Despite the fact that Azerbaijan was initially trying to ignore the Karabakh side, striving to present the conflict between Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh as a territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan, several rounds of direct negotiations took place between the Nagorno Karabakh Republic and Azerbaijan in the period of active combat actions. The importance of those meetings became vital as the team of the President of Azerbaijan Abulfaz Elchibey practically interrupted the Minsk negotiation process twice (in September 1992 and April 1993)1.
First direct confidential contacts between the Nagorno Karabakh Republic and Azerbaijan were held in 1992 in Moscow at the level of Adviser to the Chairman of the NKR State Defense Committee Arkadi Ghukasyan and Ambassador of Azerbaijan to the Russian Federation Hikmet Hajizade.
Trilateral confidential negotiations between Arkadi Ghukasyan, Hikmet Hajizade and David Shahnazaryan (the Personal Representative of the President of Armenia) took place on April 10-16, 1993 in Moscow, mediated by the MFA of Russia2.
After Heydar Aliyev came to power in Azerbaijan, the parties continued to have direct contacts including through telephone and fax. The first phone conversation, upon the initiative of the Azerbaijani side, was held on June 27, 1993 between Acting Minister of Defense of Azerbaijan, Safar Abiyev and Minister of Defence of the NKR Serj Sargsyan.
On July 28, 1993, a meeting of officials from Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh was organized near Martakert. From the NKR it was attended by Minister of Defence Serzh Sargsyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs Arkadi Ghukasyan, Head of the General Department of National Security Kamo Abrahamyan, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Alexander Aghasaryan and Arsen Melik-Shahnazarov as a secretary. The Azerbaijani side was represented by Acting Minister of Defense Safar Abiyev, Minister of State I. Aliyev, Deputy Chairman of the State Committee for the Affairs of War Prisoners and Hostages I. Kyazimov, representative of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry Tofik Zulfugarov and secretary N. Talybov. During the meeting the Karabakh side handed over the text of the agreement on prolonging the limitation of hostilities signed by Minister of Defence Serzh Sargsyan. It was signed by Safar Abiev the next day and faxed to Stepanakert.
On September 12-13, 1993, a meeting was held in Moscow between the NKR Minister of Foreign Affairs Arkadi Ghukasyan and Deputy Chairman of the Milli Majlis of Azerbaijan, Afiyeddin Jalilov. The meeting resulted in the adoption of a joint communiqué. During the negotiations, the sides, along with political and military issues, also discussed the organization of a high-level meeting.
The meeting of Robert Kocharyan, the Chairman of the State Defense Committee of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic and Heydar Aliyev, the Acting President of Azerbaijan took place on September 25, 1993 in Moscow. At the request of the Azerbaijani side the meeting was carried out privately; an agreement was reached to maintain direct contacts. On the same day, Deputy Prime Ministers of the NKR and Azerbaijan, Zhirayr Poghosyan and Abbas Abasov met on the frontline in the Aghdam District.
During the summer and autumn of 1993, along with bilateral meetings, the Nagorno Karabakh Republic and Azerbaijan also maintained regular phone communication between the military and political leadership, as well as exchanged official letters.
The main topic of negotiations between the Azerbaijani and Karabakh sides was undoubtedly the establishment of ceasefire. Due to these contacts, around 10 bilateral agreements were reached between Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh on the limitation of hostilities, establishing or prolonging temporary truces. These agreements paved the way for the unlimited-in-time ceasefire, which was reached in May of 1994 mediated by the Russian Federation.
However, despite the agreements on the highest level to continue direct meetings, the Azerbaijani side subsequently refused to maintain bilateral contacts with the NKR. Nevertheless, until 1997 the negotiations were carried out in the trilateral format between the NKR, Azerbaijan and Armenia.
The refusal of the Azerbaijani side to continue contacts with the NKR both in bilateral and trilateral formats severely impeded the negotiation process and to date remains one of the main obstacles in the conflict resolution process between Azerbaijan and Karabakh. Refusing to recognize Nagorno Karabakh as a party to the conflict and opposing its direct and full participation in the negotiation process in every possible way, Azerbaijan, in reality, delays the ultimate resolution of the conflict and contributes to the maintaining of the status quo.
1. Vladimir Kazimirov. Peace for Karabakh. Russia's Mediation in the Settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict. – Moscow. VES MIR Pulishers. 2014, p.127
2. Ibid, p. 128