Historical roots of the conflict.
From the middle of the XVIII century Azerbaijan went through the period of feudal division and was made up of independent khanates. Upper Karabakh inhabited mainly by Azerbaijanis formed a part of the Azerbaijani Karabakh khanate that included the territories between the Kura and the Araz.
When owing to their strategic and geopolitical situation Azerbaijani khanates got involved into the stratagem of fight which was led by Russia, Iran and the Ottoman Empire for the spheres of influence some Azerbaijani entities were forced to conclude vassal agreements in order to defend their interests.
Thus, under the treaty of 1805 the independent Azerbaijani khanate of Karabagh was placed under Russian overlordship.
As a result of Russian-Iranian war of 1804-1813 and on the basis of the peace treaties of Gulistan and Turkmanchay, the Karabakh khanate together with Erivan and Nakhchevan khanates was included into the Russian Empire. It was exactly in that period when Armenians started to move to the region of Nagorny Karabakh in Azerbaijan which was inhabited mainly by the Azerbaijanis and the descendants of the ancient Albanians. This fact was proved by the famous Russian diplomat and playwright A. S. Griboyedov. Later, in 1836, after the second mass resettlement of Armenians in 1828-1829, the Russian authorities abolished Albanian Christian patriarchate and donated its property to the Armenian Church. After that when the western region of former Albania – the region of Karabakh lost its statehood and the church lost its independence, the local Albanian population was subjected to Gregorianization (Armenization).
After the proclamation of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic- the first democratic state in the muslim East on May 28, 1918, one of the first moves of its government was the cession of the city of Erivan (Yerevan) to the Republic of Armenia which though proclaimed its independence didn’t have its own land. In that period Azerbaijan’s foreign policy was oriented towards the development of friendly and good-neighbourly relations with Armenia. Unfortunately, nurturing annexing plans the Dashnak government of Armenia made claims for Nakhchevan, Zangezur and Karabakh which formed a part of the Azerbaijani state, though the Armenian minority of Karabakh took a decision at their Congress in 1919 to remain within the Republic of Azerbaijan. Armenia’s claims to this territory caused conflict and led to a murderous war with Azerbaijan in 1918-1920. Azerbaijan’s independence was violated after the invasion of the XI Red Army of Soviet Russia that proclaimed the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic on April 28, 1920. In 1922 the Azerbaijan SSR formed a part of the USSR, within which the Republic’s independence was of a formal character. In response to the territorial claims of the Armenian SSR at its session on July 5, 1921 the Caucasian bureau of the CC of the RCP (b) rendered a decision to leave Nagorny Karabakh within the Azerbaijan SSR, considering it primordial Azerbaijani territory. At the same time taking into account the interests of the local Armenian population the government of Azerbaijan was proposed to grant broad autonomy to Nagorny Karabakh.
On July 7, 1923 the Central Executive Committee of Azerbaijan issued a decree “On the formation of the autonomous region of Nagorny Karabakh”. Thus issuing this norm-setting act and taking into account the interests of its citizens of Armenian nationality the government of the Azerbaijan SSR formed an autonomy on the territory of Azerbaijan. At the same time, 300 thousand compact community of Azerbaijanis living in Armenia were refused to get even cultural autonomy both by the central government of the USSR and the government of the Armenian SSR. It infringed on their rights and finally resulted in their repeated deportations and dramatic forced eviction from the territory of Armenia in this century, including more than 200.000 people in 1988-1989.
CHRONOLOGY OF THE CONFLICT SINCE 1988.
The history of the second in the XX century Armenian-Azerbaijani armed conflict started in February 1988 when the session of the regional Soviet of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region (NKAR) of the Azerbaijan SSR took a illegal decision about the withdrawal from Azerbaijan and joining Armenia. The tragedy that overstepped the line of the local confrontation and transformed into one of the most prolonged and murderous conflicts in post-war Europe is not based on confessionalism or ethnic factor. Its roots lie in the expansionism and the policy of territorial aggression the aim of which is to extend the territory of one state by means of armed annexation and forcible seizure of a part of the territory of another sovereign state, member of the United Nations, OSCE and other international organizations.
Anticonstitutional actions of the separatist groups in the region of Nagorny Karabakh which were supported and monitored from outside and which contradicted the international law and the current soviet legislation were a prologue to the wide-spread armed aggression against Azerbaijan.
