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What is UN Security Council Resolution 822, adopted on April 30, 1993, about?

On April 30, 1993, at its 3205th session, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 822, which condemned the occupation of Kelbajar region of Azerbaijan, situated outside of Nagorno-Karabakh, and demanded respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. In that resolution, the Security Council further demanded the immediate cessation of hostilities and hostile acts that endangered peace and security in the region, and the immediate, full and unconditional withdrawal of all occupying forces from not only the Kelbajar region but also all the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. The Council also requested the Secretary General, in consultation with the Chairman-in-Office of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe as well as the Chairman of the Minsk Group of the Conference “to assess the situation in the region, in particular in the Kelbajar district of Azerbaijan, and to submit a further report to the Council”.[1]

It should be mentioned that the Kelbajar region (area: 1,936 sq. km., population: 58000)[2] was not part of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast, and no Armenians have lived there at any time throughout history.[3] As a place of great strategic importance for both sides in the conflict, it is a sliver of Azerbaijan land situated between the northwest part of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.[4] After the occupation of Kelbajar by Armenian forces, Nagorno-Karabakh lost its enclave status within the territory of Azerbaijan and attached de facto to Armenia with 60 miles long and 30 miles wide land stretch.[5]

The major offensive on the Kelbajar region by Armenian forces began on March 27, 1993. The defense by Azerbaijan was very poorly planned, and no reinforcements were sent to assist. However, the Armenian side was highly motivated. The main attack on the Kelbajar region came not from the Nagorno-Karabakh military units but from the west, the Vardenis region of Armenia. Consequently, Armenians captured the Kelbajar region on April 3 without military losses.[6] Armenia justified its capture with the pretext that it was establishing a “security belt” to protect Nagorno-Karabakh.[7]

During the attack on Kelbajar, several violations of the rules of war were perpetrated by the Armenian forces, such as the forced displacement of civilians, indiscriminate fire, and hostage taking. Within a week, an estimated 60,000 civilians, roughly equal numbers of Kurds and Azerbaijanis, had been forced to flee their homes.[8] In the words of the US Department of State Human Rights Country Report, “They [the Armenian forces] drove out the inhabitants and looted and burned the provincial capitals and most of the villages of these regions”.[9] According to Human Rights Watch, initially the civilian population of the Kelbajar region was allowed to flee, but after a while it became clear that all escape routes were closed, “except those over the treacherous Murov Mountains”.[10] As Thomas de Waal puts it, “a new desperate tide of refugees set off in flight, this time along the only route the Armenians had left open: the fifty miles of snowy road north across the Murov Mountains”.[11] At the result, civil population, many of them Azerbaijani Kurds who lived in there for centuries, perished while fleeing over the Murov Mountains.[12] On the question of the fleeing Kurdish population, Human Rights Watch stated the following: “Despite Armenian reports to the contrary, there is no evidence to support allegations that Kurds living either in Lachin or Kelbajar provinces supported the Armenian seizure of those areas or that large numbers of Kurds remained in the provinces after they fell to Armenian forces and sought to set up an autonomous Kurdish region. All Kurds fled, together with the Azeri population”.[13]

An American journalist Thomas Goltz went further and wrote that after the occupation of Kelbajar, the Kurdish community in the region appealed to Kurds around the world for help in stopping the aggression and the occupation of Azerbaijan by Armenia, and in preventing the slaughtering and looting of the civilian population. The appeal read as follows: “We call on the world Kurdish community to join us, the Kurdish of Azerbaijan, to start a massive, international campaign of solidarity to free our country from aggression and occupation! We call on you to help us save our ancient homeland in Azerbaijan in the name of justice and peace!”.[14] Consequently, within a few short weeks, the civilian population of Kelbajar was ethnically cleansed and expelled from its native land by Armenian forces, resulting in a vast number of IDPs living in unbearable conditions and a humanitarian crisis in Azerbaijan. According to a report by the Azerbaijan State Committee on Refugees in April 1993, 9,582 families from the region were registered and were settled in schools, summer camps, hotels, and also in tents.[15]

