2011 became another year of wasted opportunities, and failure to finding a fair and legitimate settlement to the Karabakh conflict. The unresolved conflict continues to undermine the security and stability in the whole South Caucasus region and beyond. Unfortunately, various obstacles still impede a tangible progress.

After theSoviet Union collapsed in 1991, the Karabakh conflict has escalated into one of the most complicated international disputes.Azerbaijan, Nagorno Karabakh, andArmenia—the co-signers of the 1994 ceasefire—were actively involved in the negotiation process to find a workable solution to this problem. However, since 1998, Azerbaijan has been rejecting any further contacts with Nagorno Karabakh. Baku’s policy hasn’t changed ever since, and continues to create additional, artificial obstacles in the settlement process. Azerbaijan’s efforts are clear. They are aimed at portraying the conflict as a territorial dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Misinterpretation of international documents, particularly the U.N. Security Council resolutions, is another measure Baku undertakes to mislead the international community. Azerbaijan often refers to four UN resolutions adopted in April-November 1993 at the height of armed hostilities to claim that Armenia “has occupied Azerbaijan’s territory”. In reality, none of those U.N. Security Council documents has ever mentioned Armenia as “aggressor” or “occupier”.[1]  For instance, U.N. Security Council Resolution 822, adopted in 1993, stated that armed hostilities were taking place between Azerbaijan and “local Armenian forces” in Nagorno Karabakh, which distinguished Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh as immediate parties to the conflict.[2]

Prior to the obligation to withdraw the forces, the resolutions of the Security Council demanded “immediate cessation of hostility and hostile acts with a view to establishing a durable cease-fire”.[3] This principal provision, along with a few others, was consistently violated by Azerbaijan due to its general aggressive stance, including permanent infringements of the cease fire agreement.[4] Azerbaijan, which has repeatedly undermined the international peacekeeping efforts, and pursued aggressive military policy towards Artsakh, remains responsible for the resolutions’ non-implementation. Another example is U.N. Security Council Resolution 874, adopted later in 1993, which called for “reciprocal and urgent steps”, such as “withdrawal of forces and removal of blockade basing on the CSCE Minsk Group’s “Adjusted timetable”.[5] Unlike the Armenian sides, Baku has rejected all the proposals and timetables, and continues its blockade of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh up until now.

Moreover, Armenia continues fulfilling its international obligation—to facilitate what the resolution called “acceptance by this party (Nagorno Karabakh) of the proposals of the Minsk Group of the CSCE (antecedent of the OSCE)”.[6] Accusations that the Armenian sides failed to implement the UNSC resolutions are groundless. Misleading the international community is ‘typical’ of Baku’s efforts to distort the essence of the Karabakh conflict.

Unlike conflicts around South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Kosovo, Transdniestria or elsewhere, the Karabakh conflict remains the only dispute that lacks direct contacts between the immediate internationally-recognized conflicting sides—Azerbaijan and Artsakh. This fact raises additional doubts in sincerity of Azeri high ranking officials when they persuade the international community of the country’s willingness to have the conflict settled. It is worth mentioning that, in at least ten cases, Baku and Stepanakert were able to reach mutual agreements through direct contacts, even without Yerevan’s participation.[7]

Maintaining contacts between the conflicting sides is the minimal and  crucial requirement for any effective settlement process. Azerbaijan’s refusal to resume negotiations with Nagorno-Karabakh contradicts not only the stance of the international mediators and community, but also contravenes to the country’s own commitments.

Artsakh’s status of the conflicting side has been documented in various international records, particularly in the OSCE documents, and other agreements co-signed by Azerbaijan. Starting from 1993, after realizing the impossibility of conquering Artsakh by force, then President of Azerbaijan, later claimed as the “father of nation”, Heydar Aliyev (father of the incumbent Azeri leader Ilham), intensified contacts with the NKR authorities, and delegated several officials to negotiate an armistice. In May of 1994, a trilateral cease-fire agreement was signed between Azerbaijan, Nagorno Karabakh, and Armenia, which remains in force until now.[8] The OSCE Minsk group—the main vehicle for the negotiations, has also recognized this agreement by periodically calling on the conflicting parties to “cooperate to implement and observe fully the 1994 ceasefire”.[9]

Moreover, on July 27, 1994, the defense ministers of Armeniaand Azerbaijan, and the commander of the NKR Defense Army have co-signed another cease-fire agreement to provide legitimacy to the accord worked out earlier in May.[10] In addition, the final document of the 1994 OSCE Summit in Budapest, Hungary, refers to all the parties of the conflict basing on the abovementioned July 27, 1994, agreement.[11]

In 1995, the OSCE has re-confirmed its decisions regarding “the status of the parties, i.e. the participation of the two State parties to the conflict, and of the other conflicting party (Nagorno-Karabakh) in the whole negotiation process, including in the Minsk Conference”,[12] which reserved a seat for Artsakh representatives at the Minsk process negotiating table. Based on those documents, the OSCE Minsk Group continues mediation efforts between Yerevan, Baku, and Stepanakert by regular visits to all the three capitals, and meetings with officials.

It is clear that, by rejecting direct negotiations with Artsakh, Azerbaijan artificially postpones the final settlement of the conflict. Unlike Nagorno Karabakh, which has repeatedly reiterated its readiness to resume direct negotiations with Azerbaijan,[13] Baku still prefers to reject the reality, and continues a policy that embezzles international resources, both political and financial.

Notes

 

[1] See UN Security resolutions 822,853, 874 and 884

[2] UN Security Council, April 30, 1993, Resolution 822: See: http://xocali.net/EN/Frame/resolutions-text.html

[3] Ibid

[4] “Ambassador Vladimir Kazimirov’s letter to Mr. David Atkinson, a member of the Council of Europe”,

Moscow, December 3, 2004: http://vn.kazimirov.ru/k101eng.htm

[5] UN Security Council, October 14, 1993, Resolution 874: See  http://xocali.net/EN/Frame/resolutions-text.html

[6] UN Security Council, July 29, 1993, Resolution 853: See http://xocali.net/EN/Frame/resolutions-text.html#2

[7] Vladimir Kazimirov: “Looking for a Way Out of the Karabakh Impasse” November 9, 2004, see: http://eng.globalaffairs.ru/number/n_3881

[9] OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs Statement, June 9, 2011, See: http://www.osce.org/mg/78589