Comment by Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Artsakh Masis Mayilian

22.04.2020

In connection with the statements recently voiced by the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation regarding the peace process on the settlement of the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict and, in particular, on the active discussion of the draft stage-by-stage settlement of the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict, I consider it necessary to emphasize the following:

The authorities of the Republic of Artsakh have repeatedly stated that in the process of peaceful settlement of the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict they are guided by the two highest values for the people of Artsakh - independence and security. Any proposals that might threaten these values even in the slightest degree are unacceptable for Artsakh.

The people of Artsakh exercised their inalienable right to self-determination in a referendum on independence in 1991 and subsequently expressed their will at least twice in the constitutional referendums in 2006 and 2017. The authorities and society of Artsakh are committed to the chosen path and will continue exerting consistent efforts to strengthen and develop their independent and democratic state, which plays a stabilizing role in the region with its responsible policy. Attempts to ignore the existing reality only delay the prospects for a final settlement of the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict, which should certainly be based on the recognition of the fact that the people of Artsakh have realized the right to self-determination.

It is also worth noting the futility of finding possible solutions to the problem based on territorial concessions by Artsakh side, since the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict is not a territorial dispute. As for territorial concessions, this is a direct path to the destruction of the security system not only of the Republic of Artsakh, but also of the Republic of Armenia, in which case the very existence of the indigenous population in its historical homeland will be threatened. It should also be stressed that the recent elections in Artsakh have convincingly demonstrated the consensus on the inadmissibility of territorial concessions existing both in the society and among the political forces of the Republic.

Particular attention should also be paid to the assertion regarding the format of the negotiation process. The Russian Foreign Minister acknowledged the direct participation of Artsakh in the negotiations in the past, but at the same time assessed the bilateral format of the Armenia-Azerbaijan meetings under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmen and with the participation of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office as useful and good. However, the usefulness of the format can be judged solely by the results achieved. In this regard, it should be emphasized that the only real result in the process of peaceful settlement of the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict, the termless Ceasefire Agreement of May 12, 1994, was achieved in the trilateral, and not in the bilateral format of negotiations. Thus, in four years of full-format trilateral negotiations much more was achieved than in the subsequent more than 20 years of bilateral meetings in the Armenia-Azerbaijan format. The trilateral format has proved its effectiveness in practice, and therefore its restoration will become a serious contribution to the process of peaceful settlement of the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict.

Last autumn, the Prime Minister of Armenia stated that the views of the authorities of Artsakh and Armenia on the conflict settlement are identical. The authorities of Artsakh also confirmed this position. This does not mean that Armenia should represent the interests of Artsakh at the negotiations. We are convinced that the interests of the people of Artsakh in the negotiations should be represented by officials of the Republic of Artsakh who have a corresponding mandate from the people. The Republic of Armenia, for its part, will continue to protect the interests of the Republic of Artsakh in the international arena and at meetings under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk group co-chairmanship.

It should be noted that the proposals voiced by the Russian Foreign Minister are one of the numerous modifications of the so-called Madrid Principles. In this context, we consider it necessary to recall that immediately after the publication of the basic elements of the “Madrid Principles”, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Artsakh issued a statement on July 15, 2009, urging the actors interested in the peaceful settlement to prevent the violation of the status quo in the region caused by forcing the negotiation process, based on the proposed settlement formula. It was noted that any attempts to return Artsakh to the past are not only counterproductive, but are also fraught with new escalation of the conflict. The statement underlined the need to restart the distorted negotiation process, to return the Republic of Artsakh to the negotiation table as a full-fledged party to the negotiation process, and to transform the basic principles of the settlement. This position of the authorities of Artsakh remains unchanged.

The April aggression of Azerbaijan in 2016 convincingly demonstrated the validity of the claims of the Artsakh side about the danger of a new escalation of the conflict in any attempt to change the current status quo, which is one of the foundations of the security system not only for the Republic of Artsakh, but also for the region as a whole.

As for the issues under consideration at this stage, the parties do not discuss a specific settlement plan. This means that there are no so-called Madrid or other proposals on the table. It is obvious that the most urgent issues now are the strengthening of the ceasefire, the introduction of a mechanism to reduce risks on the line of contact of the armed forces, and the implementation of confidence-building measures. It is within the framework of precisely these issues, that discussions are held at the meetings of the foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, as evidenced by the statements of the OSCE Minsk group co-chairs. The fact that a specific settlement plan is not being discussed is also indicated by the statements of official Baku, which has repeatedly complained about the lack of substantive negotiations.

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