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The conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region dealt with by the OSCE Minsk Conference

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Appendix I

Maps of the conflict area used by the United Nations

Appendix II

Programmes of visits in preparation of the report

Appendix III

Resolutions of the United Nations Security Council

Appendix IV

Background paper prepared by the Directorate General of Political Affairs for the seminar “Youth and conflict Resolution” (Strasbourg, 31 March – 2 April 2003)

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III. Explanatory memorandum by the Rapporteur


1. Until 31 August 2004, Mr Terry Davis was rapporteur on this subject. On 1 September, Mr Davis took up his duties as Secretary General of the Council of Europe and left the Parliamentary Assembly. After several meetings with the parties concerned and several visits to the region, he had submitted a draft report to the Committee before that date, which was discussed at the meeting of the Political Affairs Committee in Paris on 14 September 2004. On 14 September 2004, I was appointed to succeed Mr Davis as rapporteur. This document contains the draft report together with my changes.

2. The title of this report is the “conflict dealt with by the OSCE Minsk Conference” and concerns the armed conflict between Armenians and Azerbaijanis over the Nagorno-Karabakh[1] region and its surrounding districts which are under occupation by Armenian forces.

3. The conflict area comprises the territory of the former Autonomous Region of Nagorno-Karabakh as well as the total or partial territory of eight surrounding districts of Azerbaijan. The former Autonomous Region of Nagorno-Karabakh is not adjacent to the territory of Armenia and is separated from Armenia by other districts. (see Appendix I – map used by the United Nations).

4. For most of the past 15 years, the attention of European states has been focused on conflicts in other regions, and the conflicts in the South Caucasus have not received enough attention and understanding. During the preparation of this report, this situation has changed. Several governments outside the region have launched programmes which can be described as confidence building measures. However, some people in the region have expressed their concern that these efforts need to be coordinated by an international organisation such as the Council of Europe.

5. The conflict concerning the Nagorno-Karabakh region is really a conflict between two principles: territorial integrity and self-determination. On the one hand, the borders of Azerbaijan were internationally recognised at the time of the country being recognised as independent state in 1991. The territory of Azerbaijan included the Nagorno-Karabakh region. On the other hand, the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh (the majority even before “ethnic cleansing” in 1992-1994) claim the right of self-determination. They are supported by Armenia.

6. According to the information given to me, Armenians from Armenia had participated in the armed fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh region besides local Armenians from within Azerbaijan. Today, Armenia has soldiers stationed in the Nagorno-Karabakh region and the surrounding districts, people in the region have passports of Armenia, and the Armenian government transfers large budgetary resources to this area.

7. The conflict is long-standing and rooted in history. It became an armed conflict in 1992, and the fighting between Armenians and Azerbaijanis did not stop until 1994.

8. During the conflict and preceding events, hundreds of thousands of people were displaced. More than a decade has passed, and they have not been able to return to their homes. These people often live under miserable conditions. Beyond this pressing humanitarian need, there is also the latent danger of a new outbreak of armed hostilities. This report, the draft Resolution and draft Recommendation are intended to raise awareness of the conflict and assist the efforts for its peaceful settlement.

9. The OSCE[2] started dealing with this conflict in 1992 and decided to hold a conference in Minsk on the terms of the final settlement of the conflict. In May 1994, it succeeded in obtaining a cease-fire agreement which stopped the war. Although the subsequent negotiations have not yet succeeded in obtaining a settlement, I pay tribute to the Co-Chairs[3] of the OSCE Minsk Group for their tireless efforts. This Rapporteur has great respect for their work.

10. In preparation of this report, the Rapporteur has visited Armenia and Azerbaijan twice and met the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group and the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office on four separate occasions. Thanks are due to all the authorities involved in these visits and meetings for their good will and co-operation. The programmes of these visits are attached (Appendix II).

Historical background

11. To understand this conflict, it is helpful to look briefly at the history of the area and the situation before the fighting broke out. In fact, history is an important factor. It has frequently been painful for both Armenians and Azerbaijanis, and historic events have been widely used in order to justify ethnic hatred, violence and claims over territories in this region. However, this report does not attempt to report exhaustively on the history. It is rather intended to draw attention to a few key facts.

