http://www.turan.az -The end of April and the beginning of May in the Karabakh issue was marked by increased attention of the Armenian and Azerbaijani public to the phased settlement of the conflict. The interest was provoked by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who said that the parties to the conflict are negotiating a phased solution. It provides for the phased withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan around the borders of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region (NKAR), the establishment of peaceful relations and the status of Nagorno-Karabakh (NK).
Lavrov made this statement on April 21 in Moscow at the roundtable of the Club for Supporting Public Diplomacy.
“There are Madrid Principles, as well as documents that were prepared by the Russian Federation in 2010-2011 – the so-called Kazan Document. There are projects that were distributed a year ago at a meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan with the participation of the co-chairs in Moscow. They are now being actively discussed; these documents suggest moving towards a settlement based on a phased approach, providing for the first stage to resolve the most pressing problems – the liberation of a number of areas around Nagorno-Karabakh and unblocking e transport, economic and other communications. I am convinced that when we come to the decision to sign these documents, this will be a crucial step in implementing UN Security Council resolutions,” he said.
In fact, Lavrov did not say anything new or anything seditious, which could cause an acute reaction of the parties to the conflict, and especially in Armenia. This theme used in Yerevan by the opponents of Prime Minister Pashinyan became another element of the internal political struggle. The reaction of the Azerbaijani side to the event was more restrained and its response was not so much to Lavrov as to interpretations of the Armenian side.
“Lavrov did not say anything new and revolutionary, but repeated only one of the positions of the Minsk principles, on the basis of which negotiations have been ongoing for many years. You can diverge,” the Azerbaijani historian and publicist Eldar Ginsley reacted to Lavrov’s speech.
Eventually, Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan was forced to calm his passions in the parliamentary commission on foreign relations of Armenia, where on May 4 he said that it was important to formulate a plan where the obligations of the parties would be balanced. “The decision, in which one of the parties weakens its positions, and the other retains them, is impossible.”
Earlier, the Foreign Ministries of the two countries stated their main non-matching positions. Armenia does not see NK within Azerbaijan, and the latter is outside its territory.
The last time the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs on Nagorno-Karabakh unveiled their vision of a phased plan on March 1, 2019, on the eve of the meeting between President Aliyev and Prime Minister Pashinyan on March 29 in Vienna. In fact, it was a platform to continue further negotiations.
This is the essence of the position of the co-chairs: “Referring to some recent controversial public statements on the essence of the Minsk Group process, the co-chairs confirm that a fair and lasting settlement should be based on the principles of the Helsinki Final Act, such as:
- non-use of threat or force;
- territorial integrity;
- equal rights and self-determination of peoples.
It should also include additional elements proposed by the presidents of a-co-chairs in 2009-2012:
1) the return of the territories around Nagorno-Karabakh to the control of Azerbaijan; 2) the temporary status of Nagorno-Karabakh, which guarantees security and self-government;
3) the corridor connecting Armenia with Nagorno-Karabakh;
4) the future determination of the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh through a legally binding expression of will;
5) the right of all internally displaced persons and refugees to return to their former places of residence;
6) international security guarantees, which will include a peacekeeping operation.
The co-chairs emphasize their point of view that these principles and elements should be the basis of any just and lasting settlement of the conflict and should be considered as a whole. Any attempt to put some principles or elements over others will make it impossible to reach a balanced solution. ”
On the 20th anniversary of the ceasefire between Azerbaijan and Armenia on May 7, 2014, the American co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, James Warlick, released updated 6-point proposals for a phased settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, prepared with the participation of Russian and French colleagues. The new initiative made some corrections to the “updated Madrid principles” and brought together possible compromises between the parties. A positive compromise can be considered that the future status of Nagorno-Karabakh will have to be resolved through a willpower agreed between Azerbaijan and Armenia, which makes it possible to have a balanced approach to the problem not only in the future, but also throughout the process of restoring confidence.
The co-chairing countries believe that a way out of the stalemate is possible based on further softening the positions of the conflicting parties and their readiness for new compromises. In fact, it is actually about mitigating and compromising a rethinking of the fundamental principles themselves (the right of nations to self-determination and the territorial integrity of the state), in order to ensure their real harmonization. That is, Armenia is urged to limit the principle of the nation’s right to self-determination to certain, if only formal, frameworks of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is imposed the inevitability of a noticeable restriction of sovereignty in the “self-determined zone”, but with the formal preservation of the territorial integrity of the state and subject to the phased liberation of the regions occupied by Armenia.
Since then, the negotiation process has revolved around these proposals for a phased settlement package. There is nothing new in the approaches of the parties. The positions are the same. Long-lasting negotiations are aimed at how to combine two mutually exclusive principles that impede the settlement of the 30-year conflict: the right of nations to self-determination and territorial integrity.
Another thing is that the negotiation process throughout its course more than once became a bargaining chip in the domestic and foreign political struggle. Insinuations and speculations about a phased settlement raised a storm in the “Karabakh glass” more than once. For example, the statement by
On June 22, 2016, the Head of the Department for International Affairs of the Office of the President of Azerbaijan Novruz Mammadov stated that on June 20 during a meeting in St. Petersburg, the presidents of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia reached an agreement on a phased settlement of the Karabakh conflict. The statement was perceived as sensational news. Especially that part of the statement of Novruzov, that first territories, and then status. In response, the Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandyan stated that Azerbaijan first recognized the right of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh to self-determination and its realization, and then the territory.
It should be noted that in the late 90s, the parties were very close to the settlement of the Karabakh knot. After the OSCE Lisbon Summit on December 2-3, 1996, official Baku announced the imminent start of a phased settlement process. On September 26, 1997, President Levon Ter-Petrosyan also spoke out openly in support of a phased approach, which led to a “palace coup”, not without the participation of external forces, and his resignation.
It cannot be ruled out that the story may repeat itself in a different situation and with other characters. The storm in the “glass of Karabakh” can serve as a warning against this.