Nagorno Karabakh Peace Process
Position Paper June 2002
In 1988, Nagorno Karabakh (NK), a historically Armenian land and autonomous entity in the Soviet Union, petitioned the Central Government in Moscow asking to be reunited with Armenia. This legal and peaceful call for self-determination aimed to rectify Stalin's 'divide and conquer' gerrymandering of 1921, whereby Nagorno Karabakh and its Armenian population (over 95 percent) was forcibly placed under the administrative rule of the Azerbaijani SSR.
Setting aside Soviet and other applicable international laws, the Soviet Union and Azerbaijan arbitrarily denied Nagorno Karabakh's appeal for self-determination. The situation escalated to conflict, as Azerbaijan resorted to pogroms and military aggression in an effort to suppress Nagorno Karabakh's action. This violence was followed by the 1991-1994 Azeri instigated war on the Nagorno Karabakh Republic (NKR), which claimed thousands of NK casualties and destroyed an estimated 80 percent of Nagorno Karabakh's economy. In the summer of 1992 Azerbaijan placed about 50% of the NKR territory under military occupation. Since the cease-fire Agreement of 1994, the conflict awaits final, peaceful, and equitable resolution through direct negotiations.
Since 1992 the main vehicle for the resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict has been the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which has sought to mediate a durable peace settlement. The Minsk Group, currently co-chaired by the United States, Russia and France, has come forward with a series of proposals to solve the crisis. The most recent of these was the "Common State" proposal (more here). This approach, which envisioned restarting full-fledged negotiations without any preconditions, was accepted by Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia, but rejected by Azerbaijan. In April 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell hosted a meeting in Key West, Florida between Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Azeri President Geidar Aliev to further the Nagorno Karabakh peace-process. At its conclusion, the Minsk Group reported "major progress". However, Azeri President Aliev subsequently walked away from the agreements reached at the meeting, yet another setback for the peace process back.
Since the early days of the Azeri military offensive, the U.S. Congress has been actively engaged in the effort to find a resolution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. In fact, in 1989, the U.S.
Senate passed, a resolution highlighting America's support for the fundamental rights and the aspirations of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh generally, and for a peaceful and fair settlement to the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh specifically (S.J. Res. 178).
In addition, Congress has addressed this issue through the annual foreign operations appropriations process. For example, the Fiscal Year 2000 Foreign Operations Appropriations House Report Language states: "The primary interest of the United States in the Southern Caucasus is peace." To this extent, the report mentions the possibility of "exceptional support" for the region once peace is reached and a stable infrastructure is in place.
Similarly, Members of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues continue to circulate numerous "Dear Colleague" letters and deliver speeches on the House and Senate floors in which they reaffirm their support for a peaceful resolution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. These Members also praise the determination of the Karabakh people to maintain their independence. U.S. Congressmen Adam Shiff acknowledged "The right to independence is already realized by the NKR people, and [it is] inadmissible, that a third side would dictate its conditions."
The people and the government of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic are grateful to the members of the Armenian Caucus and the House and Senate appropriators for their ongoing leadership on Nagorno Karabakh issues. Moreover, our government shares the desire of the U.S. Congress to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict through the OSCE peace process, since we believe that a peaceful and economically integrated South Caucasus will bring stability, economic prosperity and increased opportunity for all peoples of the region.
During 1992-1997 NKR participated directly in the OSCE peace talks. It is a signatory to the May 1994 tripartite cease-fire Agreement. Subsequently, Azerbaijan rejected NK as a negotiating partner. International mediators have said repeatedly that the conflict cannot be resolved without the concurrence of NK. International practice and precedence require that NK be a full party throughout the negotiation process.
The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is fully committed to the peaceful resolution of the conflict with Azerbaijan and has agreed to restart full-fledged negotiations without any preconditions. We welcome the continued active involvement of the U.S. Congress in the search for peace and stability in the region, and we call on the government of Azerbaijan to abandon its war rhetoric and anti-Armenian propaganda. In order to contribute to the establishment of an atmosphere of tolerance and trust, we propose to the Government of Azerbaijan to agree to a set of confidence building measures with Nagorno Karabakh. We find Azerbaijan's rejection of Nagorno Karabakh as a full party to the peace negotiations counterproductive. We also ask the U.S. Congress to continue its efforts in advancing a peaceful resolution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict by ensuring that Nagorno Karabakh is a full participant throughout the negotiating process.