Starting with the unapproved meetings, strikes and actions of disobedience, the Republic of Armenia passed to the formation of unconstitutional power structures in the region of Nagorny Karabakh in Azerbaijan. Militarized units and a large amount of weapons and ammunition were sent to Azerbaijan and bridgehead for committing armed aggression against Azerbaijan was formed.
At the end of 1991 - the beginning of 1992 full scale military operations started in the zone of Armenian - Azerbaijani conflict. During the military operations in the region of Nagorny Karabakh Armenian military units used sophisticated weapons and in February 1992 they managed to capture the city of Khojali where they brutally killed about 800 civilians including old people, women and children and in May 1992 they occupied the region of Shusha. After that the military operations overstepped the limits of the region and spread inland of Azerbaijan and to the Armenian – Azerbaijani border, including the zone of Nakhchevan. During the period of war 7 more regions of Azerbaijan beside Nagorny Karabakh were occupied.
Thus, as a result of aggression against the Republic of Azerbaijan more than 17.000 sq. km of land have been occupied, that makes 20% of the whole territory of the country, more than 18.000 people have been killed, more than 50.000 have been wounded and have become invalids, more than 900 settlements, 100 thousand buildings, more than 1 thousand enterprises, more than 600 schools and educational establishments, 250 medical institutions have been robbed and ruined. For the country with the population of 7,5 mln people the number of displaced persons became disastrous – more than 800.000 people and almost 200.000 refugees from Armenia.
Following the ethnic purges Azerbaijan faced a grave humanitarian situation.
A great number of refugees and displaced persons were placed in tent camps, schools and hostels.
In spite of great relief efforts they are menaced by colds and epidemics because of the low level of living conditions. The presence of children and old-aged people exacerbate the problem.
Chronology of negotiations.
International mediation on the settlement of the conflict started in 1992 in the framework of the so-called OSCE Minsk Group process which is the only forum on the formation of the comprehensive model for the settlement of Armenian- Azerbaijani conflict.
The OSCE Minsk Group has been formed to take a political decision concerning this problem. It is a forum for the preparation of Minsk Conference.
Following the military operations and the seizure of Azerbaijani cities, the UN Security Council adopted resolutions Nr 822, 853, 854, 884 which provide that Armenian military units should be withdrawn from the territory of Azerbaijan immediately and unconditionally, and the refugees and displaced persons should be able to return home.
The main milestones in the negotiations were OSCE Budapest and Lisbon Summits.
The OSCE Budapest Summit of 1994 took a decision to form an institute of co-chairmen of Minsk conference and entrust them with the duty “to conduct negotiations in order to conclude political agreement on the termination of the armed conflict (Great political agreement), the realization of which will eliminate the main consequences of the armed conflict for all sides and will permit to call Minsk conference”.
Thus, Budapest Summit determined the two-phase structure of the settlement process:
1. the first stage – elimination of the consequences of the armed conflict; it means total liberation of all occupied territories and return of all displaced persons to their permanent places of living;
2. the second stage – comprehensive peaceful settlement will be achieved following Minsk conference.
Budapest Summit also reached a decision on conducting OCSE peacekeeping operation after concluding the political agreement. Following Budapest Summit the co-chairmen (Russia-Finland) organized and conducted 16 rounds of talks and numerous consultations with the participants of the conflict.
In that period of time they reconciled about 75% of the text of the draft of the Agreement and its Addenda. However, as far as the matters of principle are concerned – total liberation of all occupied territories including Shusha and Lachin regions, security for all the participants of the conflict and the withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the territory of Azerbaijan – the agreement hasn’t been reached.
In his statement at Lisbon Summit in 1996 the president of the OSCE, set up three principles for the settlement of Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.
- Territorial integrity of the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan.
- Legal status of Nagorny Karabakh determined in the agreement and based on the self-determination which grants Nagorny Karabakh the highest degree of self-government within Azerbaijan.
- Security guarantees to Nagorny Karabakh and all its population including mutual obligations to observe the settlement provisions by all parties.
These principles were supported by 53 OSCE member states, except Armenia.
In November 1996 Armenia unilaterally broke off direct consultations between the Presidential Advisers of Armenia and Azerbaijan.
After Lisbon Summit and the establishment of the institution of triple Co-chairmanship (Russia-France-USA) the only one round of talks held in April 1997 was open-ended.
