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Nagorno-Karabakh - 1994-2007

A Russian-mediated ceasefire has been in place since May 1994, and Russia, the United States, and France have tried to bring the sides closer together. The Karabakh government is unable to man the confrontation line properly, and approximately five strong infantry companies face just under five brigades of the Azerbaijan Army. The Azerbaijan Army unlikely to try to attack to recover its lost territory because every time the two sides have been in battle, the Karabakh Army supported by Armenia has eventually heavily defeated them.

Azeri President Aliyev offered to route an oil pipeline through Armenia en route to Turkey, which would give Armenia transit revenues from the pipeline, in exchange for Armenian withdrawal from the occupied territories. Armenia has refused, and serious consideration of pipelines running from Azerbaijan through Armenia to the west remains unlikely as long as the conflict remains unresolved; skirmishes still flare along the Armenian border with Azerbaijan.

Relationships between Russia and Azerbaijan were strained when it became known that Russia had shipped over $1 billion of arms to Armenia from 1993 to 1995. In the meantime, Armenia and Russia signed an updated friendship treaty at the end of the summer, as well as a deal to create a joint venture with Gazprom of Russia to supply Armenia with natural gas. Armenia's fuel supplies had been constrained by the Azeri blockade that followed the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Following the imposition of that blockade, the United States passed section 907 of the Freedom Support Act in October 1992, which restricts U.S. government assistance to Azerbaijan until Azerbaijan has taken "demonstrable steps to cease all blockades and other offensive uses of force against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh". In October 1998, U.S. legislation was approved that permitted some exemptions (including the U.S. Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation -- OPIC, and the Trade and Development Agency) from the bans contained in section 907.

Since 1992, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group has led efforts to find a political solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on the basis of the principles, commitments and provisions of OSCE. Unfortunately, but understandably, the OSCE Minsk process has been confidential and limited to the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Therefore, very little information is available to the public in both countries. It was widely believed that the negotiations of the two governments were close to an agreement following the initiatives by the Co-Chairs in 1997, 1998 and 2001, with meetings of the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Paris and Key West (USA). The proposed settlements differed from each other, but covered the status of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, the withdrawal of military forces and subsequent security guarantees, as well as the return of refugees and displaced persons. Peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the status of NKR remain stalemated, despite a meeting of Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan held on 14 August 2002. The previous talks of the Presidents took place on November 30, 2001, during the jubilee CIS summit in Moscow.

In the part of Azerbaijan that the Government controls, government efforts to hinder the opposition continue to impede the transition to democracy. A presidential election in the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) was held on 11 August 2002, and as expected, acting President of the NKR Arkady Gukasyan won the election.

The ceasefire, regulated since 1994 by the Minsk Group, was followed in 2005 by condemnation by the Council of Europe of the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and an affirmation of the rights of the displaced people in the armed conflict zone to return to their homes in security and dignity. Unfortunately, despite numerous initiatives undertaken by European and international organisations and institutions, the conflict continues.

Prior to the opening of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Madrid on November 29, 2007, U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner met with the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Vardan Oskanian and Elmar Mammadyarov, to demonstrate political-level support for the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries' effort to forge a just and lasting settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In the meeting, the representatives of the United States, France and Russia formally presented a set of Basic Principles for the Peaceful Settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict. Those basic principles were founded on the provision of the Helsinki Final Act, including those related to refraining from the threat or use of force, the territorial integrity of States, and the equal rights and self-determination of peoples. The proposal transmitted to the two sides in Madrid comprised a balanced package of principles. It was noted that over the past three years of talks the two sides had significantly narrowed their differences through the mediation of the Co-Chair countries and that only a few differences remained to be settled.

The agreement to accept the Madrid principles as a basis for negotiations was reached only on 6 June 2008, at the St. Petersburg meeting of the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Russian, Armenian and Azeri presidents signed a declaration underscoring their shared desire to resolve the conflict on the basis of international law. Presidents Ilham Aliyev and Serge Sargsyan described their meeting in Zurich on January 28, 2009, as useful and constructive, despite two Azerbaijani reports circulated in the United Nations General Assembly one month earlier. At the conclusion of their Zurich meeting, the Presidents reiterated their commitment to the Minsk Group peace process.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:28:46 ZULU