In the beginning of the conflict between Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan, several mediators were simultaneously looking for ways of solving the conflict: they were Russia, Kazakhstan, Iran, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). Russia was one of the most active participants in this effort, acting as a mediator both by itself and in multilateral (in the frameworks of CIS and OSCE/CSCE) formats.
In the initial stage, Russia’s peace initiatives were realised in the framework of the “Zheleznovodsk process”, which included Kazakhstan. As the Zheleznovodsk process gradually exhausted itself, a special mediatory mission was created in Russia on the 5th of May 1992, which was headed by Vladimir Kazimirov, Ambassador-at-Large at the Russian MFA.
Russia had already come up with several peace initiatives before the creation of the special mediatory mission. In particular, Russia proposed a two-stage peace plan on April 13, 1992 submitting it to the UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali and CSCE Chairman-in-Office, Jiří Dienstbier, and subsequently to the heads of the conflicting parties1. However, the proposal was never implemented.
The Russian Defense Ministry had also undertaken mediatory steps simultaneously with the Russian MFA. On September 19, 1992, Pavel Grachov, Russia’s defense minister, organized a meeting between his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts, Vazgen Sargsyan and Rahim Gaziev in Sochi, which resulted in the signing of an accord stipulating a two-month temporary cessation of fire from all types of weapons starting from September 26th. However, the ceasefire was never achieved. By acquiring a great number of military equipment and weaponry in the result of the distribution of Soviet army property in the summer of 19922, Azerbaijan gained crucial military advantage and preferred to solve the issue by military means.
Starting from 1993, Russia played a more independent role from the OSCE in the Azerbaijani-Karabakh conflict settlement process. It initiated the involvement of the newly created CIS structures (in particular, the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly) in the process.
On Russia’s initiative, the CIS Council of Heads of States adopted a Declaration on the Cessation of Fire, in Moscow on April 15th, clearly pointing out that a ceasefire was an urgent necessity for the resolution of the conflict.
A trilateral meeting between the heads of parliaments of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh took place on May 4-5th 1994 in Bishkek following the joint proposal by the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, the Kirgiz Parliament, the Russian MFA and the Russian Federal Assembly. The Armenian delegation was headed by the President of the Supreme Council Babken Ararktsyan, the Nagorno Karabakh delegation – by the President of the Supreme Council Karen Baburyan, and the Azerbaijani delegation – by the vice speaker of Milli Majlis (parliament) Afiyaddin Jalilov3. The mediators presented a draft protocol – to be discussed and signed by the parties – which contained a call to cease hostilities starting from 9th of May.
The protocol was signed by the heads of the Armenian and NKR delegations, the president of the CIS Inter-parliamentary Assembly and President of the Federal Council of the RF Vladimir Shumeyko, President of the Kirgiz Parliament, Medetkan Sherimkulov, Plenipotentiary Representative of the President of the RF Vladimir Kazimirov and Secretary of the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Council Mikhail Krotov on the 5th of May. The Azerbaijani delegation refused to sign the document. Nevertheless, thanks to the efforts of Vladimir Kazimirov, the speaker of the Azerbaijani Parliament Rasul Guliyev did sign the Bishkek Protocol in Baku on the May 8. As a result of the delay the ceasefire came into force starting from the midnight of May 12. The respective agreement was signed by the Commander of the Defense Army of the NKR, and the defense ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan.
On July 26-27, 1994 the defense ministers of the three sides, the NKR, Azerbaijan and Armenia, reaffirmed their obligations “to observe the ceasefire until a final political agreement is signed”. On the 29th of August 1994, the NKR, Azerbaijan and Armenia made announcements reaffirming the orders of their respective military commanders not to undertake steps which could result in the violation of the ceasefire regime. It was highlighted by the three sides that the orders also envisaged punishments against those who were to be found guilty for the violations.
In order to consolidate these efforts, Russia and CSCE/OSCE at the OSCE Budapest Summit passed a resolution in December 1994 to establish the institutes of the Minsk Group and the Co-chairmanship4 of the Minsk process. Russia and Sweden were the first Co-chairs of the Minsk Group.
In the beginning of February 1995, following their initiative, in order to consolidate the ceasefire regime, an agreement was signed between the NKR, Azerbaijan and Armenia about the procedure of regulating armed incidents. The agreement came into force on the 6th of February 1995, however, because of the Azerbaijani position, which refused any contact with the NKR, it has not been implemented since then.
Throughout 1996 Russia continued to play a mediatory role in parallel with its activities in the Minsk Group. The Russian foreign minister Evgeny Primakov visited Baku, Stepanakert and Yerevan on the 8-11th of May 1996 and held negotiations with the leaders of the three republics. It was planned to adopt a joint trilateral declaration about the peaceful settlement of the conflict in the framework of the visit and organize an exchange of prisoners between the sides under the “all for all” principle. Despite the fact that a preliminary agreement had been reached on the latter issue, the adoption of the declaration failed because at the start of the Russian foreign minister’s visit to the region, Azerbaijan refused to sign it, insisting that it should be signed only by Armenia and Azerbaijan. Nonetheless, the sides managed to exchange prisoners: the NKR and Armenia transferred 71 prisoners to Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijan transferred 39 prisoners to Armenia5.
After the establishment of the Minsk Group Co-chairmanship in 1997, Russia carried out its mediatory activities in the framework of this structure, together with the two other Co-chairs, the USA and France.
Simultaneously, the Russian side initiated a series of meetings between the presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia, which resulted in the adoption of several joint statements, among them – the Meindorf declaration of November 2, 2008, the Astrakhan statement of October 27, 2010, and the Sochi statement of March 5, 2011.
On June 25, 2011, with the participation of Russian president Dmitri Medvedev a meeting between the president of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan and the president of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev was held in Kazan, aimed at reaching an agreement on the basic principles of the resolution of Azerbaijani-Karabakh conflict. However, the negotiations did not yield any results.
On August 10, 2014, the Russian side initiated another meeting between the presidents of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Vladimir Putin, Serzh Sargsyan and Ilham Aliyev. The meeting took place against the background of a tense situation along the line of contact between the NKR and Azerbaijan6.
1. Vladimir Kazimirov. Peace for Karabakh. Russia's Mediation in the Settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict. – Moscow. VES MIR Pulishers. 2014. pp. 39-40
2. As a result of the allocation of Soviet army propoerty Azerbaijan received: 325 tanks, 344 BMPs (infantry fighting vehicles), 78 BMDs (airborne infantry fighting vehicles), 38 military intelligence vehicles, 329 BTRs (armoured transporters), 343 howitzers and self-propelled artillery, 63 “Grad” multiple rocket launchers, 52 mortars, 35 “MiG” fighter jets, 7 frontline bombers, 1 “Su-25” attack airplane, 52 “L-29” combat training aircraft, 18 “Mi-24” attack helicopters, 15 combat training helicopters and up to 100 air defense missile systems.
3. Rasul Guliev, the speaker of Milli Majlis of Azerbaijan, as the second person in the hierarchy of the country, had to stay at home in charge of the country, because the president of Azerbaijan was in Brussels at that time.
4. On March 23, 1995, the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office issued a mandate for the co-chairmanship in the Minsk process, thus implementing the decision adopted at the Budapest summit
5. Vladimir Kazimirov. Peace for Karabakh. Russia's Mediation in the Settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict. – Moscow. VES MIR Pulishers. 2014. pp. 278-281
6. The negotiations in Sochi were followed by two other meetings between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan: first of them was held in Newport (Wales) on September 4, 2014 by the mediation of US Secretary of State John Kerry and the second was organized in Paris, on October 27, by the president of France Francois Hollande