EAFJD Position on Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict
Karabakh has always been an integral partof Armenia. The annexation of Karabakh to Azerbaijan was a result of arbitrary machinations by Stalin in the early 1920s and the people of Karabakh have never accepted that arrangement. During Soviet rule, at every opportunity, and most recently in 1988, the majority of the population of Karabakh had peacefully raised their quest for reunification with Armenia; Azerbaijan responded by violence not only in Karabakh, but all over Azerbaijan. In Karabakh, Armenians defended themselves and in 1991, declared the formation of the Mountainous Karabakh Republic. A just and lasting resolution of the Karabakh conflict should guarantee security and viability for Karabakh and Armenia.
The European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy has always defended the right of the people of the Republic of Mountainous Karabakh (MKR) to determine their own destiny. The European Parliament, in a resolution adopted on 7 July 1988, supported the Mountainous Karabakh Autonomous Region’s “demand […] for reunification with the Socialist Republic of Armenia.” The people of MKR have repeatedly expressed their will to live independent of Azerbaijan.
The people of MKR have exercised their right to selfdetermination based on the principles of international law and the Constitution of the Soviet Union. Mountainous Karabakh has never been part of an independent Azerbaijan. At any given moment since 1918, when the first Azerbajani state was established, such sovereignty can at least be disputed. Soviet Azerbaijani domination over Mountainous Karabakh began by the Soviet Union and ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
In the Karabakh-Azerbaijan war (1991-1994), Azerbaijan was the aggressor. MKR defended its right to live securely and was successful; Azerbaijan is responsible for launching the war and for all of its consequences.
For the past 19 years, the Republic of Mountainous Karabakh has existed and continues to exist as a democratic state, with its relevant state structures and local self-government bodies.
The recognition by the OSCE Minsk Group cochair countries, together or alone, of the independence of Kosovo, Abkhazia and South Ossetia is testament to the international community’s respect for the peoples’ right to self-determination.
The Advisory Opinion of 22 July 2010 of the International Court of Justice on the “Accordance with international law of the unilateral declaration of independence in respect of Kosovo” clearly states “that general international law contains no applicable prohibition of declarations of independence.” Furthermore, the Court determines that “the scope of the principle of territorial integrity is confined to the sphere of relations between States.”
Azerbaijani ambitions to re-conquer MKR by force are doomed to fail and will lead the region to more unforeseen upheavals.
Having de facto recognized the Republic of Mountainous Karabakh and having signed with it economic and other cooperation agreements, and because of lasting aggression unleashed by Azerbaijan on Armenia and on the Mountainous Karabakh Republic, Armenia has been involved as a party in the Karabakh-Azerbaijani conflict and has become the guarantor for exercising the right to self-determination of the people of Artsakh.
Due to the fact that the Mountainous Karabakh Republic has not yet been recognized by the international community, in different instances Armenia represents and defends its interests, but cannot completely replace it. Mountainous Karabakh is the main and separate party to the conflict. Thus, only the respect of the right to self-determination of the people of Mountainous Karabakh and the acceptance of the fact of Armenia being the guarantor for the full exercise of that right can give real opportunities to pursue real effective negotiations resulting in the settlement of the conflict.
The EAFJD contends that the negotiations to resolve the conflict can bear results and promote peace only when Azerbaijan signs a legal document with the Republics of Armenia and MK not to use force or the threat of force.
The 2008 Russian-Georgian war and developments in the South Caucasus created a new situation in the whole region. It has become evident that if the international community is not able to prevent the use of force, then unforeseen developments could be calamitous.
For the EAFJD, the basis of the negotiating process should be the will of the people of Mountainous Karabakh, expressed on two occasions, through the 1991 and 2006 referendums, on the declaration of independence and the MKR constitution respectively. While we realize that negotiations imply mutual concessions, we at the same time maintain that mutual concessions, in view of all components of the settlement of the conflict, may only be commensurate, equal, concurrent and within a package solution framework. Any fundamental change in the current borders of the Mountainous Karabakh Republic will compromise the security of MKR and of the Republic of Armenia, and will increase the likelihood of war. The reality is that the legacy of the conflict over Mountainous Karabakh in the last nine decades has made the return of Azerbaijani domination over Mountainous Karabakh unthinkable. After almost two decades of de facto independence, more than 99% of Mountainous Karabakh’s population wants independence from Azerbaijan.