12. From 1987 onwards, ethnic violence increased and coincided with bilateral tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan within the USSR. With the dissolution of the USSR, the hostilities developed into large-scale military actions, which resulted in the death of thousands and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. Following these events, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe made a Declaration on 11 March 1992 condemning the violence and attacks directed against the civilian population. After Armenia and Azerbaijan had become participating states in the OSCE in 1992, the OSCE began to deal with this conflict.

13. In the meantime, ethnic Armenians had established a “government” in the Nagorno-Karabkah region with its “capital” in Stepanakert (or Khankendi in Azerbaijani). This “government” is not recognised by any of the Council of Europe member states, nor by the OSCE, European Union and the United Nations. Armenia maintains close political, economic and military relations with them, but does not recognise the area as an independent state and hence has not established diplomatic relations with this “government”.

14. A more detailed explanation of the background and history of this region is reproduced in a separate Appendix (Appendix IV in English only) to this document. This Appendix consists of a background paper which was prepared by the Directorate General of Political Affairs of the Council of Europe and was used for a Council of Europe seminar on “Youth and Conflict Resolution” organised in Strasbourg in April 2003. Also attached for information is the written response by the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe.

The efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group

15. Unfortunately, but understandably, the OSCE Minsk process has been confidential and limited to the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Therefore, very little information is available to the public in both countries. However, some positions discussed at the bilateral meetings under the OSCE Minsk Group have become the subject of rumour and speculation. It is thus widely believed that the negotiations of the two governments were close to an agreement following the initiatives by the Co-Chairs in 1997, 1998 and 2001, with meetings of the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Paris and Key West (USA). The proposed settlements differed from each other, but covered the status of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, the withdrawal of military forces and subsequent security guarantees, as well as the return of refugees and displaced persons.

16. The year 2003 saw virtually no progress in the bilateral negotiations under the Minsk Group as a result of parliamentary and presidential elections in both Armenia and Azerbaijan ending with the presidential election in Azerbaijan in October 2003.

17. At the time of the Rapporteur’s visit to the region in February 2004, the situation could only be described as stalemate. A meeting between President Kocharyan and President Aliyev in November 2003 had not even resulted in a date to meet again. However, there has been a lot of activity since February with another meeting of the Presidents in Warsaw on 28 April 2004 and several meetings of the Foreign Ministers in Bratislava on 18/19 March, Prague on 16 April, Strasbourg on 12/13 May, Prague on 21 June and Istanbul on 28/29 June 2004. At separate meetings with the Foreign Ministers and the Co-Chairs of the Minsk Group in Strasbourg on 13 May, the Rapporteur had the impression that, although an agreement could not be described as imminent, the negotiations had gained a new momentum.

18. The current population of the Nagrono-Karabakh region is not included in the negotiation process under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk process. The President of Armenia, President Kocharyan, was the first “president” of the self-declared but internationally not recognised “Nagorno-Karabakh Republic” and thus may have the confidence of the ethnic Armenian population in that region. However, his successor and the other representatives of the political forces in the region regard themselves as the representatives of the people there and thus want to be involved in any settlement agreement. During the Rapporteur’s visits to Baku, it became clear that the Azerbaijani authorities were only willing to include representatives of the political forces in the Nagorno-Karabakh region if they renounced their desire for secession. The exclusion of these political forces is a weakness of the current process, because in the end, a solution cannot be imposed on them against their will.

Other efforts to settle the conflict

19. During the armed conflict, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolutions 822 (1993), 853 (1993), 874 (1993) and 884 (1993) (see Appendix III). These Resolutions called upon Armenia and Azerbaijan to restore peace, protect civilians and liberate the territories occupied in the course of the conflict. The latter applied in particular to Armenia. Regrettably, major parts of these Resolutions have not yet been implemented.

20. Some people argue that the United Nations should become more active in dealing with this issue because it damages the authority of the Security Council for its Resolutions to be ignored. However, the Security Council has resisted all suggestions of becoming more involved and has simply supported the mediation activity of the OSCE.

