YEREVAN, January 13. /ARKA/. Russia never reduced the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict only to the return of seven regions to Azerbaijan, ignoring the question of its status, the Russian co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group Igor Popov said in retaliation to an article by Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan “The Origins of the 44-Day War.”
Pashinyan wrote in the article that the well-known Russian proposals first appeared in 2013 taking final shape in 2015, calling for the return of 7 regions to Azerbaijan according to the 5 + 2 formula, the return of refugees and the deployment of Russian peacekeepers. He argued that the proposals did not in any way touch upon the issue of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh.
“To claim that Russia offered to return seven regions” for nothing ,” to forget about the status and calm down is not true,” Popov was quoted as saying by TASS news agency.
According to Popov, what Pashinyan takes as Russian proposals are most likely the phased settlement option, the latest version of which was submitted to the parties in June 2019.
“That plan, which largely coincided with the Kazan Document, is based on the basic principles of the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, including the return of five regions to Azerbaijan at the first stage, and two at the second, and – I will emphasize this – in conjunction with the definition of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh,” Popov explained.
The diplomat also pointed out that among other elements of the first stage reflecting the interests of Armenia, there was recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh’s rights to organize full-fledged life of its population, participation of its representatives in OSCE meetings, lifting the blockade, opening borders, and making the parties commit not to use force.
Commenting on the status of the territories, Popov drew attention to the fact that in recent years there had been proposals on the negotiating table providing for the determination of the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh “by holding, within the timeframe agreed by the parties, under the auspices of the UN or OSCE, a nationwide vote expressing the free expression of the will of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh and legally binding in accordance with the norms and principles of international law.’
“At the same time, according to the diplomat, the wording of the question or questions put to the vote were not to be limited by anything, and any result of the vote would be respected by the parties.
“By the way, it was also proposed to consider the width and status of the Lachin corridor only at the second stage, taking into account the return of the Kelbajar and Lachin regions to Azerbaijan,” he added.
Popov also pointed out that neither the Armenian nor the Azeri sides rejected these proposals, although it was not possible to reach full agreement, but negotiations continued on a regular basis until 2018, when Yerevan put forward new approaches.
On September 27, 2020, Azerbaijani armed forces, backed by Turkey and foreign mercenaries and terrorists, attacked Nagorno-Karabakh along the entire front line using rocket and artillery weapons, heavy armored vehicles, military aircraft and prohibited types of weapons such as cluster bombs and phosphorus weapons.
After 44 days of the war, on November 9, the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a statement on the cessation of all hostilities. According to the document, the parties stopped at where they were at that time. The town of Shushi, the districts of Agdam, Kelbajar and Lachin were handed over to Azerbaijan, with the exception of a 5-kilometer corridor connecting Karabakh with Armenia.
A Russian peacekeeping contingent was deployed along the contact line in Karabakh and along the Lachin corridor. Internally displaced persons and refugees are returning to Karabakh and adjacent regions, prisoners of war, hostages and other detained persons and bodies of the dead are being exchanged.