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Jewish representatives and federal officials mum on emergency assistance for 2600 year old community of Mountain Jews

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Emergency responders rush to aid the injured at civilian targets inside Azerbaijan, far from the ceasefire lines with Nagorno-Karabakh (Photo courtesy of Consulate General of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles Facebook page)

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The government of Azerbaijan has agreed to meet with mediators in Geneva as major world powers and institutions begin to exert influence towards a cease-fire and an end to bloodshed in the South Caucasus. The main fighting between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh, a self-declared ethnic Armenian republic inside Azerbaijan, has verged on spilling into a direct war with Armenia itself after a ceasefire agreed to in 1994 evaporated in late September.

Far from the Line of Contact with the Republic of Artsahk, major population centres in Azerbaijan such as Ganja, Beylagan, Mingachevir and its hydro dam and reservoir, and the region near the capital city of Baku, had been hit by rockets, causing dozens of civilian deaths including schoolchildren. Azerbaijani officials tallied 427 dwellings, home to 1,200 people, had been destroyed.

The Ministry of Defense claimed, “Early on October 5, Azerbaijan air defense radar registered missile launch at Azerbaijani territory from positions, deployed at Jermuk, Kapan, and Barda districts of Armenia.” It also alleged Armenia fired a cluster rocket at the Baku-Tbilisi-Jeyhan pipeline which “landed 10 meters away.”

Azerbaijan scored victories in retaking a number of towns and after Karabakh’s main city Stepanakert was struck by a barrage, where half of the 50,000 population reportedly fled.

In an interview on state television, Russian President Vladimir Putin described the situation as a “huge tragedy”. He conceded a peaceful resolution appeared “still a long way off, but in any case, we call for a ceasefire.”                

Putin spoke Wednesday on the phone with his Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev for the first time since the outbreak of warfare on September 27. He has spoken with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who hosts a major Russian military base near the border with Turkey, on four occasions since the battles erupted. Pashinyan told AFP he was confident Russia would come to its aid because of the two nations holding membership in the Collective Security Treaty Organisation military alliance (CSTO).

However, Putin struck a conciliatory tone in his interview, emphasizing that Moscow would fulfil mutual defence obligations with Armenia but added, “The hostilities, which to our great regret, continue to this day, are not taking place on the territory of Armenia.”

In response, Azerbaijan said Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov would meet leaders of the OSCE’s Minsk group in Geneva. Jointly chaired by diplomats from Russia, the United States, and France, the group has tried to negotiate a lasting solution to the long-standing hostilities

Aliyev also struck a conciliatory tone in a television interview.

“We have nothing against the Armenian people. After our lands’ liberation and the end of the occupation, the Armenians living in Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijanis who will return there will live together – as two communities in a single country,” he said, trying to reassure the Christian population across the Line of Contact. “We have no problems with Armenian people, they are our citizens, they are a hostage of their government. I am absolutely sure that the Armenian and Azerbaijani peoples will reconcile.”

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Currently about 30,000 Jewish people live in Azerbaijan, as detailed in our story of August 26.  Jews have lived for 2600 years there in relative safety and freedom, as there is no tradition of, or tolerance for, expressions of antisemitism or discrimination against Jews. The Muslim nation has a secular government and maintains strong trade and defence relations with Israel.

TheJ.ca contacted various officials about the growing humanitarian need in Azerbaijan and in particular of the Mountain Jews, but none addressed the issue.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) was asked if they will be raising concerns with the other Jewish agencies and with the federal government about the emerging humanitarian crisis faced by Azeri Jews. We also asked, “What might CIJA recommend be done by the federal government and by the Jewish community of Canada to help the Jews of Azerbaijan?”

A CIJA official responded “As for the Caucasian Jewish community, I would be happy to put you in touch with someone from the World Jewish Congress (we are the Canadian affiliate) who may have some more insight. Let me know and I’ll find the right person.” TheJ.ca made a request but there was no communication from the Congress before press time about help for the Mountain Jews affected.

A map produced by Azerbaijani officials illustrates their claim that long-range rocket attacks on their cities are emanating from inside Armenia, and not from Nagorno-Karabakh positions

Liberal member Jim Carr, a Winnipeg Jewish MP only recently departed from cabinet, deferred a similar inquiry to Global Affairs Canada.

That office pointed to a joint statement issued on October 6 by Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, François-Philippe Champagne and Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom. They urged that, “The parties to the conflict must stop the violence and respect the ceasefire agreement.” There was no mention of addressing any humanitarian need, let alone of the Mountain Jews, in their four paragraph statement.  

Another Jewish MP from Winnipeg, Marty Morantz of the Conservative opposition, initially told TheJ.ca that, “The Government of Canada must support the right of self-determination for the people of the region and should work with the global community to secure peace.”  

His statement seemed to imply support for a Nagorno-Karabakh state within the currently recognized borders of Azerbaijan. This would be at odds with Canada’s support of all four UN resolutions calling for withdrawal of Armenian-backed militias from Nagorno-Karabakh, which would restore Azerbaijani sovereignty.

In an attempt to clarify his position, Morantz reiterated that “The right to self-determination can be consistent with other principles of international law such as the inviolability of internationally recognized borders and territorial integrity.”

A potential complication for Canadian officials is the reported deaths of two Canadian nationals in battle on the Armenian side. The capture of Canadian citizens by either side could pressure the government into uncomfortable diplomatic negotiations.

A Winnipeg man who is originally from Azerbaijan told TheJ.ca that the unfolding tragedy must be addressed by Winnipeg MP’s and by the Trudeau government.

“I am deeply concerned about the damage and loss. Our family members and close friends are being killed, relatives are living outside in shelters, because missiles from 300 km away are aimed at our civilians,” said Safa Guluzada, who moved to Winnipeg 9 years ago and has been appointed the Azerbaijani community leader.

Owner of a small construction company, he reiterated concerns about safety of the Mountain Jews and said the fact that Azerbaijan has 10 synagogues and the Jewish minority can worship freely is a point of pride in his homeland. 

Echoing a letter sent by the Network of Azerbaijani Canadians to Prime Minister Trudeau, Guluzada, who is now a Canadian citizen, pleaded that “Canadian political parties should take action to bring about peace and the government must respond to the humanitarian needs in Azerbaijan.”  

Marty Gold is the Editor-in -Chief of TheJ.ca. Known for investigative reporting, he has specialized in covering municipal and provincial politics, and a wide range of sports and entertainment, in newspapers, magazines, online, and on his first love, radio. His business and consulting experience includes live events and sales, workplace safety, documentary productions, PR, and telecommunications in Vancouver, Los Angeles and across Canada, and as a contestant on CBC-TV Dragons Den.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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