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Nagorno-Karabakh: Timeline Of The Long Road To Peace

Persons displaced by the Karabakh fighting (undated file photo) (Photolur) Below, RFE/RL presents a chronology of the fighting in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh and of the long process of moving toward a final-status agreement.

18-19 January 2006: A meeting between Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov in London results in a short preliminary document that outlines the principles for future action. The meeting prepared for a summit between Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev that was scheduled for February outside of Paris.

4 December 2005: Foreign ministers Oskanian and Mammadyarov meet informally with the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group in Ljubljana, on the sidelines of the annual OSCE foreign ministers' meeting.

11 October 2005: The International Crisis Group releases a report entitled "Nagorno-Karabakh: A Plan For Peace."

August: Azerbaijan’s military prosecutor reopens a criminal investigation of the killings at Xocali in 1992. Presidents Kocharian and Aliyev meet in Kazan on 27 August; the meeting is characterized as positive, but no details are divulged. Speculation surrounds reports of new approaches being discussed by Oskanian and Mammadyarov, allegedly comprising a combined "package" and "step-by-step" approach to the withdrawal of Armenian forces from the occupied territories and the future use of a referendum to determine Karabakh’s status.

July 2005: Anonymous Armenian sources suggest that an agreement on the possible use of a referendum to determine Karabakh’s future status is close. The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry quickly denies this.

Fighting near the Armenian-Azerbaijani border in 1989 (Photolur)

June 2005: Oskanian and Mammadyarov meet in Paris. Oskanian tells the media that “common ground is in sight.” On 14 June, a statement issued by the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry supports international calls for intercommunal contacts between Karabakh Armenians and Karabakh Azeris.

June 2005: Political parties loyal to President Arkady Ghukasian win a surprise landslide victory in Nagorno-Karabakh’s parliamentary elections, winning nearly two-thirds of the vote.

May 2005: Presidents Aliyev and Kocharian meet at the Council of Europe summit in Warsaw, reportedly discussing Armenian withdrawal from the occupied territories and approving further meetings between the foreign ministers.

April 2005: Oskanian and Mammadyarov meet separately with the Minsk Group co-chairs in London. Cease-fire violations along the Line of Contact escalate.

February 2005: OSCE officials make their first inspection of Armenian-controlled Azerbaijani territories. They conclude there is no significant involvement of the Armenian government in ongoing settlement processes in the occupied territories, while they observe some direct involvement of the Nagorno-Karabakh authorities, above all in Lacin and a limited area east of Mardakert.

January 2005: The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopts a resolution criticizing Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territory and containing references to ethnic cleansing.


October-November 2004: The Council of Europe’s PACE adopts a resolution critical of Armenia’s democratic record. Azerbaijan urges the UN General Assembly to acknowledge Armenian settlement of the occupied territories.

September 2004: The 11th anniversary of the cease-fire is met with a worsening situation along the Line of Contact, as each side accuses the other of violations. Presidents Aliyev and Kocharian meet in Astana, Kazakhstan, together with Russian President Vladimir Putin, on 15 September. NATO cancels planned maneuvers in Azerbaijan when Armenian military personnel are refused visas.

August 2004: In unrecognized local elections in Nagorno-Karabakh the opposition Movement-88 party scores a major success by winning the Stepanakert mayoralty.

July 2004: At a press conference in Yerevan, the Minsk Group mediators announce they will not bring any new proposals for the conflicting sides, saying that Armenia and Azerbaijan bear the responsibility for reaching agreements and a settlement.

A refugee escaping the conflict in 1989 (Photolur)

April 2004: Newly appointed Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Mammadyarov meets his Armenian counterpart, Oskanian, in Prague on 16 April, beginning a regular cycle of meetings known as the Prague Process.

February 2004: The European Parliament refuses to back calls by its chief South Caucasus rapporteur, Per Gahrton, for the return of Armenian-controlled territories adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh in exchange for the lifting of Azerbaijan’s economic blockade of Armenia.

January 2004: President Aliyev declares in Paris that Azerbaijan will never accept Karabakh’s independence or integration with Armenia. Oskanian dismisses an Azerbaijani offer to lift Armenia’s economic blockade in exchange for the return of Armenian-controlled Azerbaijani territories around Nagorno-Karabakh.

12 December 2003: Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev’s death is announced.

October:Ilham Aliyev is elected president of Azerbaijan with almost 80 percent of the vote. Supporters of opposition candidate Isa Qambar clash with police in Baku during protests that the vote was rigged.

