Madrid Principles: Interpretation of Pashinyan, Former Armenian Foreign Minister and Expert
Madrid principles and the status of NK
Each statement of the Prime Minister of Armenia regarding resolution of the Karabakh conflict causes heated discussions in society and among experts. Nikol Pashinyan questions the effectiveness of Armenian diplomacy in the negotiation process before taking office. His last statement that “Nagorno-Karabakh was recognized as a part of Azerbaijan on the basis of the Madrid principles, “it’s just that the Armenian authorities did not tell the people about it,” caused general bewilderment.
The so-called Madrid principles are a concept of the resolution of the Karabakh conflict proposed to the parties to the conflict by the OSCE Minsk Group in November 2007. The text of the document can be found here.
This is not the first such statement by the Prime Minister. Earlier he said that his predecessors, having adopted the Madrid principles as the basis for negotiations, delegitimized the procedures by which Nagorno-Karabakh declared its independence. You can read more about this in the article👇
Ex-Foreign Minister of Armenia Vardan Oskanyan, who personally participated in the negotiations with Azerbaijan on the Madrid principles, said that the statement of the Armenian Prime Minister is not true. According to him, this document is not at all about recognizing NK as a part of Azerbaijan, but “speaks of the opposite.” Moreover, Oskanyan believes that in 2018 there was an opportunity to peacefully resolve the Karabakh issue precisely under the leadership of Nikol Pashinyan, who came to power on the wave of the Velvet Revolution. In response to the prime minister’s call to announce “what advice Vardan Oskanyan was going to give him in 2018-19,” the former minister made a video message:
“I would say, Mr. Prime Minister, you have high legitimacy, you were elected with the support of 80 percent. There is such a document on the negotiating table. Don’t ignore it. Don’t start [negotiations] from scratch. There are dangers along the way. I know the red lines of Azerbaijan, I know what is acceptable for Azerbaijan. I was going to advise him to take the third path, to agree in case of signing the document [Madrid principles] for the return to Azerbaijan of five regions [around Nagorno-Karabakh, which were under the control of the Armenian side following the war in the early ’90s].
I would advise negotiation with Azerbaijan on the return of Kelbajar and the non-corridor part of Lachin within three to five years. But first, Azerbaijan has to prove that it was capable of coexisting peacefully with its neighbor. All other guarantees that were enshrined in this document — the security council, the presence of peacekeeping forces, temporary status – they all had to go into effect.”
To understand the situation, JAMnews turned to political scientist Manvel Sargsyan, who is familiar with the negotiation process in detail. In the ’90s, he was an advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the unrecognized NKR, and in 2000-2005 advisor to the President on international affairs.
The political scientist said that Pashinyan “forms false narratives in order to absolve himself of responsibility for the war in Karabakh and find other culprits.”
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Manvel Sargsyan, political scientist
Azerbaijan’s sovereignty in exchange for Karabakh
“Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the formation of fifteen independent states in Europe as a result, the question has arisen about the principles for their recognition. On December 16, 1991, in Brussels, the European Council adopted a joint decision on the approach — how to recognize these new states, what criteria they must meet.
Principles for the recognition of new states. Extract from the Joint Statement of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs
The Community and Member States take a common position in the process of recognizing these new States, which includes:
1) respect for the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations and the obligations set out in the Final Act of the Helsinki Agreement and in the Charter of Paris, especially as regards the rule of law, democracy and human rights;
2) guarantees of the rights of ethnic and national groups and minorities in accordance with the obligations formulated within the framework of the CSCE;
3) respect for the inviolability of all borders, which can only be changed by peaceful means and by common agreement;
4) recognition of all obligations related to disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, as well as to security and stability in the region;
5) the obligation to settle by agreement all issues relating to the succession of states and regional disputes, including with the help of an arbitration court.
The Community and its Member States do not accept the given that is the result of aggression. They will take into account the consequences of recognition for neighboring states.
On December 21 of the same year, the Alma-Ata Declaration was adopted; at the end of December, the Soviet Union was dissolved.
The CSCE [Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, since 1995 the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE] declared to post-Soviet states, notably Armenia and Azerbaijan, that it could recognize their sovereignty provided they, in turn, they recognize the fact of disagreements over the ownership of Nagorno-Karabakh and delegate the solution of this controversial issue to the CSCE. It was January 30, 1992.
That is, Azerbaijan agreed that the status of Nagorno-Karabakh has not been resolved, that Karabakh is not Azerbaijan. It is noteworthy that in Armenia itself they are silent about this.
A day after the recognition of the sovereignty of Armenia and Azerbaijan, on January 31, 1992, the CSCE decided to send a delegation to the region, primarily to Nagorno-Karabakh. The delegation arrived on February 6-7. And right on the spot, Azerbaijan took upon itself the obligation, together with Armenia, to resolve the issue of the status of NK by peaceful means. This was a very important principle.
On March 24, 1992, the Minsk Conference received a mandate to resolve the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. There was no other item on the agenda.”
The OSCE Minsk Group was established in 1992. This is a group of OSCE member states that led the peace settlement, carried out a mediating role in the negotiations on the Karabakh conflict until the start of the 2020 war. The Minsk Group includes Germany, Italy, Finland, Sweden, Belarus, Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Russia, the USA and France co-chair.
Rejection of the peace agenda
“Baku understood that, in this way, it would recognize Nagorno-Karabakh outside of Azerbaijan — and started a war.
On April 13, Azerbaijanis set up “Grads” around the NK capital and began shelling the city.
How this war ended is known to all. Azerbaijan lost, giving away huge territories around NK.