The capture of Kelbajar led to the formation of another land corridor, after Lachin, between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. However, Armenia was faced with a heavy diplomatic cost. The occupation of the region by Armenians, with the help of outside forces, brought widespread international condemnation. As mentioned above, twenty-eight days after the operation, UN Security Council passed Resolution 822, which demanded the cessation of hostilities. According to Thomas de Waal, “while calling on both sides to cease hostilities, the resolution singled out the Armenian side and demanded an “immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces” from Kelbajar”.[16]

However, Armenians deny any involvement by military forces of the Armenian Republic in the occupation of the Kelbajar region. They accuse Azerbaijan of misinterpreting UN Security Council resolutions in order to mislead the international community. Accordingly, they argue that the resolutions never referred to Armenia as an “aggressor” or “occupier”, and claim that Resolution 822 stated that the armed conflict was between Azerbaijan and “local Armenian forces” in Nagorno-Karabakh, “which distinguished Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh as immediate parties to the conflict”.[17] However, the principal attack during the Kelbajar operation came mainly from the western part of the region, from the territory of Armenia rather than from the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians, and “marked the increasingly blatant involvement of the Armenian state in the war”.[18] Regarding this, De Waal also narrates that “The main thrust of the Armenian attack came from the west, from the Vardenis region of Armenia – although this was denied at the time for political reasons”.[19] Strong evidence, such as Armenian military ID cards, call-up papers to active service, passports, vacation cards, discharge tickets and petitions captured by Azerbaijan military units, plus the testimonies of soldiers of the 555th separate Motor Rifle Regiments of Armenia[20] also proves that not only Armenia but also outside forces, namely soldiers from the Russian 7th Army, were involved in the occupation of the Kelbajar region.[21] Thomas de Waal wrote the following on this: “A military map captured by the Azerbaijanis and dated 1 April 1993, had belonged to a Major S. O. Barsegian. The dates on the map showed that Barsegian had been on the shores of Lake Sevan on 2 March, crossed the Armenia-Azerbaijan border at 4:30 p.m. on 27 March, and headed toward Kelbajar. Azad Isazade, formerly of Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry, has a copy of the map… The Azerbaijani Security Ministry later released an audiocassette of an intercepted radio conversation between an officer speaking very pure Russian and a heavily accented Armenian”.[22]

Human Rights Watch said with respect to this matter that according to radio intercepts released by the government of Azerbaijan, troops belonging to the 128th Regiment of the 7th Russian Army were involved in the occupation of Kelbajar. Human Rights Watch also said that after listening the tapes, the UN Representative in Baku, Mahmoud Al-Said, who was fluent in Russian, confirmed that native Russian speakers were on it.[23]

Furthermore, the direct involvement of Armenian forces in the occupation of Kelbajar was proved by Western news agencies. On April 8, The Independent wrote, “[i]t is Armenia that invaded Azerbaijani territory”, and a week later, on April 14, The Times also wrote that “[o]ne thing is certain: the Kelbadjar region was attacked from Armenia itself, to the west, as well as from Nagorno-Karabakh to the east”. On April 22, Agency France Presse reported that “Azerbaijan has suffered a series of setbacks in the war after Armenia carried out a major offensive early this month…”. In turn, The Washington Post agreed with other news agencies and reported on April 28 that “[t]he war involving the former Soviet Republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan has moved into a dangerous new phase…”.[24]

In addition, the OSCE Minsk Group also recognized that the conflict was between two states, Armenia and Azerbaijan, which “adjusted timetable of urgent steps to implement United Nations Security Council Resolutions 822 (1993) and 853 (1993)” dated September 28, 1993.[25] Meanwhile, the Minsk Group set in motion a negotiation process between the parties to the conflict according to the Baker Rules, named after US Secretary of State James Baker, and this recognized only two “principal parties” to the conflict – Armenia and Azerbaijan.[26]

