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What are the Updated Madrid Principles?

The Updated Madrid Principles refer to one of the peace initiatives presented by the OSCE Minsk Group to the parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, based on the Basic Principles introduced to the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia in November 2007. It was at the Group of Eight (G8) Summit in L’Aquila, Italy, on July 10, 2009 that the Presidents of the OSCE Minsk Group’s Co-Chair countries, namely Barack Obama, former President of the US, Dmitry Medvedev, former President of Russian Federation, and Nicolas Sarkozy, former President of the French Republic, made a joint statement on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, in which they expressed their agreement that there was a need for a further step to be taken in the negotiation process in order to complete the work that would lead to a draft comprehensive peace treaty being drawn up.

In the joint statement, they urged the Co-Chairs of the Minsk Group to draft and present an updated version of the Madrid Principles that would reflect a reasonable compromise, based on the Helsinki Final Act between the parties, on the principles of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, on the one hand, and territorial integrity, on the other, which were contradictory points in the original Madrid Principles of November 2007. They also asked the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents “to resolve the few differences remaining between them and finalize their agreement on these Basic Principles, which will outline a comprehensive settlement”.[1] The Updated Madrid Principles are:

  • Return of the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijani control;
  • An interim status for Nagorno-Karabakh providing guarantees for security and self-governance;
  • A corridor linking Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh;
  • Future determination of the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh through a legally binding expression of will;
  • The right of all internally displaced persons and refugees to return to their former places of residence; and
  • International security guarantees that would include a peacekeeping operation.[2]

According to Radio Liberty, the differences between the Updated Madrid Principles and the original version were very slight, yet significant for the parties to the conflict. The original Madrid Principles referred to the phased withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied territories of Azerbaijan, but in the new ones the word phased is absent. Meanwhile, the previous principles stated that the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh should be determined by referendum, but according to the Updated Madrid Principles the final status should be decided by a legally binding expression of will.[3]

According to the joint statement by the Presidents of the OSCE Minsk Group’s Co-Chair countries, endorsement of these Principles by the parties will allow a comprehensive settlement to be drafted that will enable regional peace, stability, and future prosperity to be established. Even though the parties to the conflict have held various meetings at presidential and ministerial levels, they have been insisting since the release of the Updated Madrid Principles in 2009 on their territorial integrity position and self-determination right, and no progress has been made towards settling the conflict. For two decades, the mediation efforts of the OSCE Minsk group helped to avoid a resumption of military hostilities between the parties, but failed to get them to make a closer commitment to settle the conflict.

[1] “Statement by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries”, OSCE, July 10, 2009; http://www.osce.org/mg/51152. Accessed on October 3, 2020.

[2] “Statement by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries”.

[3] “Armenian, Azerbaijani Presidents Agree On Preamble To ‘Madrid Principles’”, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, January 26, 2010; http://www.rferl.org/content/Armenian_Azerbaijani_Presidents_Agree_On_Preamble_To_Madrid_Principles/1940349.html. Accessed on October 3, 2020.