Davit Safaryan

Perspectives on the Solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict


By Davit Safaryan

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

The main question raised by Armenians in Armenia and the diaspora is what fate awaits the Artsakh Armenians after the 44-day war. The Azerbaijani president is boldly announcing that the Nagorno-Karabakh issue is already closed and we have now to think about a peace treaty between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Meanwhile, in Armenia passions are high concerning how and to what extent should the Republic of Armenia assist the Artsakh Republic.

The future of the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians is an explosive issue that can rupture relations between the Armenian political elites, lately strained to the limits of unprecedented confrontation. It is clear that during the 30-year-long history of independence in Armenia no question other than the future of Artsakh could trigger such an emotional response in the overwhelming majority of Armenians over the world. In its potent psychological effect it is comparable only to the issue of the recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide. The analysis below is an attempt to systematize the abundant and controversial information on this problem and make some forecasts that would help in formulating the Armenian positions in the international arena.

The Nagorno-Karabakh Problem Is Not Yet Solved

During the past months, Armenian political and social circles have been trying to figure out ways of continuing the struggle for self-determination of the Karabakh Armenians after the defeat in the Second Karabakh War. The negotiation process in the Russia-Armenia-Azerbaijani format brokered by Russia’s president is still on the table.

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First in the queue of several issues to be solved within its framework is the issue of delimitation and demarcation of the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which should be done on the basis of mutually acceptable Soviet maps. The second is the issue of reopening the roads between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which is pushed forward though slowly and ponderously.

The prospective of a peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan raises too many questions from Armenian parties, the emotional intensity of which may blast the very foundations of Armenian society. One question is whether the peace with Azerbaijan and accordingly mutually recognized borders would mean denial of the further protection of the Artsakh Armenians’ rights. What would be the situation of the Armenians living in Artsakh if Armenia recognizes the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan?

Recent discussions with various experts on the problem permits drawing up some philosophical conclusions relating to these issues. However, first I would like to state a very important fact. Relations between the US and EU on one side and Russia on the other side are extremely strained. The experts are tensely following the situation to see whether this confrontation would extend to the problem of Artsakh. Some experts in Armenia opine that the meetings of the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders mediated by Charles Michel mean that the European Union is trying to take the initiative away from Russia. Let them think as they wish, but the reality is different.

The logic of the present phase of the Nagorno-Karabakh normalization proves that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group is actually continuing its mission without the co-chair meetings. The truth of it is testified by the fact that the US State Department and the Council of Europe, as well as different states and international organizations, declare that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is not solved and efforts aimed at the peaceful solution should be continued. This is great assistance to the Armenian people of Artsakh as its right for self-determination is proclaimed from the position of international law.

So let us pass on to what is the minimum the Republic of Armenia can do in this situation while trying to keep its balance under pressure from both sides and taking into consideration a number of the present-day circumstances.

Assisting Artsakh under New Conditions with New Methodology

Many people are asking what Armenia can do for Artsakh if it itself has been placed in a very difficult situation. All of us are concerned by the question of whether the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh may continue living in their homeland without the prospect of deportation and genocide. This is the least the civilized world should do to protect and guarantee the right of the physical existence of Armenian people. It is worth recalling that in 1993-1995 there were discussions in the OSCE about deploying international peacekeepers in the conflict zone. Later the issue was dropped due to the simple reason of the insufficiency of the OSCE budget for such an operation.

Currently a Russian peacekeeping brigade is standing between the Armenian and Azerbaijani positions. On the political level, the right to life of the Artsakh Armenians is protected by the governments of the US and European Union. So what shall Armenia do in this situation?

Let’s recall that in 1992 Armenia and Azerbaijan were admitted to the OSCE and later into other international organizations because they had indirectly recognized their mutual territorial integrity. Moreover, Armenia has always declared that it is demanding a fair solution of the Artsakh cause based on three provisions of the Helsinki Final Act of 1975. One of these provisions is the recognition of territorial integrity. The second is the right of nations for self-determination, and the third is refraining from the use of force during the dispute settlement.

Now that the prospect of signing a peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan has turned into an imperative what should Armenia do to prevent the peace treaty from removing the issue of recognizing the independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic from the international agenda? We propose the following. Since the treaty shall enter into force upon being ratified by the Armenian parliament, whereas the parliament is the unique body proclaiming the will of the Armenian people, the National Assembly of Republic of Armenia, in order to continue assisting its Artsakh compatriots, shall at its session convened for ratification with the attendance of all representatives of the National Assembly of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, adopt a special reservation. It shall be in the form of a declaration that within the framework of international law and following the fundamental provisions of the OSCE, the Republic of Armenia shall continue assisting the Armenians of Artsakh with all its resources and abilities until a mutually acceptable solution for their cause can be reached. Such a document should also proclaim that the Republic of Armenia must mobilize all of its abilities and efforts to draw the attention of the international community to the inadmissibility of any new deportations, displacements from the homeland and genocide of the Artsakh Armenians. Such a document could be a political ground for furthering the official and parliamentary diplomacy of Armenia for years to come.

Reducing Armenian Internal Political Conflict and Creating Consolidation

It is simply surprising as to why no one in the Republic of Armenia, which has so many problems in dispute, speaks about ascertaining public opinion through a referendum. Why do we let mutually exclusive opinions and disputes leading to enmity shake the foundations of our national existence without even attempting some constructive solutions?

Why can we not start constructive discussions in the homeland and in diaspora, the results of which are so impatiently awaited by Armenians over the world? Why can we not try achieving internal consolidation of Armenian society when the prospective of normalization with Turkey and Azerbaijan seems quite realistic? Who will we blame for the consequences of such normalization: Russia, the US, Great Britain or some other country?

The author of this article believes that the finest representatives of Armenian political experts are right to consistently demand the development of adaptation mechanisms to mitigate to the minimum the consequences of further economic, cultural and political Turkish-Azerbaijani expansion, which is possible to do only under conditions of internal solidarity and consolidation.

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