And when the war went beyond the framework of the NKAR, the problem of these territories was added to the problem of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. Various proposals were put forward, but they all concerned the conditions for determining the status of NK. And to resolve the status issue, a condition was put forward for the return of the territories around the NKAR. The UN Security Council set a clear division of the NKAO from other territories around the autonomous region.”
The conflict is Karabakh, not Azerbaijani
“The OSCE Minsk Group received a mandate to solve the problem of Nagorno-Karabakh, not Azerbaijan. The conflict that it must resolve is the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, not the Azerbaijani one.
The Azerbaijani authorities were told: we recognize the sovereignty of the country if you recognize the problem of disagreements on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. And Azerbaijan recognized.
In 2007, for the first time, the idea that the status would be decided by the people of NKAR within the framework of the Madrid principles appeared.
The Madrid principles annulled the 1991 referendum, as Pashinyan now claims, and said that there should be a new referendum under specific conditions. But this does not mean that Nagorno-Karabakh was recognized as part of Azerbaijan. Pashinyan interprets the second part of the phrase incorrectly.”
Find the guilty
“Nikol Pashinyan just wants to justify himself. The prime minister wants to say that the Karabakh issue was closed even before him, and he cannot do anything.
First, he took Levon Ter-Petrosyan and said: “The position of the first president on the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh was to give Karabakh to Azerbaijan and consider the issue closed.” But Ter-Petrosyan, in his defense, published a document called “Special Opinion”, which Armenia presented when joining the CIS.
The Armenian authorities have always hidden this document from prying eyes. It does not mention Nagorno-Karabakh, but it hints that “autonomies can also be part of the CIS.”
Armenia wanted to go for it, but stumbled upon the veto of Boris Yeltsin in Moscow, who directly forbade Levon Ter-Petrosyan from any actions in the Karabakh issue. Yeltsin said that for him “the concept of Karabakh does not exist.”
At that time, it was planned that the Armenian parliament would recognize Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan. But after returning from Moscow, Levon Ter-Petrosyan, at the direction of Russia, canceled everything and closed the topic. He understood what he had done, so he warned that there would be war.
Pashinyan decided to strengthen his narrative and went on to look for the culprits. He reached the Madrid principles and added on his own behalf that Armenia recognized Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan by these principles. To alleviate his guilt for dooming the country to chaos, for thousands of dead, Pashinyan decided to shift the blame on the previous authorities and prove that the war was inevitable.”
On the recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh
“War was not inevitable. The situation could have been changed by recognizing Nagorno-Karabakh. We heard reproaches about this from Putin, and from Medvedev, and from Lavrov, even Aliyev said this.
Azerbaijan has never agreed to any compromises. It was preparing for war. The only thing we had to do was to deprive it of the right to this war.
By recognizing Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia would put Azerbaijan’s right to a war against Karabakh in doubt. But instead, Armenia closed the topic. And Azerbaijan, having received recognition from the CSCE, immediately, after thirteen days, started a war, referring to Article 51 of the UN Charter, which in fact gives the right to sovereign countries to resolve the issue by military means.
In 1994 Azerbaijan was defeated in the war. But Armenia continued to be inactive, did not recognize Karabakh, did not put any conditions on Azerbaijan. Today, having won, Azerbaijan demands that Armenia abandon the Karabakh problem and declare that there is simply no such issue.”
About determining status
“We need to understand the essence of the issue. Aliyev recalls January 1992, when a condition was set for his country to recognize the independence of his country. The need to determine the status of Nagorno-Karabakh today, as before, is being discussed by many in the US, Russia, France and other countries.
By and large, the OSCE Minsk Group, of which Azerbaijan is still a member, has not disappeared. It was not disbanded, and it continues to exist on the principle of determining the status of Karabakh through negotiations. And it is dangerous to forget about the status of Nagorno-Karabakh now.
Azerbaijan, having received the support of other countries, initially set itself the task of annexing the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh through the ethnic cleansing of Armenians. And it is doing it.
We must understand one thing: whether Armenia recognizes Artsakh or not, there is a population there that has declared its independence. This fact is taken into account by many countries. The French Senate raised this issue twice.”
“Armenia has made a strong move. Realizing that it is unable to solve the problem, Armenia does not raise the issue of independence, but raises the issue of security and rights of the population of NK. And for Azerbaijan it is like death. It would be easier for Azerbaijan if Armenia demanded Karabakh. Then Baku would raise everyone to their feet, declaring to the whole world that Armenia has territorial claims against Azerbaijan.
Armenia says it has no claims, but these people should live in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan does not intend to ensure the safe life of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. It wants to get rid of the Armenians, which puts it in a difficult situation.
Many people began to support this position of Armenia — the USA, France, Germany and other European countries. They have repeatedly stated that the status of Nagorno-Karabakh must be settled, and without a solution to this issue it is impossible to achieve a lasting resolution of the conflict.
Azerbaijan is at an impasse; now all its hope is for Russia, for the Russians to again create conditions for the ethnic cleansing of Armenians, similar to Operation Ring.
Operation “Ring” were actions taken by the Soviet leadership in 1991 to resolve the Karabakh conflict by force. They led to the deportation of Armenians from 19 villages.
But here the Russians must make a decision: are they leaving Karabakh or not? If the Armenians are deported, the Russians must leave. If they don’t want to leave, they should leave the Armenians there as well. For this purpose Nagorno-Karabakh was subjected to a blockade. It was the Russians who closed it. They took Armenians as hostages so that no one would leave. By serving Azerbaijan, Russia has brought people to the brink of starvation but delivering food by peacekeepers’ vehicles, thus emphasizing its role.
We do not know exactly what the Russians have in mind, with whom they have what agreements. Perhaps they will leave, transferring their place to another country — France, for example. No wonder France talks about defense support.”
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Madrid principles and the status of NK