Speaking at a press conference in Baku on March 15, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov disclosed details
of the most recent draft of the so-called Madrid Principles for resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The original Madrid Principles were presented by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs to the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers in November 2007; they were updated last year at the urging of the presidents of France, Russia, and the United States, the three countries that jointly co-chair the Minsk Group.
According to Mammadyarov, the most recent draft of the Madrid Principles envisages a phased, rather than a package solution to the conflict. The various steps are as follows:
- Armenian forces withdraw from the Agdam, Fizuli, Djebrail, Zangelan, and Gubadli districts of Azerbaijan that border on Nagorno-Karabakh, and from 13 villages in the occupied Lachin district that lies between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.
- Communications are restored and a donors' conference convened to raise funds for postconflict rehabilitation. "Peacekeeping observers" are deployed to ensure the security of Azerbaijani displaced persons returning to their abandoned homes.
- The second stage entails the withdrawal of the remaining occupying Armenian forces from Lachin and Kelbajar, followed by the return to Nagorno-Karabakh of the former Azerbaijani population. A decision is then taken on the status of the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh republic within the Azerbaijan Republic, meaning that status should not violate Azerbaijan's territorial integrity.
In that context, Mammadyarov proposed what he termed "a high level of autonomy" such as that enjoyed by Tatarstan and Bashkortostan within the Russian Federation.
It is not clear whether Mammadyarov touched on the twin points, mentioned in the joint statement released in July by the French, Russian, and U.S. presidents, of granting "interim status for Nagorno-Karabakh providing guarantees for security and self-governance," with the region's "final legal status" to be determined "through a legally binding expression of will."Mammadyarov said
one week ago after meeting with the Minsk Group co-chairs in Paris that the revamped Madrid Principles are "largely acceptable" to Azerbaijan, bar some points he did not specify.
RFE/RL's Armenian Service in late January quoted unidentified sources close to the negotiating process as saying the remaining disagreements between the conflicting parties center on practical modalities of the referendum; the time frame for the Armenian troop withdrawal from Kelbajar and Lachin; and the status of a land corridor across Lachin that would connect the two Armenian entities.
In an address last month to the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian argued that the principle of territorial integrity "should not be emphatically underlined" when seeking a solution to the Karabakh conflict. He said Nagorno-Karabakh has never been part of an independent Azerbaijani state, and that the region seceded from the USSR in full accordance with the legislation in force in that country at the time. He went on to ask rhetorically why those who now argue that Azerbaijan's territorial integrity must be preserved at all cots did not advance the same argument when the USSR and Yugoslavia disintegrated.
"Our belief is that the settlement of the Karabakh conflict should be based on human rights and the will of the Karabakh people as an expression of their collective identity," Sarkisian went on. "It is the only way to achieve a lasting, feasible, and peaceful settlement." The alternative -- forcing the Karabakh population against their will to live as citizens of the Azerbaijan Republic would, Sarkisian predicted, inevitably lead to attempts by Azerbaijan to ethnically cleanse Karabakh of its Armenian population.