The UN Security Council and the Conflict between Azerbaijan and Karabakh

From 1988 to 1991, in the initial stage of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Karabakh, the UN was acting in line with the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of the USSR. Although the collapse of the Soviet Union gave the UN an opportunity to get more actively involved in the process of resolution of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Karabakh, the UN preferred to abstain from direct mediation initiatives, instead supporting the efforts of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE).

However, in 1992, concern over the deteriorating situation and the threat to regional peace and security led to four United Nations fact-finding missions being sent to the zone of the Azerbaijani-Karabakh conflict. The first fact-finding mission, led by the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, former US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, arrived in Karabakh in March 1992. One of the aims of Vance’s mission was to support CSCE mediation efforts carried out by the Chairman-in-Office of the CSCE, Jiří Dienstbier. Two other similar missions arrived in the conflict zone, respectively, in May and October 19921. In July 1992, UN Secretary-General dispatched another mission, the purpose of which was to check the allegations of Azerbaijan on the use of chemical weapons against it. The UN experts had determined that “no evidence of use of chemical weapons was presented to the team”2.

A UN observer was present at the preliminary peace talks that took place in Rome under the auspices of the CSCE.

On May 12, 1992, the UN Security Council made a declaration welcoming the urgent dispatch by the Secretory-General of a fact-finding mission to the region to study ways and means for speedily assisting the efforts undertaken within the framework of the CSCE to help the parties to reach a peaceful settlement3. Further on, the Security Council has been consistently supportive of the efforts of the CSCE.

In 1993, amidst the active military hostilities, the UN Security Council adopted four resolutions concerning Azerbaijani-Karabakh conflict: 822 (April 30, 1993), 853 (June 29, 1993), 874 (October 14, 1993), 884 (November 12, 1993).

The primary and most important requirement of these resolutions was the immediate cessation of fire, all hostilities and hostile acts.

It is this basic provision of the four resolutions that has not been fully met by Azerbaijan. Since the adoption of the resolutions Azerbaijan has numerously violated the ceasefire (as clearly stated in UN SC resolution 884) and rejected proposals on establishing or extending the truce.

The ceasefire agreement was reached only a year after the adoption of the first resolution by the UN Security Council. The reason behind Azerbaijan signing the termless ceasefire of 1994, was not to meet the requirements of the aforementioned resolutions that it had been consistently ignoring, but because of its own military failures.

As later noted by Vladimir Kazimirov, the former Russian Co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, Plenipotentiary of the RF President on Nagorno Karabakh, in 1994 it was almost impossible to rely on UN SC resolutions since those had become inapplicable. According to Kazimirov, that was the very reason why instead of the UN SC resolutions, the joint declaration of the Commonwealth of Independent States’ (CIS) Council of Heads of State of April 15, 1994 and the Bishkek protocols signed by the speaker  of the parliaments of Nagorno Karabakh, Armenia and Azerbaijan, formed the political and diplomatic basis for the ceasefire agreement of May 12, 19944.

However, even after the establishment of the ceasefire, the requirements of the UN SC resolutions regarding the cessation of all hostilities and hostile acts have not been fully met. The Azerbaijani side has been repeatedly violating the ceasefire regime, rejecting measures proposed by the international mediators for strengthening the ceasefire, constantly threatening to resume military operations, and continueing the blockade of the NKR and Armenia.

The Azerbaijani side has neglected not only the main provision of the UN SC resolution, but a number of other provisions as well:

  • to refrain from any action that will obstruct a peaceful solution to the conflict (822, 853). Constant provocations by Azerbaijan on the Line of Contact, continuing threats of renewed hostilities, refusal to implement measures aimed at building confidence and reducing tensions, propagating xenophobia and hatred towards Armenians, as well as declaring Armenians around the world number one enemy of Azerbaijan further complicate the settlement process.
  • to pursue negotiations through direct contacts between the parties (853). The UN Security Council resolutions identified Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh as parties to the conflict. Despite the demands and calls of the UN Security Council, Azerbaijan has ceased direct contacts with the Nagorno Karabakh Republic since October 1993 and trilateral Nagorno Karabakh-Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiations since April, 1997. It should be recalled that direct contacts between Azerbaijan and the Nagorno Karabakh Republic resulted in nearly a dozen bilateral agreements on limitation of military operations and establishment of temporary truce that set the ground for achieving a permanent ceasefire in May 1994.
  • an early convening of the CSCE Minsk Conference for the purpose of arriving at a negotiated settlement to the conflict (874). In May 1992, Azerbaijan blocked the convening of the Minsk Conference, deliberately putting forward unrealistic preconditions. Subsequently, despite calls from the UN Security Council, the Azerbaijani side continued to adhere to this position, which made it impossible to convene the Minsk Conference.
  • restoration of economic, transport and energy links in the region (853); In its attempts to solve the conflict by force Azerbaijan from the very beginning resorted to a blockade of Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia, which continues to this day. Moreover, complete isolation of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh has been declared by the President of Azerbaijan as a top priority of the country’s foreign policy5.
  • unimpeded access for international humanitarian relief efforts in the region (822, 853, 874). Azerbaijan continues to prevent specialized international organizations from visiting Nagorno Karabakh to assist Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan as well as internally displaced persons residing in the NKR.

Azerbaijan’s refusal to comply with the requirements and calls of the four UN Security Council resolutions, its bet on a military solution, unwillingness to secure peace and constant threats of resuming military operations have devalued the mentioned resolutions and made them inapplicable.




1. Olivier Paye and Eric Remacle. Contested Borders in the Caucasus: UN and CSCE Policies in Transcaucasia. Contested Borders in the Caucasus, by Bruno Coppieters (ed.)

2. Report of The Mission Dispatched by The Secretary-General to Investigate Reports of The Use of Chemical Weapons In Azerbaijan. July 24, 1992. S/24344

3. Note by the President of the UN Security Council, May 12, 1992. S/23904

4. Владимир Казимиров. Резолюции Совета Безопасности ООН и перемирие в Карабахе (Vladimir Kazimirov . The Resolutions of the UN Security Council and Ceasefire in Karabakh), REGNUM News Agency, November 11, 2013

5. Speech by president of Azebaijan Ilham Aliyev at the fourth meeting of the heads of diplomatic service of the republic. September 21, 2012


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