In 1991, Mountainous Karabakh initiated the process of its independence in compliance with the USSR domestic legislation. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, two states were formed: the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Mountainous Karabakh. The establishment of both these states has similar legal basis and therefore, the establishment of the Republic of Mountainous Karabakh on the basis of the right for self determination should not be considered in the scope of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.
In 1991, Azerbaijan, rejecting the Soviet legal heritage of 1920-1991 and affirming the fact that the Republic of Azerbaijan is the successor of the Republic of Azerbaijan of 1918-1920, lost all pretensions to the territories passed to Soviet Azerbaijan in July 1921, namely Mountainous Karabakh, even if the latter’s transfer were to be considered legitimate. Therefore, the Mountainous Karabakh Republic was formed on territories over which the Republic of Azerbaijan had no sovereignty.
The establishment of the state of Mountainous Karabakh was carried out in conformity with the principles and attributes required by international law for the creation of an independent state.
It is an indisputable fact that the Republic of Mountainous Karabakh encompasses all the attributes necessary to be recognized as an independent state as determined by international law, including the Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States (Dec. 26, 1933).
Specifically, international recognition requires:
i. a permanent population;
ii. a defined territory;
iii. a permanent administration organized under common political institutions exercising exclusive jurisdiction on the defined territory and people; and
iv. capacity to enter into relations with other states.
The Mountainous (Nagorno) Karabakh Republic meets each of the requirements set by the Montevideo Convention for international recognition of statehood.
The negotiations should aim to an unconditional recognition of MKR independence and to ensuring her security, and should not circumvent the issues of the occupied Shahumyan region and the Getashen sub-region, as well as the Azerbaijani occupied areas of Martakert and Martuni and the rights of hundreds of thousands of Armenians displaced from Azerbaijan.
The course of the final settlement of the MKR issue is that of peaceful negotiations; the distorted format of these negotiations should however change so that MKR becomes a full-fledged party in the negotiation process. The adoption of any international document without the direct participation of the key party to the conflict, i.e. the authorities of MKR, is condemnable, inadmissible and devoid of any legal power. The Republic of Armenia is not in a position to replace MKR in resolving this vital issue. Urgent measures therefore must be taken to return MKR to the negotiations table as a full-fledged party.
The regional status quo in the South Caucasus is the result of Azerbaijan’s policy aimed at shattering the right of the self-determination of the people of Mountainous Karabakh, unleashing a war and losing it. Not only was Mountainous Karabakh able to defend its right to life, but it created a democratic state conforming to all international norms.
Today, the Republic of Mountainous Karabakh grows and develops as a full-fledged democratic state. Accepting this fact and in the new international reality recognizing the Republic of Mountainous Karabakh as an independent and sovereign state:
a) will be an important step in Mountainous Karabakh’s democratic and national development;
b) will be a step forward for the international community;
c) will positively contribute to enhancing the pillars of security and the long-lasting stability of the region and is essential for peace, and the economic and political development of the whole of the South Caucasus;
d) Finally, such recognition of the Republic of Mountainous Karabakh by members of the international family of nations can not impede their friendly relations with Azerbaijan, because never in its history has independent Azerbaijan had a complete and effective sovereignty over the whole Mountainous Karabakh region and in all aspects, Azerbaijan has failed to provide any framework for Mountainous Karabakh’s free and democratic development. Furthermore, the recognition of the Republic of Mountainous Karabakh should not be viewed as an act of hostility toward Azerbaijan and should not hinder all parties involved from clearly committing themselves to effective cross-border, regional and local co-operation in the best interest of the whole population in and around Mountainous Karabakh. Azerbaijan and Karabakh can soon begin to put their tragic shared past behind them and move toward a brighter future together. Azerbaijan should be called upon to be pragmatic on the status issue and to refrain from blocking Mountainous Karabakh’s membership in international organizations.
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