5:54 pm - Wednesday August 27, 2014

Karabakh Knot: Identifying Myths and Clarifying Realities

Since the ceasefire in May 1994, Armenia and Azerbaijan have been deadlocked in the so-called frozen conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh. Continuous meetings of the heads of state, ministers of foreign affairs, religious leaders and intellectuals have brought no substantial progress in the resolution of what is considered to be one of the bloodiest conflicts in the post-Soviet space.

As highlighted by the Armenian commentator in his op-ed “Karabakh Knot: Myths and Realities” in Foreign Policy (http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2012/03/10/karabakh-knot-myths-and-realities/), 2011 was indeed “another year of wasted opportunities.” Uncompromising stances from both sides makes it nearly impossible to come close to the long-awaited peace treaty. Although, the agreement on basic principles has not been reached, Azerbaijan, eager to settle the conflict soon, had even proposed to simultaneously start working on the final peace treaty in December 2011.[1] However, the Armenian side has so far been unwilling to contribute to the process of peace-building, ironically, ever since the peacemakers began to intervene to end the bloodshed in 1991.[2] It is worth noting that some of the most strategic locations in Karabakh were occupied by Armenian troops in the periods of mediated trilateral meetings planned to halt the hostilities, when the Azerbaijani side concentrated on peace talks and did not expect any offensives on the front lines.

The commentator Aram Avetisyan, who distinctively claims that there are three parties to the conflict (Azerbaijan, Armenia and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic), must get acquainted with the peacemaking formats used during peace negotiations, mediated both during the existence of the Soviet Union (Zheleznovodsk Accords, mediated by Russia and Kazakhstan [3]) and after its collapse (Tehran Agreement [4] and subsequent OSCE Minsk Group-sponsored talks). None of the state leaders or their representatives mediating any of the aforementioned peace agreements recognized Nagorno-Karabakh as a separate party to the conflict. Not then, not now. Russia, Kazakhstan and Iran have all mediated between Azerbaijan and Armenia only. Similarly, from the inception of the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group in March, 1992, the format of the negotiations was set up according to Baker Rules, named after the United States Secretary of State, James Baker.[5] Within the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Baker Rules recognized only two principal parties to the conflict—Armenia and Azerbaijan, and identified two interested parties—the Azerbaijani and Armenian communities of Nagorno-Karabakh. This format has been retained to this day. During their periodic visits, OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs meet with Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders, followed by meetings with the head of the Armenian community of Nagorno-Karabakh, who depicts himself as “President of NKR” in Khankendi (Stepanakert), and the head of Azerbaijani community of Nagorno-Karabakh, currently in exile, in Baku. Therefore, there are no irregularities or inconsistencies in the format of peace negotiations and Azerbaijan is not to be accused of “rejecting” any contacts with Nagorno-Karabakh. On a separate note, reconciliation measures have always been welcomed by Azerbaijan, as many intellectuals and public diplomats have been in contact with their Armenian counterparts in Armenia and occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, and have hosted them in Baku many times.

Azerbaijan does not mislead the international community with any international documents as the commentator claims. Futile arguments to misinterpret the nature of official documents to present the conflicting sides as “Azerbaijan and NKR” will only add to the existing set of misrepresentations of facts by the Armenian side. One undeniable fact is that Armenia, in a quest for the outright annexation of Azerbaijani territory, had demanded transfer of Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia through the end of September 1991. Understanding the repercussions of demands within international law, the Armenian leadership soon denounced the claims to Nagorno-Karabakh and switched to the “self-determination” principle to gain sympathy and some legitimacy in the eyes of the international community.[6]

Baku rightfully refers to U.N. Security Council Resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884 in an effort to underline the stance of the international community vis-à-vis Armenia and its aggression against Azerbaijan. To get clarification and understand what the documents stipulate, one must read through the texts of the resolutions in full, while also paying attention to the timing of when these documents were adopted. Resolution 822 was adopted on April 30, 1993 in relation and response to the occupation of the Kelbajar district of the Republic of Azerbaijan by the Armenian forces attacking from the eastern occupied district of Agdere and by the Armenian armed forces aided by the 127th division of the Russian army from the west (across the Armenian border) on April 2, 1993.[7],[8] The resolution clearly reaffirms the “respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity” and “the inviolability of international borders and the inadmissibility of the use of force for the acquisition of territory,” calling for the withdrawal of occupying forces from Kelbajar District and the other areas of Azerbaijan.[9]

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