Turkey to investigate rights violations by Armenia

Turkey’s lawmakers have established a subcommittee under the parliamentary human rights commission to investigate rights violations in Nagorno-Karabakh during the most recent flare up in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Tuesday.

The subcommittee for Nagorno-Karabakh was established upon appeal by deputies from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its junior coalition partner Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), to be chaired by AKP deputy Hakan Çavuşoğlu.

In the first session of the subcommittee Çavuşoğlu said the current dispute started when Armenia attacked civilian settlements in Azerbaijan on Sept. 27, and the Azeri army started an operation in retaliation.

Çavuşoğlu said Armenia had violated a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire declared on Oct. 10 by targeting civilian settlements in Azerbaijan’s Ganja province with mid-range missiles, killing nine people and injuring 34 others within the first 24 hours of the ceasefire.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have accused each other of violating the ceasefire repeatedly, starting just before it went into effect. Both sides have been accused of using banned cluster munitions, and both have denied it.

Çavuşoğlu on Wednesday repeated the accusations of Armenia using banned munitions, and targeting civilians as well as civilian infrastructure.

Members of the subcommittee will visit Azerbaijan to inspect the civilian settlements that are reported to have been targeted, news website Duvar reported.

Armenia has “irreverently committed war crimes,” Çavuşoğlu said, accusing the country and the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh administration of sending settlers to occupy lands left behind by the displaced Azeri population.

It is a duty for the subcommittee to “make visible the moral crisis in the ongoing occupation of Upper Karabakh and the neighbouring seven regions, and to support the right to return for hundreds of thousands of people who were forcibly displaced,” Çavuşoğlu said.

Turkey’s Armenian minority, officially recognised as one under the Treaty of Lausanne, are under protection of the state of law, the deputy said. “Turkey will not accept the establishment of a relation between its own citizens, including the thousands of Armenians who work illegally in our country, and the conflict in question.”

Once a sizeable population, the Armenian community in Turkey has dwindled to an estimated 50,000 people in the century since the events of 1915, which the majority of international scholars identify as a genocide that killed and displaced up to1.5 million people. Turkey claims that the widespread killing and displacement of minority groups during World War I was not deliberate.

There are also some 100,000 citizens of Armenia in Turkey, who are mostly undocumented workers. In 2010, following efforts by Turkey’s western allies to pass legislation to recognise the Armenian Genocide, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, prime minister at the time, spoke of the undocumented Armenians in Turkey and said his government “could deport them if necessary.”

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu said his party supported efforts to resolve the Karabakh conflict peacefully, pointing to the heavy human rights cost of wars.

“If there is a war, it is inconceivable for there to not be human rights violations,” junior opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Gülüstan Kılıç Koçyiğit said.

Koçyiğit stressed a need to protect Turkey’s Armenian community and to “abandon a public discourse that hurts and instigates hate against the Armenian people every day.”

In a press conference on Wedneday, AKP Spokesman Ömer Çelik condemned what he called a double standard by “(countries) who don’t raise their voices against Armenia,” and said Armenia had become a rogue state.

Çelik repeated Turkey’s official position that Armenia was in violation of the 1949 Geneva Convention as an occupying force on Azeri territory, and reiterated Turkey’s support for Azerbaijan and desire to be involved in talks for a solution.

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