Special emphasis should also be placed on the concept of “invasion”, as stated in Resolution 822 as “latest invasion of the Kelbajar district of the Republic of Azerbaijan by local Armenian forces”.[27] Armenians argue that it should be referred to as an “internal conflict” between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians, rather than a conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. However, according to the international law terms the word “invasion” is mainly used for the international conflict that was adopted in 1974 by the General Assembly of UN, which states that armed aggression against a sovereign state takes place as a result of “[t]he invasion or attack by the armed forces of a State of the territory of another State, or any military occupation, however temporary, resulting from such invasion or attack, or any annexation by the use of force of the territory of another State or part thereof”.[28]

By admitting that they had assisted in the occupation of the Kelbajar region, when Deputy Foreign Minister, Libardian said, “we give them whatever is necessary for their security and survival. That includes sugar, flour, electricity, small arms, tanks and the surface-to-air missile systems”.[29]

The occupation also gave neighboring countries an impetus to put pressure on Armenia to stop its aggression against Azerbaijan and begin negotiating a peaceful solution to the conflict. After the invasion of Kelbajar, Turkey immediately closed its border with Armenia.[30] The occupation of further Azerbaijani territories, such as the Jabrail???, Kubatli ???, and Zangelan??? regions, by Armenian forces also alarmed Iran. In his letter addressed to the UN Secretary General, Mr. Ali Akbar Vilayati, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs called on the UN to “…take immediate and effective measures to implement Security Council Resolutions 822 (1993) … and decisively compel the aggressive forces to accept a cease-fire and to withdraw to the internationally recognized borders”.[31]

Russia also pointed to the tripartite peace talks in which Russia, Turkey and the USA were involved, which was later called the “3+1 initiative” when the Italian Minsk Group chair joined the discussion. This initiative demanded the withdrawal of Armenian military forces from the Kelbajar region and set a timetable for the start of a two-month ceasefire and the resumption of new peace talks. Azerbaijan and Armenia accepted the peace plan, but in May 1993 Armenia rejected it on the pretext that it did not mention anything about security guarantees for Karabakh Armenians.[32] Robert Kocharian, chairman of the Nagorno-Karabakh State Defense Committee, commented that, “…A peace-bringing to the region should take into account the essential interests of the Karabakh people…Because of that, Karabakh leadership’s answer to the trilateral initiatives a call upon the world community to respect the right of the people of Karabakh to guard their security, though they noticed the lack of security in the initiative”. [33]

Svante Cornell construes the rejection of the peace initiative by the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians as an excuse, a pretext used by the Armenian government “for pursuing its own goals and avoiding a diplomatic embarrassment”.[34] The Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians later accepted the plan, on June 14, after pressure was put on them by the Armenian Government, but they asked for a month’s delay in implementing it. However, UN Security Council Resolution 822 and the “3+1 initiative” were reduced to dust when Armenian forces occupied Agdam in July 1993.[35]

[1] United Nations Security Council, “Resolution 822”, s/RES/822, April 30, 1993.

[2] Mammadov, Akbar, “27 years since Kalbajar’s occupation by Armenian armed forces”, AZERNEWS, April 2, 2020; https://www.azernews.az/karabakh/163609.html. Accessed on October 2, 2020.

[3] Sheets, Lawrence Scott, “A ‘Frozen Conflict’ That Could Boil Over”, The New York Times, March 8, 2012; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/09/opinion/a-frozen-conflict-that-could-boil-over.html?_r=1&. Accessed on October 2, 2020.

[4] De Waal, Thomas, Black Garden (New York University Press, 2003), p. 211.

[5] Bonner, Raymond, “War in Caucasus Shows Ethnic Hate’s Front Line”, The New York Times, August 2, 1993; http://www.nytimes.com/1993/08/02/world/war-in-caucasus-shows-ethnic-hate-s-front-line.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm. Accessed on October 2, 2020.

[6] De Waal, Black Garden, p. 211.

[7] Sheets, “A ‘Frozen Conflict’ That Could Boil Over”.

