What is the position of Armenia in the solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?

Armenia always argues that it participates in the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh in order to protect the rights of the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians and to provide them with security. However, since the very early stages of the conflict Armenia has played a crucial role in how the war has developed, and has forced all Azerbaijanis living in Armenia to leave their homes. The country’s Supreme Soviet also adopted a resolution calling for the unification of Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia.[1] After the war began, Armenia carried out a military attack on the territories involved in the conflict and succeeded in occupying not only Nagorno-Karabakh but also seven surrounding districts of Azerbaijan, with support from Russia. Currently, Armenia is recognized as one of the principle parties in the conflict and represents the Armenian community in Nagorno-Karabakh in the peace talks.[2]

The current official Armenian position on settling the conflict is based on the following: any settlement must be based on the right to self-determination by the Nagorno-Karabakh population, an uninterrupted territory under the jurisdiction of Armenia for linking Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia, and international guarantees for the security of Nagorno-Karabakh.[3]

In this respect, Armenia argues that Nagorno-Karabakh was never a part of independent Azerbaijan and that there are no legal, political or moral grounds for Azerbaijan to demand sovereignty right over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. It believes that the main principles of international law and those established in former Soviet legislature also provide grounds for the self-determination right in the form of full independence for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.[4] Armenia therefore insists that the legal status of the region must be determined by a referendum that should be held in the Nagorno-Karabakh region that is mainly populated by Armenians.[5]

In addition, Armenia demands an uninterrupted corridor, a territorial link between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, in order to provide security for Nagorno-Karabakh, and demands that this corridor should be under its jurisdiction. In this context, Lachin and Kalbajar, two occupied regions of Azerbaijan situated outside Nagorno-Karabakh, are considered as possible corridors.[6] Moreover, Armenia insists that it will never give up its claims on the Lachin corridor, since this is the only route that links it directly with Nagorno-Karabakh, and in 1994 it started to populate the Lachin region with Armenian families from Armenia and from all around the world by promising them financial and material assistance in order to strengthen its presence in the region.[7]

Although Armenia has officially declared that it is in favor of a peaceful solution to the conflict, it is still continuing to strengthen its military capability by providing a bigger budget in order to enlarge its military arsenal and purchase new weapons. As a result of the euphoria resulting from the first stage of the war, Armenia believes that in the event of a new war in Karabakh, the country is ready to defend itself from any attacks by Azerbaijan. The army and the church are the most trusted institutions by the people of Armenia, and there is a belief that this army is the strongest in the region.[8] Consequently, Armenia’s position on settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is shaped by the reality of the first stage of the war, which ended with the country’s so-called victory.

[1] Fraser, Niall M., Hipel, Keith W., Jaworsky, John and Zuljan, Ralph, “A Conflict Analysis of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Dispute”, The Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 34, No. 4, 1990, p. 659.

[2] Baguirov, Adil, “Nagorno-Karabakh: Basis and Reality of Soviet-era Legal and Economic Claims used to Justify the Armenia-Azerbaijan War”, Caucasian Review of International Affairs, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2008, p. 10.

[3] Minasyan, Sergey, Nagorno-Karabakh After Two Decades of Conflict: Is Prolongation of the Status Quo Inevitable? (Yerevan: Caucasus Institude, 2010), p. 24.

[4] Avakian, Shahen, Nagorno-Karabakh: Legal Aspect (TIGRAN METS Publishing House, 2010), p. 25.

[5] “Displacement and Status in the Nagorno Karabakh Conflict”, Chatham House: Russia and Eurasia Meeting Summary, November 21, 2012; https://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/default/files/public/Research/Russia%20and%20Eurasia/211112summary.pdf. Accessed on October 4, 2020.

[6] Poghosyan, Tevan, The Armenian ENP and Conflict Resolution in Nagorno Karabagh (Crisis Management Initiative, 2009), p. 15.

[7] Minasyan, Nagorno-Karabakh After Two Decades of Conflict”, p. 19.

[8] Poghosyan, The Armenian ENP and Conflict Resolution in Nagorno Karabakh, p. 13.