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

Generally, when conflicts are being settled, the positions of the parties involved are based on the role they play in the dispute. Particularly in the case of territorial conflicts, the parties to the conflict are divided into aggressor and the victim or victims of the aggression.[1] In the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Azerbaijan has suffered as the result of Armenian aggression: it lost 20% of its territories, up to one million of its citizens were displaced, the infrastructure of the occupied territories collapsed, and the damage to the economy is estimated in billions of dollars. These are official facts identified by Azerbaijan as a result of the conflict developing into war, and its position in the settlement process is based on them.

Despite tremendous losses, Azerbaijan has demonstrated since the initial stage of the settlement process that it wants the dispute to be resolved by peaceful means only, and during the last two decades Azerbaijan has remained faithful to the principles adopted by the OSCE Minsk group. Azerbaijan as a “principal” party to the conflict, has adhered to the peace format structured by the OSCE Minsk group and has adopted a constructive position for settling the conflict.

The official strategy of the Azerbaijan government is to liberate all occupied territories, to return all displaced persons to their lands and to establish lasting peace and stability not only in the Nagorno-Karabakh region but also in the South Caucasus. Azerbaijan demands that the conflict be settled in accordance with the principles of respect for territorial integrity and it repeatedly stresses that none of the occupied region of Azerbaijan will be compromised.[2]

Azerbaijan believes that establishing the status of Nagorno-Karabakh is the final stage of the settlement process, and that it should be determined peacefully, with direct, full and equal participation by the entire population of the region and within the framework of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.[3]

Under the terms of the negotiation process, a number of steps should be taken before the self-rule status of Nagorno-Karabakh is discussed, as this will be the final stage of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement process. The steps proposed officially by Baku are as follows. Firstly, Armenian troops must be withdrawn from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan within the fixed timeframe.[4] Secondly, refugees and IDPs must be returned to their places of origin, in order to restore the pre-war demographic situation in the region. Thirdly, until the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh is determined, interaction should be established between the Azerbaijan government and local authorities of the Armenian community. Fourthly, in order to establish suitable conditions for peaceful co-existence, communications and economic relations should be reinstated between local authorities of the Armenian community and Azerbaijan.[5] Finally, education and tolerance programs should seek to establish humanitarian cooperation. Only when these stages have been implemented parties should talks on determining the legal status of the NK region commence. In conclusion, the official position of Azerbaijan remains unchanged, namely that the conflict should be settled through diplomatic efforts, but by increasing its military budget, speeding up the delivery of weapons, developing the national defense industry and increasing the use of war rhetoric by its top officials, Armenia is clearly indicating that it intends to settle the conflict by any means possible.

[1] Dinstein, Yoram, War, Aggression and Self-Defence (Cambridge University Press, 2003), p. 106.

[2] “Foreign Ministry: Azerbaijan’s position on the settlement of Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is clear and unchangeable”, AzərTac, May 5, 2020; https://azertag.az/en/xeber/Foreign_Ministry_Azerbaijans_position_on_the_settlement_of_Armenia_Azerbaijan_Nagorno_Karabakh_conflict_is_clear_and_unchangeable-1479129. Accessed on October 4, 2020.

[3] Mammadov, Akbar, “FM: Azerbaijan’s position on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict unwavering”, August 12, 2020; https://www.azernews.az/karabakh/167941.html. Accessed on October 4, 2020.

[4] “Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly”, September 23, 2010; https://en.president.az/articles/764. Accessed on October 3, 2020.

[5] Mammadov, “FM: Azerbaijan’s position on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict unwavering”.