GLENDALE (CBSLA) — For the past two weeks, Armenian Americans have staged demonstrations across Southern California in an effort to draw attention to the deadly conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
“We feel that the world is turning their back on us,” Paul Abrahamian, a demonstrator, said. “We feel that our rights and our lives aren’t as important for anybody to make a voice.”
The last two weeks have seen the largest escalation of bloodshed since 1994 between the two sides that have been locked in a decades-old conflict.
Armenia says 520 soldiers have been killed and 25 civilians murdered, while Azerbaijan says it has lost 40 civilians — with another 210 wounded. The numbers have not been independently verified.
On Monday, CBS Los Angeles spoke to Ambassador Armen Baibourtian, the consul general of Armenia in Los Angeles.
“There is not any evidence or proof or confirmed reports that Armenian forces, Artsakh forces, commit war crimes or even violate international laws,” he said.
The bloodshed is happening in a disputed border region that’s internationally recognized within Azerbaijan’s borders, but predominantly occupied by ethnic Armenians.
CBSLA also reached out to Nasimi Aghayev, the consul general of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles.
“All of the fighting at the moment is happening within the internationally recognized borders of Azerbaijan,” he said. “There is no fighting on the territory of Armenia.”
A recent report from Amnesty International said that its experts used video footage to trace “cluster munitions that appear to have been fired by Azerbaijani forces.”
“Amnesty International has not done any investigation right on the ground with their people sent to the region, study all the details on both sides of the conflict,” Aghayev said.
“All Azerbaijani accusations are false, and this way they are not only trying to protect themselves while committing real war crimes,” Baibourtian said.
A ceasefire negotiated by Russia quickly deteriorated over the weekend, with both sides blaming the other.
Patrick James, a professor of international relations at the University of Southern California, said the situation was delicate because Azerbaijan is rich in oil and has ties to Turkey, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Meanwhile, Armenia has historically been supported by Russia — a nation that has been known to sell weapons to both sides.
“All the evidence would support the idea that this battle will continue, and the facts that the states are asymmetrical with each other — one being, if you will, larger in population and having energy revenue — is not a decisive matter here,” James said.
Both sides have called on the international community, especially the United States, to intervene. The White House has yet to take a side in the ongoing conflict.
“So the risks of escalation are enormous,” James said. “It would be eyebrow raising for both the Russians and the Turks. The United States could find itself at odds with everyone.”
Amnesty International has called on all sides to fully respect international humanitarian laws and to protect civilians from the hostilities.