International legal dispute

21. There is another UN route which could be used by the parties to the conflict if the negotiations sponsored by the Minsk Group do not result in an agreed settlement. Article 36 of the United Nations Charter clearly states that legal disputes should, as a general rule, be referred by the parties to the International Court of Justice. As member states of the United Nations, Armenia and Azerbaijan are ipso facto parties to the Statute of the International Court of Justice under Article 9, paragraph 1 of the UN Charter. Both states could, therefore, take their case to the International Court of Justice as another way of achieving a peaceful settlement of a conflict.

22. There is another option. As has already been noted, the conflict resulted in the expulsion of ethnic Azerbaijanis from the occupied territories and the expulsion of ethnic Armenians from Azerbaijan and ethnic Azerbaijanis from Armenia, a large number of refugees and internally displaced persons are living far away from their homes. These people have the right to enjoy their property or receive compensation for the deprivation of this right under Article 1 of the first Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights. In the case of Loizidou v Turkey, the European Court of Human Rights awarded compensation to an applicant who was judged to have been unlawfully displaced from her home in the course of an armed conflict. Parallels with the persons displaced from the Nagorno-Karabakh region and the surrounding territories are obvious.

Essential conditions for a sustainable settlement

23. A sustainable settlement of the conflict must, of course, go beyond a legal settlement. It must be emphasised that this dispute has a second dimension: a conflict between legality and reality. The majority population of the Nagorno-Karabakh region is ethnic Armenian, and this was the case before the conflict. The Azerbaijani population of this region was a minority, and a future Azerbaijani population would probably remain a minority. In addition, there is wide-spread, deeply rooted and strongly propagated and developed distrust between Armenians and Azerbaijanis. This distrust cannot be overcome by a court judgment or legal settlement alone.

24. Any settlement would also face the democratic dilemma, which requires the political leadership of both countries to respond to public opinion. The current public opinions in both countries may not yet be ripe for a settlement based on compromise.

25. The often terrible humanitarian conditions of the refugees and displaced persons must also be addressed. These people have a right to return to their homes, but many people do not want to return (especially ethnic Azerbaijanis formerly living in Armenia and ethnic Armenians formerly living in Azerbaijan). The former population of Nagorno-Karabakh and the adjacent districts is more likely to want to return because these areas had only been populated by ethnic Azerbaijanis and are nearly depopulated at present. Those refugees who do not want to go back need the means to integrate into the communities in which they have been living since their flight. Where displaced persons want to go back, large efforts are needed for the reconstruction of their destroyed homes. The reconstruction of houses will have to go hand in hand with economic reconstruction and development. In this respect, the international community will be called upon to provide support.

26. If the eventual settlement of this dispute does not envisage immediate secession of Nagorno-Karabakh form Azerbaijan, everyone accepts that Nagorno-Karabkh must have a high level of autonomy. In this connection, the Rapporteur draws attention to the Assembly’s Resolution 1334 (2003) and Recommendation 1609 (2003) on positive experiences of autonomous regions as a source of inspiration. In a detailed report on this subject, Mr Andreas Gross comes to the conclusion that regional autonomy with a high degree of self-government may be a better solution than secession and independence.

27. The conflict has exacerbated a widespread and deeply rooted ethnic hatred and even fear. The historic feelings of distrust and fear have been made worse by the personal experiences of many people on all sides during the armed conflict and the preceding events. For Armenians and Azerbaijanis to live peacefully together, or at least side by side, requires a certain degree of reconciliation. The Council of Europe has developed confidence building programmes and guidelines for action against racism, intolerance and ethnic hatred through its European Commission against Racism and Intolerance as well as in the media and education sectors. Successful events have been launched by the Council of Europe against hate language in the media in other regions. Such action in this region is desperately needed

28. A peaceful cohabitation of both ethnic groups will also require a high presence of security and police forces at the initial stage. In the Rapporteur’s opinion, it will require an international presence which takes into account the experience of such efforts in other parts of Europe.

Possible action by the Council of Europe and its member states

29. For the Assembly, the key question will be how the Council of Europe and its member states can contribute to the settlement of the conflict and its humanitarian consequences.

30. The Council of Europe has great experience in promoting and pursuing confidence building measures. The confidence of everyone living in Armenia and Azerbaijan is essential for positive political progress in the future. Confidence-building measures should therefore become a priority for the Council of Europe.

