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What is the position of the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in the solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?

The parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict were recognized under the terms of the “Baker rules” and within the framework of the OSCE Minsk group, and according to that regulation the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic was accepted as an “interested party” in the conflict. However, at the beginning of the settlement process, the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic insisted on its direct involvement in the negotiation being restored. The so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic argued that it was impossible to achieve anything unless all parties to the conflict were involved. Moreover, unrecognized republic joint to the talks till 1997 and together with Azerbaijan and Armenia signed ceasefire agreement in 1994. In 1998, when former president of the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Robert Kocharian became the head of the Republic of Armenia, he proclaimed that as President of Armenia he would also represent the interests of the Armenian community in Nagorno-Karabakh, and after that the unrecognized republic was excluded from the negotiating table. Currently, while Armenia supports the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s intention of being included in the talks, Azerbaijan still rejects its participation in the initial stages of the peace–building process, but does not rule out the possibility of it being included in subsequent stages, if the parties agreed on the basic principles.[1]

The so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic rejects any possibility of being a part of Azerbaijan under any autonomy arrangement, and stresses that the people of Nagorno-Karabakh determined their sovereignty by means of a referendum, which was held in 1991.[2] The official authorities of the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic claim that the whole process relating to the referendum and declaration of independence was based on Soviet Union legislation and international law.[3] In addition, during the last two decades Nagorno-Karabakh has maintained its existence as a de facto independent state, and a new Armenian generation has grown up that has never lived under the sovereignty of Azerbaijan. Therefore, the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s authority argues that if any achievements are to be made in the peace process, the principles relating to territorial integrity must not be a precondition for settling the conflict. The so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic officially claims sovereignty over the territories of the former NKAO and Shaumyan district while the occupied territories of seven districts of Azerbaijan are identified as a “security belt”, and these territories are the subjects of negotiation for return to Azerbaijan.[4]

The return of IDPs to their homes is a complicated aspect of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. More than 80% of all IDPs lived in the seven districts of Azerbaijan occupied by Armenia, and only the remaining 20% in the NKAO. The official authorities in the separatist state consider it impossible to repatriate Azerbaijani people inside Nagorno-Karabakh, especially Shusha, the city that was entirely populated by Azerbaijanis before the war.[5] Although, officiallyArmenia has no sovereignty claims over the seven adjacent territories of Azerbaijan, since 2000 it has been carrying out a settlement program for Armenians from all around the world in these occupied territories of Azerbaijan.[6] Azerbaijan interprets the situation with respect to the “resettlement program” not only as a violation of the principles of international law but also as a barrier to progress in the process for settling the conflict.

Despite the failure of attempts by the OSCE Minsk group to settle the conflict, the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic still supports this organization’s mediation role.[7] Moreover, in order to decrease hostility between the communities, the unrecognized state is eager to initiate capacity-building measures by organizing various programs.[8] While at official level it stresses that it will use every opportunity to settle the conflict by peaceful means, it continues to strengthen its military capability. Its victory in the first stage of the war was a source of strength for the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, but at the same time, insecurity and a fear that the war might flare up again mean that official authorities distrust the victory.[9] In fact, the separatist state is not militaristic, but it is devoted to military matters.[10]

In conclusion, we can sum up by saying that for the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, determining the status of the region is seen as the first task in settling the conflict. Moreover, the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic believes that unless it is directly involved in the negotiation process, it will be impossible to achieve anything. In addition, the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic insists that the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan must not be a precondition for settling the conflict, since the Armenians in Karabakh will never agree to live under the sovereignty of Azerbaijan.

[1] Pashayeva, Gulshan and Göksel, Nigar, “The Interplay of the approaches of Turkey, Russia and the United States to the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh”, SAM review, 2011, p. 23.

[2] “Declaration on Proclamation of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic”, HyeTert, September 2, 2020; https://hyetert.org/2020/09/02/declaration-on-proclamation-of-the-nagorno-karabakh-republic/. Accessed on October 4, 2020.

[3] “Independence or Reunification?”, Office of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in Washington; http://www.nkrusa.org/nk_conflict/independence_or_reunification.shtml. Accessed on October 4, 2020.

[4] “Declaration on Proclamation of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic”.

[5] Lynch, Dov, “Separatist States and Post Soviet Conflicts”, International Affairs, Vol. 78, No. 4, 2002, p. 837.

[6] Harutyunyan, Melania, “Deputy Prime Minister of Artsakh spoke about the resettlement of Artsakh”, Arovat, July 27,2013; https://www.aravot-en.am/2013/07/27/155729/. Accessed on October 4, 2020.

[7] “Prospects for Peace”, Office of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in Washington; http://www.nkrusa.org/nk_conflict/prospects_peace.shtml. Accessed on October 4, 2020.

[8] “Prospects for Peace”.

[9] Lynch, “Separatist States and post Soviet conflicts”, p. 840.

[10] Lynch, “Separatist States and post Soviet conflicts”, p. 839.