In June-September 1997 the Co-chairmanship prepared and brought before the parties a new document which specified a two-stage settlement of the conflict according to the following scheme:
- the first stage – the liberation of the 6 regions occupied during the conflict outside the former NKAR (except Lachin region), return the civilians to their homes and reconstruction of the main communications in the region;
- the second stage – the settlement of the dispute around Lachin and Shusha regions and adoption of the main principles for the status of Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The complete comprehensive settlement of the conflict including the Agreement on the self-government status of Nagorny Karabakh within Azerbaijan will be reached at Minsk conference.
In September 1997 Azerbaijan officially informed the Co-chairmanship of the adoption of the document as a basis for the subsequent negotiations.
In October 1997 in Strasbourg the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia made a joint statement about their readiness to start negotiations on the basis of the proposals made by the Co-chairmen.
In December 1997 in Copenhagen the session of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs OSCE circulated the Report of the Co-chairmen which stressed the need to continue the efforts aimed at the settlement of the conflict on the basis of Lisbon principles and the proposals of the Co-chairmanship.
On May 13-17, 1998 during the visit of the Co-chairmen to the region, Armenia officially declared the recall of the consent of the former President of Armenia to the proposals on the phased settlement and spoke for the “package” settlement without any preconditions.
Armenia strongly objects to the principles of Lisbon Summit and seeks the discussion of the status of Nagorny Karabakh as an independent state.
On April 2, 1999, a meeting of the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia during the CIS Summit in Moscow was held at which an agreement was reached on undertaking a series of meetings for discussing the problems of the peaceful settlement of Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.
An exchange of views and positions of the parties was continues at the meetings of the presidents on April 24 in Washington, on August 16 and 22 in Geneva, on September 10 in Yalta and on October 11 in the village of Sadarak. During the meetings an agreement was reached on the consultations between MFA and MoD of Azerbaijan and Armenia on the problems of enforcement of the cease-fire rejime, confidence-building measures, procedures of preventing and settlement of the border incidents, as well as the development of the agreed basis for the resumption of the negotiations process within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group. As an implementation of the agreement meetings and consultations of defence ministers (September 14 and October 11) and of foreign ministers (Seprtember 10, September 30 and October 12) of Azerbaijan and Armenia were held.
On September 18, 1999, during the visit of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office K.Vollebaek to Baku it was declared that the meetings and consultations of the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia did not substitute the OSCE Minsk process and the Co-Chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group was called to speed up their activities and make a new proposal acceptable to both parties.
On November 18-19, 1999, in the Final Document of the OSCE Istanbul Summit and in the report of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office it was once again underlined that the Minsk Group was the most suitable format for the settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh problem, the continuation of the dialogue of two presidents which is to complement the Minsk process was welcomed, and the parties were called to resume as soon as possible the negotiations on the conflict settlement. The European Security Charter was adopted at the OSCE Istanbul Summit. It is a legally-binding document that confirms the OSCE principles and norms and the resulting commitments of the states on the observance of the sovereignty and territorial integrity.
On December 13-15, 1999, the first visit of new Co-Chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group to the region was held. The Co-Chairmen of the Minsk Group declared that they would begin the work on new proposals that would be based on the elements on which the agreement had been reached at the meetings of the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia. In its actiities on the settlement of the conflict the Co-Chairmanship of the OSCE Minsk Group will pay a considerable attention to the economic development of the region. On this purpose the Co-Chairmanship of the OSCE Minsk Group expressed their intention to appeal to the world financial institutions, public and non-governmental organizations to send experts to the region in order to carry out the works on estimating the costs of the reconstruction of the region.
On January 24, 2000, during the Summit of the CIS member-states in Moscow a separate meeting of the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia, and on January 25 a quadripartite meeting with the participation of presidents of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and the Acting President of the Russian Federation V.Putin were held. Consultations between presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia were resumde during the meetings and it was declared that the policy of the "Four" in the region will be based on the principles of the international law and, first of all, on the absolute acknowledgement of the principle of territorial integrity of the sovereign states.
On January 28, 2000, at the World Economic Forum in Davos the consultations between presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia on searching the ways of peacefull settlement of the conflict. The foreign ministers of the two countries took part in the meeting.
