Nagorno-Karabakh: An Apple of Discord between Armenia and Azerbaijan

By Rasizade, Alec | Contemporary Review, September 2011 | Go to article overview
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Nagorno-Karabakh: An Apple of Discord between Armenia and Azerbaijan

Rasizade, Alec, Contemporary Review


Editor's Note: After a short survey of the history of the region and a brief reminder of the more recent developments in Part One in the June issue. Part Two continues with the negotiations from 1994 to 2010.

SINCE the truce of 1992, negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict have been conducted under an international mediation effort known as the Minsk process. The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE, now Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE), at the Helsinki meeting of the CSCE Council on 24 March 1992, created the so-called Minsk group, which consisted of eleven members: the USA, France, Russia, Belarus, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Turkey, as well as Armenia and Azerbaijan. The CSCE Council requested its chairman to convene a conference on Nagorno-Karabakh under the auspices of CSCE to provide a forum for a peaceful settlement of the conflict. The conference was to take place in Minsk, hence its official title. Although it has not to this date been possible to convene the conference, the Minsk group presently spearheads the OSCE effort to find a political solution to this conflict within the framework of a peace process, which is known as the Minsk process.

On 6 December 1994 the Budapest summit of CSCE turned it into an organization - the OSCE, which decided to establish a co-chairmanship for the Minsk group, consisting of the USA, France and Russia. The current co-chairmen of the group are: Bernard Fassier of France, Igor Popov of Russia and Robert Bradtke of the USA. OSCE issued on 23 March 1995 a mandate for the co-chairs, according to which the main objectives of the Minsk process are as follows: 1) Providing an appropriate framework for conflict resolution in the way of assuring the negotiation process supported by the Minsk group; 2) Obtaining conclusion by the parties of an agreement on cessation of the armed conflict in order to permit the convening of the Minsk conference; 3) Promoting the peace process by deploying OSCE multinational peacekeeping forces; 4) The Minsk conference would be attended by the same participating states that are members of the Minsk group. The OSCE established a budget for the Minsk group, which for 2010 was 953,300 euros.

Since 1995, the Minsk group co-chairs have been mediating with the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan to find a peaceful solution of the conflict. Self-determination and territorial integrity are the basic principles of settling the Karabakh conflict that have been jointly proposed by the USA, Russia and France. Armenia and Azerbaijan say they accept, in principle, a settlement based on a combination of the two principles. Azeri leaders have, at the same time, repeatedly stated that Karabakh's Armenian population should only be able to determine the extent of the territory's autonomy within Azerbaijan. The autonomy proposal has been rejected, however, by the Armenians who consider it as a matter that is not negotiable. Azerbaijan has also refused to let the matter subside and regularly threatens to resume hostilities.

Numerous proposals have been made by the co-chairs based on both sides making several concessions. One such proposal stipulated that Armenian forces withdrew from the seven Azeri districts surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh. Another proposal required Azerbaijan to provide the broadest form of autonomy to the Armenian enclave shy of granting it full independence. In 2001 presidents Kocharian and Aliev met at Key West in Florida and almost reached a compromise, but the mounting popular opposition in Erevan and Baku against any concessions thwarted hopes for a peaceful resolution.

The animosity was so implacable that it was marked, among other ugly scenes, by the 2004 murder of the Armenian Lieutenant Markarian, who was hacked to death in his sleep with an axe by his Azeri counterpart, Lieutenant Safarov, at a NATO training seminar in Budapest.

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Nagorno-Karabakh: An Apple of Discord between Armenia and Azerbaijan


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