To create the necessary conditions for the resumption of negotiations over Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan should implement agreements reached by Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Vienna this May. Those agreements, presented in a May 16 statement by senior officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Minsk Group co-chair countries (France, Russia and the United States), are the following:
· Azerbaijan should not hinder the establishment of a mechanism for the investigation of ceasefire violations. Azerbaijan undertook such an obligation under the trilateral agreement on strengthening the ceasefire regime, signed between Karabakh, Azerbaijan and Armenia in 1995. In March 2011 and January 2012, at the Sochi summits initiated by Russia, Presidents Sargsyan and Aliyev agreed on the establishment of an investigative mechanism for ceasefire violations and requested the Permanent Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office (PRCiO) to present a proposal to this end. However, during 2013 OSCE budget discussions, the Azerbaijani delegation blocked the PRCiO’s proposal. Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh have always welcomed proposals aimed at a stronger ceasefire regime, including the creation of an investigation mechanism, while President Aliyev labeled those proposals as “weird.”
· Azerbaijan should agree to the expansion of the office of the Permanent Representative of the OSCE Acting Chairperson-in-Office and its responsibilities, which include more monitoring along the line of contact. An agreement on the expansion of the PRCiO Office was reached at the recent Vienna Summit. Its implementation on the ground requires further consent on technical and financial details. Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh fully support the expansion of the PRCiO Office. Azerbaijan still needs to endorse the technical and financial implementation of this expansion.
· Azerbaijan should unconditionally implement its commitments under the open-ended trilateral agreements of 1994-1995 signed between Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan and Armenia, forming the legal basis for the cessation of military actions in the region and conduct of peaceful negotiations. Following its April aggression, Baku was undertaking efforts within international organizations, such as the United Nations and OSCE, to denounce unilaterally the May 1994 ceasefire agreement, as well as bypass the July 1994 agreement on the reinforcement of the ceasefire and the February 1995 agreement on the consolidation of the ceasefire, which have no time limitations.
To ensure that the resumed negotiations are efficient, Azerbaijan should also undertake the following steps:
· Refrain from attempts to distort the essence of the conflict: The bottom-line of the conflict is Azerbaijan’s policy of pogroms and ethnic cleansing in response to the demand of the people of Karabakh for self-determination. This was followed by large-scale military aggression by Azerbaijan against the self-ruled Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR). Azerbaijan should refrain from trying to put responsibility on Armenia and Karabakh for the consequences of its military aggression, and to present the violence as an alleged territorial conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
· Refrain from the use of force or threat of use of force: Up until now, Azerbaijan has not refrained from its initial policy of force, which has been the main obstacle in the negotiation process. While increasing its military spending roughly 30-fold between 2003 and 2015, Azerbaijani authorities have emphasized in their public statements their intention to resolve the conflict through military means. That very policy led to Azerbaijan’s April aggression along the entire line of contact with Karabakh, and its use of heavy weaponry, tanks, rockets, artillery, and military aircraft.
· Refrain from selectively and inaccurately representing the principles that form the basis for negotiations: Baku rejects two of the three fundamental Madrid Principles, which serve as the basis for the conflict’s settlement. Those are the right to self-determination and the non-use of force or threat of force. The emphasis is on only one principle – territorial integrity, which is also misrepresented, contradicting the UN Charter. As a principle, aimed at the implementation of the UN’s purposes, territorial integrity cannot be opposed to the UN objective of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.
Azerbaijan only emphasizes two of the six elements included in the 2009 L’Aquila statement by the presidents of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries. Baku endlessly talks about the return of territories, which are under the control of Karabakh, but overlooks the territories of the NKR, which are under Azerbaijani control. Opposing “the right of all persons to return to their former places of residence,” Baku only speaks about the return of Azeri displaced persons, ignoring Armenians who were forced to leave both the Azerbaijani-occupied territories of Karabakh and Azerbaijan itself.
Azerbaijan accepted the Madrid Principles as the basis for negotiations, and should be guided by them. It should halt its attempts to make the 1993 United Nations Security Council resolutions on the conflict serve as the basis for negotiations. The core requirements of those resolutions – the immediate cessation of all hostilities and reliance on peaceful negotiations for a settlement – were breached by Azerbaijan itself.
· Not hinder the involvement of Nagorno-Karabakh as a full party to the negotiations: The signing of trilateral agreements on the ceasefire and the strengthening of the ceasefire in 1994-95 became possible due to Azerbaijan’s direct negotiations with Nagorno-Karabakh, including between their leaders. It is natural that future peace talks cannot be effective unless the full participation of Nagorno-Karabakh in the negotiation process is ensured.
· Refrain from pursuing a policy of Armenophobia, encouraged at the highest level: The Azerbaijani authorities do not miss any opportunity to spread hatred toward Armenians. Furthermore, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev honored as a national hero axe-murderer Ramil Safarov, who killed a sleeping Armenian lieutenant, Gurgen Margarian, at a 2004 NATO-sponsored training in Hungary. Most recently, in early April, another murderer beheaded a captive soldier of the Nagorno-Karabakh armed forces, Kyaram Sloian.
The negotiation process will be effective if Azerbaijan, in accordance with urging from the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries, will prepare its people for peace, not war.
Daniel Shahumyan is a political scientist who represents the official position of the Armenian government on this issue.