Washington snubs Khojalu campaign as Azerbaijan’s “ethnic cleansing” claims peak in February

Azerbaijan and Turkey have got a clear message to temper their ambitions as the White House issued a statement on behalf of the president declining to commemorate the so-called massacre in Khojalu.

Moreover, the Obama administration also said that the events in which the Azeri side claims Armenians were responsible for many civilian deaths were connected with military operations – another reminder to Azerbaijan that the Karabakh conflict cannot be resolved by force.

Azerbaijani activists had run two petitions on the White House website, gathering more than 120,000 votes in their support. The petitions called for the recognition of the 1992 events near the village of Khojalu in Karabakh and also for a U.S. presidential statement on February 26 – the day that marks the tragedy.

The White House response rejected the Azeri propaganda, which has spent millions of dollars on the dissemination of information about the events in Khojalu. And while in some cities and states it still became possible for the Azeri side to hold some events, even in parliaments, then in other places, like in Moscow, authorities banned such arrangements. The White House statement proved a final blow to the efforts of Azerbaijan to make Khojalu a factor in the ongoing settlement of the protracted dispute and a general attitude towards Armenia as a state and nation.

U.S. presidents make annual April 24 addresses to commemorate the anniversaries of the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey. Barack Obama calls the events by the Armenian term, Mets Yeghern, translated from Armenian as “great massacre”. Turkey and Azerbaijan appear to have been obsessed with the idea of promoting the international recognition of the Khojalu events – a “genocide” of their own.

Meanwhile, during these days the Armenian nation also remembers the victims of the 1988 Sumgait pogroms, which were the reaction of Azeri nationalists to Karabakh Armenians’ demands for reunification with Armenia and set the armed conflict going. In many countries local Armenian communities organize events timed to the anniversary of the Sumgait tragedy. But this isn’t the “answer” of Armenians to intensified Azeri efforts for Khajalu. Recent days have seen another remarkable event in this regard.

On Tuesday, a parliamentary group of friendship with Karabakh was set up in the Seimas of Lithuania. This can be considered as the first diplomatic victory for the new Foreign Minister of Karabakh, Karen Mirzoyan, who was in Lithuania on the day of the group’s establishment. Lithuania is a member of the European Union and NATO, and the establishment of friendship with Karabakh in the top legislative body of this Baltic nation is viewed by many within the context of early signs of a future recognition of the second Armenian state’s independence.

More active efforts of Turkey and Azerbaijan on Khojalu can also be regarded as reaction to the world community’s increasing inclination to recognizing the right of the Armenian people to material and territorial claims to Turkey in view of the approaching Armenian Genocide centennial. Turkey is waiting for what Obama and Armenian lobbyists in the United States might do when the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide is commemorated in 2015.

Sentiments are also changing in Armenia itself. Raffi Hovannisian, the opposition presidential candidate who by official count polled up to 37 percent of the vote in the latest election, has spoken in favor of recognizing the independence of Karabakh and presenting legitimate claims to Turkey. And these views are finding more support among masses.

Analysts’ forecasts for fundamental transformations in the region by 2015 appear to be coming true. And while Azerbaijan and Turkey are still making desperate attempts to resist them, it is also apparent that the Western community has been paying less attention to them of late.