 of the same convention, which clearly defines: “In case of war, the provisions of this Convention shall not affect the freedom of action of any of the contracting States affected, whether as belligerents or as neutrals. The same principle shall apply in the case of any contracting State which declares a state of national emergency and notifies the fact to the Council.”
During the 2020 Artsakh war, this provision was applied, and Armenia officially banned the entry of Azerbaijani aircraft to its skies, although they had not entered Armenian airspace since 2014.
Even in 2021 on November 14-16, when Azerbaijan unleashed military aggression against Armenia and occupied a part of the sovereign territory of Armenia, Azerbaijani AZAL airplanes continued to fly over Armenia, connecting Baku and Nakhijevan.
And the Armenian government had, and most likely has, nothing to say in this regard. What they are saying is this – “the selection of air flight routes is taken by aircraft operators.” But the fact is that the aircraft operator, i.e., the airline (in this case, AZAL) enters the airspace of the given country (in this case, Armenia) after communicating with the responsible authorities of the latter (i.e., Armenia gives its consent that the Azerbaijani plane enters Armenian airspace) and Pashinyan’s government does not want to speak up on the matter.
Of note is that AZAL itself announced last year that the Baku-Nakhijevan-Baku flight time and the cost of airplane fuel will be reduced thanks to the route using Armenian airspace. Thus, Azerbaijan benefits. Moreover, such flights use Armenian airspace three times daily.
Baku-Nakhijevan-Baku flights also use Iranian airspace, but from 2021 until now, the main route is the one passing through the skies of Armenia.
After the 2020 Artsakh war, Azerbaijani and Turkish planes did not enter the skies of Armenia during the September aggression of this year and sometime afterwards.
They did not for their own safety. Today, they continue to use the airspace of Armenia again and pay money for using Armenia’s aeronautical services (according to the kilometers traveled in the sky of Armenia). However, these payments cannot compare to the economic and political benefits that the national carrier of Azerbaijan receives when using Armenian airspace.
Today, when Azerbaijan, under false pretexts, has blocked the life-giving roadway for 120,000 Armenians, Nikol Pashinyan’s government fails to do anything, even of a symbolic nature, contrary to the interests of Azerbaijan. For example, banning AZAL flights over Armenia.
I emphasize that Armenia is in the middle of an unfinished war with Azerbaijan. That country has occupied Armenian sovereign territory. The Baku dictator openly declares that Azerbaijan unleashed not only the 2020 war, but also the September aggression of this year. He speaks about new territorial ambitions.
Therefore, Article 89 of the Chicago Convention is fully applicable, according to which, in case of war, the provisions of the Convention do not limit the freedom of action of the state affected by the war, regardless of whether the state is belligerent or neutral.
And even if that right was not enshrined on paper, nothing should prevent the Armenian government from acting on the principle of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” to promote its own state interest.
Against this backdrop, the Armenian foreign ministry calls on interested international partners to “oblige Azerbaijan, through address statements and targeted actions, to halt the warmongering and maximalist rhetoric, fulfil the assumed commitments, withdraw the Azerbaijani troops from the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia and restore the regular functioning of the Lachin Corridor.”
What targeted actions does Pashinyan’s government expect from the international community, if it isn’t the first to take such actions, which it can do and has the internationally guaranteed right to do?
Is this not self-righteous hypocrisy?