“A curious proposal on Karabakh”: a document attributed to Lavrov
Lavrov’s proposal on the rights of NK Armenians
Russia’s proposal to ensure the rights and security of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh is being discussed in Armenia. The document was published by Tigran Petrosyan, head of the anti-crisis council under the president of the unrecognized NKR. He claims that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov presented this proposal to his counterparts from Armenia and Azerbaijan on July 25, during a regular trilateral meeting.
Judging by the points of the published document, Armenian experts came to the conclusion that the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry “describes a scenario for ensuring the rights of NK Armenians as a national minority within Azerbaijan.” So far, it is not clear whether the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry really presented such a proposal. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia did not refute, but did not confirm the published information either. “We have not received such a document through official channels,” the foreign minister of the unrecognized republic said the day before.
Armenian political scientists and politicians believe that “the leak was in the interests of the Artsakh authorities,” who wanted to declare in this way that they did not agree with this proposal.
Russia has repeatedly stated that it sees the future of the “former NKAR” as part of Azerbaijan. In March 2023, after meeting with his Armenian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov once again publicly stated this, drawing parallels with the rights of Kosovo Serbs. “About the same rights were stipulated ten years ago in an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina on the creation of a Serbian community in Kosovo: language, local self-government, education, culture, religion, special economic ties with Serbia. I think a similar package of rights is needed for the people of Karabakh,” he stressed.
Tigran Petrosyan published a draft document allegedly discussed at the negotiating table on his Facebook page. He presented it as Lavrov’s proposal on the Karabakh issue. The document is entitled “Basic principles and parameters for ensuring the security and rights of the Armenian population in the territory of the former NKAO of the Azerbaijan SSR in accordance with the legislation of the Republic of Azerbaijan.” It consists of 14 items.
Petrosyan claims that the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry presented the document to the Armenian and Azerbaijani ministers during the July meeting.
The last trilateral meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan took place on July 25 in Moscow. After a bilateral meeting with the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, Lavrov said that a number of documents are being prepared for discussion by the leaders of the countries. However, he did not provide details about their content.
The document attributed to Lavrov refers to the “equal legal protection” of the Armenian population, “the exclusion of discrimination on ethnic, linguistic, religious or other grounds”, the prevention of “forced / involuntary resettlement” from their places of compact residence.
“Legislative prohibition of persecution, punishment or any restriction on the rights of representatives of the Armenian population under the pretext of their participation in local authorities and armed formations, excluding persons found guilty of war crimes in court,” reads one of the points of the draft.
The document contains clauses that the Armenian population should be proportionally represented in the republican and local structures of the legislative, executive and judicial authorities of Azerbaijan, including the prosecutor’s office and the police.
It also talks about providing guarantees to the Armenians of
- free practice of one’s religion,
- preservation of Armenian culture and identity,
- receiving education in Armenian,
- unimpeded receipt of economic and humanitarian aid from outside.
- Relations between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia are also mentioned.
“Ensuring, on the basis of a separate agreement between the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan, close cultural, educational, scientific, media, sports and other humanitarian contacts between the Armenian population in the territory of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region of the Azerbaijan SSR and the Republic of Armenia.”
It is noteworthy that the document was published on the day of the discussion of the issue of the situation in NK in the UN Security Council. Petrosyan said: “Today Putin has the opportunity to change his attitude and plans at the meeting of the UN Security Council.”
“A concept out of touch with reality”
The position presented in the document on ensuring the rights of Karabakh Armenians in the status of a national minority within Azerbaijan was declared by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the unrecognized NKR to be divorced from reality. Sergey Ghazaryan believes that Baku’s policy does not give grounds for such an approach to any of the mediators:
“If any of the mediators had such hopes, then, seeing the results of the policy pursued by Azerbaijan, which deliberately dooms 120,000 people to starvation, when militant statements are heard from the Azerbaijani side every day, threats to use force, when the Armenian historical and cultural heritage is being destroyed , none of the mediators can have any reason to believe that this concept can be implemented.”
“Even if we assume that this is true, and such a text really exists, and that this is really a proposal from the Russian side, the main thing is missing there. Technologies are not described, how what is written will be guaranteed, how these points will be implemented, who will monitor and what mechanism will work. Without clarification of these issues, this text does not make much sense.“
“Armenians are being given the status of a national minority with certain rights. This is a very low bar and cannot be accepted. This means that the central government of NK will be dissolved, instead, Artsakh Armenians will be offered quotas in Azerbaijani bodies.
The “separation for the sake of salvation” scenario is unrealistic, we cannot implement it. But instead, we should at least expect that the status of political rather than cultural autonomy will be granted, that Artsakh will be preserved as a territorial unit. If at one time the US and the EU gave Kosovo the highest status of secession, and then gradually of sovereignty, then they cannot now lower this bar to such a level in the event of a conflict that is most similar to it.
They should at least try to secure a status close to political autonomy for the Artsakh Armenians, which requires strong pressure on Azerbaijan. The US can and should think about imposing sanctions against Azerbaijan.”
“To submit such a document for discussion without a comprehensive understanding of the settlement of the Karabakh problem is simply unacceptable. In the issue of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, Moscow openly sided with Baku. Is Yerevan capable of such a strategic turn, when these actions of the Russian Federation will be evaluated and our actions will be equivalent to the behavior of the Russian Federation?
The leak occurred precisely on the part of the Artsakh authorities, clearly showing that Artsakh is not going to put up with this. This is a very important indicator. But not only do they disagree, political steps, actions, statements should follow.”
“Does Lavrov believe that his proposal can be implemented at all? When he says that Armenians should not be discriminated against, which court will decide? Will an Azerbaijani judge have to decide that an Armenian worker has been discriminated against in any body? This is simply absurd, this is the most curious proposal that was on the negotiating table.
Another important question is whether peacekeeping forces will be here or not. This document does not address this issue in any way. It doesn’t even mention the November 9 [2020, ceasefire document in Karabakh signed by the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia]. There are two options: either they think that they will stay there and do not even see the need to mention it, or they really intend to leave.
Perhaps the goal is to further strengthen the Russian-Turkish monitoring mechanism operating in Agdam, perhaps they will be present there.
Since nothing is said about this, I assume that they are thinking about leaving so that there is only a Turkish presence. So that there is no international presence, peacekeeping forces or humanitarian organizations. This is a document about ethnic cleansing of Armenians or their expulsion from Artsakh.”
Lavrov’s proposal on the rights of NK Armenians