On July 20, 2000, during the Summit of the CIS member-states in Moscow a quadripartite meeting with the participation of the presidents of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and the Russian Federation was held. The questions of peaceful settlement of conflicts in South Caucasus, the problem of consolidation of regional security, including the cooperation in the struggle against international terrorism as well as in humanitarian and other fields. The text of joint statement signed as a result of the meeting of three presidents was also circulated. The statement says that the sides expressed their adherence to the continuation of meetings in this format, welcomed the initiative of the world community and international organisations, which assist the acceleration of settlement of conflicts in South Caucasus. Heads of states agreed that such meetings will be held not less than two times a year and as a rule will be held during CIS summits.
On July 2-5, 2000, the visit by the Co-Chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group to the region was held. In their activities on the settlement of the conflict a great attention was paid to the economic development of the region. With this aim the Co-Chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group appealed to the world financial institutes, social non-governmental organisations to send experts to the region to estimate the possibilities of its economic reconstruction. During the visit, the Co-Chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group made a statement that they would search the methods of modifying the plan of the Karabakh conflict settlement.
On November 30, 2000 in Minsk during the Summit of the heads of the countries of CIS the bilateral meeting of the President of Azerbaijan H. Aliyev and of Armenia R. Kocharyan took place. After the ending of the meeting the President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev declared that he was satisfied on the whole with last negotiations. The President H. Aliyev justified his satisfaction by unofficial feature of the meeting but that the Presidents of these two countries are in the process of the search of the ways of the solution of Nagorniy Karabakh problem. As the President of Armenia R. Kocharyan noticed in his turn, the agreement about the intensification of the meetings was achieved at the meeting.
On January 25, 2001 in Paris negotiations of the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan Robert Kocharyan and Heydar Aliyev in the presence of the President of Republic of France Jacques Chiraq. In the briefing after the negotiations, which took place in Paris in Yelisey Palace in the presence of the President of the Republic of France Jacques Chiraq, the President of Armenia Robert Kocharyan noticed, that "the complete solution of the problem was maybe achieved at the attraction to the negotiations of the representatives of Nagorniy Karabakh". The President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev said in his turn that "as soon as we come to something concrete at the bilateral negotiations with the leader of Armenia, perhaps the third part may appear ". Both Presidents characterized their bilateral negotiations in Paris as "rather positive", having informed, that they outlined the plan of the following meeting in the very near future.
May 31, 2001 - At the CIS Summit in Minsk the trilateral meeting among President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev, President of Armenia Robert Kocharyan and President of Russia Vladimir Putin was held. During the meeting the three presidents discussed the problem of the peaceful settlement of Armenian-Azerbaijani, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
August 1, 2001 - At the informal Summit of the CIS countries in Sochi President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev and President of Armenia Robert Kocharyan held a bilateral meeting. During the meeting they had a wide discussion on the problem of the peaceful settlement of Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.
Currently the Co-Chairs are pursuing their objective to present a compromise settlement plan to the conflict based on the principles of international law.
Arms supplies to Armenia.
Illegal supplies of Russian arms to Armenia from 1993 till 1994 including 84 tanks T-72, 50 CIV, 32 operational-tactical missiles P-17 capable of a range of 300 km and capable of carrying nuclear warheads as well as other arms amounted to 1 billion US dollars cause Azerbaijan a lot of trouble. These supplies violate the rules of international law and the principles of peaceful settlement of Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. Such illegal actions contradict UN Security Council resolution 853, the Statement of the President of the Security Council of August 18, 1993 and the decisions of the OSCE High-ranking Officials Committee of February 28 and March 14, 1992 which demand that the military supplies to the states involved in the conflict should be stopped, since they facilitate the escalation of the conflict and the maintenance of the occupation of Azerbaijani territories.
Illegal supplies also contradict the provisions of the Agreement on Conventional Forces in Europe.
It has been four years since the agreement on ceasefire was reached on May 12, 1994. However, in the last years provocative activities of the Armenian military units being stationed along the contact line have assumed an impudent character pursuing an aim to force Azerbaijan to start a new spiral of military operations. It should be noted that Armenia has violated the agreement on ceasefire 1421 times since May 1994.
Release of prisoners of war.
The work connected with the release of the prisoners of war and hostages is being continued through the mediation of ICRC. In the period from 1993 till May 2004 as a result of the interchange between the countries, 357 people were released – 102 Armenians and 255 Azerbaijanis. At the same time according to the MNS of the Republic of Azerbaijan there are still more than 800 Azerbaijanis in Armenia and the region of Nagorny Karabakh.