31. In its country-by-country analysis, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) is responsible for dealing with Armenia and Azerbaijan. In addition, various sectors of the Council of Europe have developed guidelines and action programmes for more tolerance and mutual understanding. The work of ECRI and the assistance and co-operation programmes of the Council of Europe should be coordinated and reinforced.

32. The Council of Europe is not a humanitarian aid organisation. However, the Council of Europe Development Bank can give loans for projects required for the peaceful settlement of the conflict as well as Armenia and Azerbaijan. In addition, member states of the Council of Europe could coordinate their bilateral support through the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

Link to the Appendix I to IV (in PDF format)
Reporting Committee: Political Affairs Committee.
Reference to Committee: Doc. 9239, Reference 2659 of 8 November 2001 and Doc. 9257, Reference 2674 of 8 November 2004
Draft Resolution and draft Recommendation unanimously adopted by the Committee on 17 November 2004
Members of the Committee : MM. Roman Jakic (Chairman), Mikhail Margelov (Vice-Chairman), Michael Spindelegger, (Vice-Chairman), Abdülkadir Ates (Vice-Chairman), Mrs Manuela Aguiar, MM. Giuseppe Arzilli, David Atkinson, Claudio Azzolini, Miroslav Beneš, Radu-Mircea Berceanu, Gerardo Bianco (alternate: Mrs Tana de Zulueta), Haakon Blankenborg, Giorgi Bokeria, Luc Van den Brande, Mrs Beáta Brestenská, MM. Jonas Cekuolis, Enrique Curiel Alonso, Noel Davern, Michel Dreyfus-Schmidt, Mrs Ina Druviete, Mr Adri Duivesteijn, Mrs Josette Durrieu, MM. Mikko Elo, Charles Goerens, Daniel Goulet, Andreas Gross, Klaus-Jürgen Hedrich, Jean-Pol Henry, Joachim Hörster, Tadeusz Iwinski, Elmir Jahic, Ljubiša Jovaševic, Lord Judd, Ivan Kalezic, Oleksandr Karpov, Petro Koçi, Konstantin Kosachev, Yuriy Kostenko, Göran Lindblad, René van der Linden, Tony Lloyd, Younal Loutfi, Göran Magnusson, Dick Marty (alternate: Maximilian Reimann), Frano Matušic, José Medeiros Ferreira, Evagelos Meimarakis (alternate: Mrs Elsa Papadimitriou), Murat Mercan, Jean-Claude Mignon, Marko Mihkelson, Mrs Natalia Narochnitskaya (alternate: Victor Kolesnikov), Mrs Miroslava Nemcová, MM. Zsolt Németh, Boris Oliynyk, Theordoros Pangalos, Mrs Eleonora Petrova-Mitevska, Mrs Sólveig Pétursdóttir, Mrs Clara Pintat Rossell, MM. Christos Pourgourides, Gordon Prentice, Dumitru Prijmireanu, Ghiorghi Prisacaru, Gabino Puche, Lluis Maria de Puig, Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando (alternate: Leo Brincat), Umberto Ranieri, Michael Roth, Jan Rzymelka, Adrian Severin, Mrs Hanne Severinsen, MM. Samad Seyidov, Leonid Slutsky, Zoltán Szabó, Mehmet Tekelioglu, Tigran Torosyan, Latzechar Toshev, Mrs Marianne Tritz, MM. Vagif Vakilov (alternate: Azim Mollazade), Andrzej Wielowieyski, Mrs Renate Wohlwend, Mrs Gisela Wurm, Mr Marco Zacchera.
Ex-officio: MM. Mátyás Eörsi, Mats Einarsson, Lord Russell-Johnston
N.B. : The names of the members who took part in the meeting are printed in bold
Head of the Secretariat : Mr Perin
Secretaries to the Committee: Mrs Nachilo, Mr Chevtchenko, Mr Dossow
[1] The word “nagorno” means mountainous in the Russian language.
[2] At the time, the OSCE was known as the CSCE (Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe). It changed its name to OSCE at its Budapest Summit in 1994.
[3] The current Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group are France, the Russian Federation and the United States of America.

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