[8] Human Rights Watch, Azerbaijan: Seven years of conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, (USA: Human Rights Watch, December 1994), pp. 8-9.

[9] McDowall, David, A Modern History of the Kurds (I.B. Tauris, 2004), p. 493.

[10] Human Rights Watch, Azerbaijan: Seven years of conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, p. 11.

[11] De Waal, Black Garden, p. 212.

[12] De Waal, Thomas, The Caucasus: An Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2010), p. 121.

[13] Human Rights Watch, Azerbaijan: Seven years of conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, p. 9. See also: “You too, Armenia”, Kurdish Life, No. 9, 1994, published by Kurdish Library, Brooklyn, New York.

[14] Goltz, Thomas, Azerbaijan Diary: A Rogue Reporter’s Adventures in an Oil-Rich, War-Torn, Post-Soviet Republic, (USA, M.E. Sharpe, 1998), p. 346. The author writes “to my knowledge, the document has never seen the light of day in any international human-rights publication because it goes so much against the grain of conventional wisdom about the Kurds and the Armenians”, p. 347.

[15] Human Rights Watch, Azerbaijan: Seven years of conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, p. 15.

[16] De Waal, Black Garden, p. 213.

[17] Avetisyan, Aram, “Karabakh Knot: Myths and Realities”, Foreign Policy Journal, March 10, 2012; http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2012/03/10/karabakh-knot-myths-and-realities/. Accessed on October 2, 2020.

[18] Cornell, Svante E., Azerbaijan since Independence (M. E. Sharpe, 2011), p. 73.

[19] De Waal, Black Garden, p. 211.

[20] Sadigbeyli, Rovshan, “The Implications of the 1993 U.N. Security Council Action for the Settlement of the Armenia – Azerbaijan Conflict”, Caucasian Review of International Affairs, Vol. 3, No. 4, 2009, p. 349. See also: Human Rights Watch, Azerbaijan: Seven years of conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, p. 69.

[21] De Waal, Black Garden, p. 213.

[22] De Waal, Black Garden, Note 34 to Chapter 13, pp. 316-317.

[23] Human Rights Watch, Azerbaijan: Seven years of conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, footnote 39, p. 8.

[24] Sadigbeyli, “The Implications of the 1993 U.N. Security Council Action”, p. 350.

[25] Sadigbeyli, “The Implications of the 1993 U.N. Security Council Action”, p. 355.

[26] Huseynov, Javid, “Karabakh Peace Process Must Be Fully Inclusive”, RFE/RL, September 1, 2009; http://www.rferl.org/content/Karabakh_Peace_Process_Must_Be_Fully_Inclusive_/1812056.html. Accessed on October 2, 2020.

[27] “Resolution 822”.

[28] Sadigbeyli, “The Implications of the 1993 U.N. Security Council Action”, p. 354.

[29] Bonner, “War in Caucasus Shows Ethnic Hate’s Front Line”.

[30] Shiriyev, Zaur and Davies, Celia, “The Turkey-Armenia-Azerbaijan Triangle: The Unexpected Outcomes of the Zurich Protocols”, Perceptions, Vol. 18, No. 1, p. 186.

[31] Sadigbeyli, “The Implications of the 1993 U.N. Security Council Action”, pp. 364-365. See also: letter from the Charge d’Affaires a.i. of the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran addressed to the Secretary-General, U.N. Doc. S/26387, August 31, 1993.

[32] Baser, Bahar, “Third Party Mediation in Nagorno-Karabakh: Part of the Cure or Part of the Disease?”, Journal of Central Asian & Caucasian Studies, Vol. 3, Issue 5, 2008, p. 92.

[33] Human Rights Watch, Azerbaijan: Seven years of conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, pp. 17-18.

[34] Cornell, Svante E., Small Nations and Great Powers: Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict in the Caucasus (Routledge Curzon, 2001), p. 85.

[35] Human Rights Watch, Azerbaijan: Seven years of conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, p. 18.