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Harut Sassounian: Aliyev-Pashinyan duel via video at United Nations General Assembly

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Harut Sassounian: Aliyev-Pashinyan duel via video at United Nations General Assembly

Just days before the first anniversary of the 44-day war, the Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan and the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev clashed once again, this time in a bloodless confrontation via video at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City.

In my opinion, both Aliyev and Pashinyan made the mistake of not appearing in person at the UN meeting. The issue is not just the speech which they delivered by video, but their absence from an important international gathering of close to 200 leaders from around the world. This was an important opportunity, particularly for Armenia’s Prime Minister, to rub shoulders with many of these leaders in private and public settings to transmit to them Armenia’s grievances and publicize Azerbaijan’s brutal violations during last year’s war.

Fortunately, Pashinyan dispatched to the UN Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan who held several important meetings with his counterparts from many countries, including Azerbaijan, the Co-Chairs of the Minsk Group, and the Secretary General of the UN.

While Armenia and Azerbaijan were not represented at the UN by their heads of state, Turkey was wisely represented by Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu who took advantage of the opportunity to meet with dozens of heads of state and inaugurate the new Turkish Center's high-rise building across the UN headquarters which was attended by many dignitaries and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Erdogan’s only setback was the refusal of Pres. Biden to meet with him at the UN.

Turning to the speeches, Pres. Aliyev addressed the UN General Assembly on Sept. 23 delivering a 38-minute speech in English by video. Pashinyan’s video speech was much shorter -- it lasted less than 12 minutes. Aliyev’s lengthy speech was not necessarily a good thing. He probably bored to death the dignitaries at the General Assembly who were listening to non-stop speeches day after day. Whereas it was smart of Aliyev to speak in English, Pashinyan, despite his knowledge of English, chose to speak in Armenian which means that the attendees had to listen to the translation of his speech via earphones, not the best way to communicate. Nevertheless, Pashinyan wisely used a teleprompter to read his speech which made it much more interesting to watch, versus Aliyev who was looking down the whole time, while reading the speech from a paper in front of him. This prompted a non-Armenian to comment sarcastically on YouTube, under the video of Aliyev’s speech: “What happened to Aliyev’s petrodollars? Couldn’t he afford to buy a teleprompter?”

In his lengthy speech, Aliyev told dozens of lies:

1) That Armenia, not Azerbaijan, started last September’s war. Aliyev must have forgotten that he had previously admitted proudly that he started the war. He also accused Armenia of initiating an attack on Azerbaijan in July 2020. Armenia had no reason to start a war neither in July nor September 2020.

2) Aliyev referred to the 12th century poet Nizami Ganjavi as “the great Azerbaijani poet.” Ganjavi is in fact Persian, not Azeri (see Wikipedia’s numerous sources). In the 12th century, Azerbaijan did not even exist. Ganjavi was born in Ganja (Kantzag in Armenian) which at the time was “densely populated with Iranians and a small number of Christians,” according to Armenian historian Guiragos Kantzagetsi (1200 – 1271).

3) Aliyev falsely described Azerbaijan “as an example of tolerance and peaceful coexistence of representatives of various religious and ethnic groups living in our country.” On the contrary, Azerbaijan is a very intolerant and violent country. Its history is full of repeated massacres of Armenians. Yet, shamelessly, Aliyev accused Armenia of committing “genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity!”

4) Aliyev also accused Armenia of “gross violation of international law, including the Geneva Convention.” This is the exact description of Azerbaijan’s own violations and crimes. He falsely claimed Armenia used “white phosphorus and cluster munitions” and attacked civilians. Once again, Aliyev was describing Azerbaijan’s own war crimes against Armenian civilians, hospitals and churches.

5) Aliyev also claimed that Armenia recruited “mercenaries and foreign fighters from abroad.” As is widely known, this is exactly what Azerbaijan did.

6) Aliyev lied about Armenians engaging in “the full destruction of cities and villages, including the cultural and religious heritage sites of Azerbaijani people.” The truth is the exact opposite.

7) Aliyev claimed that Azerbaijan “started taking legal actions against [foreign companies] for illegally exploiting our natural resources in the formerly occupied lands.” Hopefully, these companies will countersue Azerbaijan for confiscating their properties.

8) Indirectly admitting that Azerbaijan has encroached on the territory of Armenia, Aliyev boasted that “the country has been weakened to the exte...

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