Gayane Ayvazyan reacts to the cross-statements of Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov and Armenia’s Minister Mnatsakanyan in a recent diplomatic debate around settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh issue. At a teleconference organized by the Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Club on April 21, Lavrov (Minsk Group co-Chairman) mentioned that negotiations are carried over projects, such as the so-called “Madrid Principles” and “Kazan Principles,” implicating step-by-step approaches, in other words, first liberation of adjacent regions of NK, clearing transportation blockade etc. Armenia’s Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan fired back, that no such a document is currently on the negotiations table as lack of security guarantees for the people of NK would not allow pursuing such negotiations. MoF spokesperson Anna Naghdalyan, went further to clarify that since 2018, Armenia is no longer negotiating step-by-step scenarios and that the peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict is possible only through mutual concessions with a clear definition of status and security measures. Statements were made by NK Foreign Minister Masis Mayilyan as well. This was all before a tele-meeting between Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan and the OSCE Minsk Group to be held on the same day. These meetings are normally held behind closed doors.
Below is Gayane Ayvazyan’s assessment of the true value of this publicized “discord.”
The idol of NK, no matter how unshattered it remains in the Armenian circles, no matter how it is coated with a fog of indisputability, is not, nonetheless, a needle to be lost and forgotten in a hay bundle. The passing decades are not stalemating the conflict, despite public expectations; to the contrary, these decades are being brought back into the public agenda fueling sentiments and worries.
One recent attempt to do it was the statement by Lavrov at a teleconference with Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Support Fund’s club members. It was immediately followed by Armenia’s Foreign Minister Zorhab Mnatsakanyan’s response, statements by former regime members – Republican party and ARF. Many people were also active in the social media and those considered experts. But what was so extraordinary in Lavrov’s words? What was it that was unknown in Armenia and turned to be a revelation by Lavrov?
Lavrov said that the negotiations are held around the core principles of the Helsinki final act based on a step-by-step approach. The principles imply a mutual concession, based on non-use of violence, territorial integrity and equal rights, and people’s right to self-determination. These principles imply return of the regions around Nagorno Karabakh to Azerbaijan, temporary status for NK that ensures guarantees of security and self-governance, a corridor connecting Armenia and Karabakh, future resolution of the final legal status of NK through a legally binding form of expression, such as a referendum, expressed by all persons in NK, including those who are considered internally displaced and refugees, right to return to former settlements, and international security safeguards, implying peacekeeping forces.
So, a document under negotiations is a multilayered comprehensive program which cannot be carried out by just a clap of hands and immediately. It envisions a temporary status of NK (without the surrounding regions) leaving the issue of the final legal status to the future and to the political will of people living in NK before 1989.
This is exactly the proposal that was made yet in November 1993 in Vienna during the OSCE summit preparations. These were calling for ceasefire, retreat of the armed forces from occupied territories, return of the refugees and internally displaced people, cessation of blockade and opening up the Minsk summit for negotiating over the status of NK.
The Lisbon Summit of December 1996 saw a retreat from these propositions. Member states made a statement to recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and grant autonomy of NK within its territories. These principles were approved by all members of the Minks Group, but one. The president of Armenia, used his power of veto and voted against this statement.
The Armenian delegation made a statement that it will remain true to the mandate of the Minsk Group and the decision of the OSCE Ministerial Council by which the NK status needs to be decided during a Minsk group summit after a political agreement has been reached.
At the end of 1998, the “common state deal” was promoted, which implied a common state of NK and Azerbaijan within Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territory. As two equal units, Azerbaijan and Karabakh would then figure out their relations and the NK status. The Armenian side not only accepted this proposal, but also actively promoted it. The proposal, however, was rejected by Azerbaijan.
The negotiations of Key West in 2001, according to leaked information, were around the following settlement option: the autonomous region of NK was transferred to Armenia and its status was going to be determined within Armenia. Azerbaijan is granted a free access to Nakhichevan through Meghri region of Armenia. In return, Azerbaijan recognizes the Lachin corridor as part of Armenia. Foreign Minister of that time, Vartan Oskanian, describes this document as a regrettably “untapped opportunity”, which was suddenly and to the surprise of the Armenian side, rejected by Azebraijan’s president Heydar Aliyev.
In 2007, a return to the beginning of the negotiations was seen in the form of the “Madrid Principles”, which was to find a settlement within the Helsinki Act of OSCE which stipulated the respective international laws and principles.
It is evident, that the issue of NK’s final legal status was not settled by any of the negotiated principles, with the exception of “Paris Principles” that were around the Key West discussions of annexing Karabakh to Armenia in return for giving away Meghri.
Therefore, this whole commotion around the dichotomy of whether settlement should be “step-by-step” or “in a package” is only a conspiracy built by the Armenian politics rather than real-politics. It is well known, that at the beginning of 1998, President of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrossyan, a supporter of the step-by-step resolution of the conflict, was forced to resign over the internal crisis related to the conflict. His opposition, headed by Robert Kocharyan, were blaming him for a defeated position, however after having taken power, they did not bring independence to NK, moreover, they started negotiating over more problematic documents, such as “the common state deal” and the “Key West deal.” These, by the way, can at any moment return and be placed on the table of negotiations. Therefore, formulating the alternative as a “package settlement” is in fact a way to cover up failure.
Moreover, the so-called “package settlement” that would grant NK a status was historically discussed within the territory of Azerbaijan. It was based on two accords developed by the OSCE co-chairmen in 1997. The first accord was dedicated to terminating the armed conflict and retreat of armed forces in two phases, then creation of a buffer zone, return of displaced people in the buffer zone and certain security safeguards. Lachin corridor was planned to be leased to OSCE on the condition that only NK authorities were going to use it. The second accord was aimed at determining the NK status within the territory of Azerbaijan granted broad autonomy, including having its own constitution. The package did not satisfy either party and therefore, in December 1997, the step-by-step solution was offered with once again an unclear future determination of the status of NK enclave.
You can notice, that up until today, two settlement options of NK status have been offered: return to the territory of Azerbaijan with an autonomy or an uncertain status (Lisbon document of 1996, then of 1997, both rejected), and second, temporary status of NK leaving the issue of status settlement to the future (1993 by OSCE nine members, 1997 December accepted by Armenia, rejected by Karabakh, and Madrid Principles of 2007, accepted).
Armenian diplomacy is choosing between these two options, it does not have any other option, if not the “Keywest” bargain over the territory of Armenia.
The bellicose statements by current Armenian authorities and the former ones are not addressed at Lavrov, they’re for the internal audience. The NK conflict is for long an elite thing, it is not graspable to wide circles of the society, neither is it accessible.
For years, care is taken to conceal the nature of the conflict from the public, however the propaganda that keeps the people lethargic, is constant. Human tragedies do not sober up the military and economic elites.
The Armenian society needs to reject believing in the sugar-coated lies around expansionist promises around Karabakh.
The price to sustain this conflict is the lives of the citizens of Armenia, they deserve to know the reality as it is.
It is exactly this approach that will be revolutionary in the process. Principles that don’t exist, false dreams, fake patriotic statements and bellicosity do no good to the society that is yet to face the settlement decision one day.
The Velvet Revolution of 2018 will remain a beautiful emotional outburst and will turn into a memory if the false idolization of NK built by the deep state is not broken and uprooted. Building a strong emotional background on the issue of Karabakh is a wonderful way of keeping the tradition of gamble viable and endlessly aborting the perspective of creating a rational political environment.