July-August 2003: Azerbaijani Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian and Armenian Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiyev agree on 8 July to ease the tensions between the two countries’ armed forces after meeting on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. On 9 July, President Heydar Aliyev is taken to a hospital in Turkey. In August, he is transferred to Cleveland, in the United States. On 4 August, the Azerbaijani parliament approves the appointment of Heydar Aliyev’s son, Ilham Aliyev, as prime minister.

March 2003:Kocharian is reelected in the Armenian presidential election run-off with 60 percent of the vote.

February 2003: In the first round of voting in the Armenian presidential election, more than 250 opposition activists, supporters and observers are detained.

January 2003: Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer criticizes Kocharian for a speech suggesting that Armenians and Azerbaijanis are “ethnically incompatible” and cannot live in the same state.

September 2002: Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayat Quliyev criticizes the UN Security Council for failing to seek Armenian compliance with its resolutions of 1993.

May-August 2002: Armenian and Azerbaijani deputy foreign ministers meet in Prague for Minsk Group-mediated discussions. On 12 August, Arkady Ghukasian is reelected de facto president of Nagorno-Karabakh.

January-March 2002: U.S. President George W. Bush lifts Amendment 907 of the Freedom Support Act, which restricted American aid to Azerbaijan, as a reward for Azerbaijan’s cooperation in the war on terror. The Minsk group co-chairs visit Baku and Yerevan to discuss “new ideas to reinvigorate and energize the peace process.”

Refugees in Stepanakert in the early days of the fighting (Photolur)

September-November 2001: Following a slowdown in the peace process since April, the Minsk Group co-chairs visit Yerevan and Baku but are unable to secure sufficient support for an allegedly amended version of the broad agreement discussed at Key West. Contrary to expectations, Presidents Aliyev and Kocharian do not meet for one-on-one talks at the CIS Summit on 30 November.

April-July 2001:Peace talks involving presidents Aliyev and Kocharian are held in Key West, Florida. Observers believe the talks were based on the principles established in Paris in March. Despite both presidents’ public optimism, over the following weeks the still confidential proposals encounter serious opposition within the Azerbaijani political elite and little encouragement in Armenia.

January-March 2001: Azerbaijan and Armenia become full members of the Council of Europe. Aliyev and Kocharian meet in Paris in January and again on 4-5 March. Earlier OSCE peace plans are leaked simultaneously to the Armenian and Azerbaijani media in February.

September 2000: Presidents Kocharian and Aliyev meet at the UN Millennium Summit in New York, reaffirming the importance of the dialogue begun in 1999.

June 2000: Nagorno-Karabakh holds unrecognized parliamentary elections.

March 2000: Nagorno-Karabakh President Ghukasian is seriously wounded in an assassination attempt in Stepanakert, and former Karabakh Defense Minister Babayan is arrested in its aftermath. Armenian Foreign Minister Oskanian admits Armenia’s internal troubles following the October massacre have almost “closed down” talks on Nagorno-Karabakh.

December 1999: Prominent wartime commander Babayan is sacked as chief of the Nagorno-Karabakh armed forces.

October 1999: Presidents Aliyev and Kocharian meet on the Nakhichevan-Armenia border. A revival of the so-called Goble Plan for territorial exchange is discussed, provoking resignations among Aliyev’s senior officials. It is highly controversial in Armenia as well. On 27 October, gunmen storm a session of the Armenian National Assembly and kill eight high officials comprising the core of the new political elite, including Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian and Speaker Karen Demirchian.

May-June 1999: The Unity bloc, comprising Sargsian’s Republican Party and Demirchian’s People’s Party of Armenia, wins parliamentary elections in Armenia in May. Sargsian is appointed prime minister on 11 June.

April 1999: Presidents Aliyev and Kocharian attend the 50th anniversary summit of NATO in Washington.

November 1998: A Minsk Group "common state" proposal is rejected by Azerbaijan.

October 1998: President Aliyev is reelected president of Azerbaijan.

March 1998: In Armenian presidential elections, Kocharian wins in the second round in a poll criticized by international observers.

Armenian soldiers in combat operations in 1989 (Photolur)

January-February 1998: At a meeting of Armenia’s National Security Council, powerful figures including Kocharian, Vazgen Sargsian and Serzh Sarkisian side against President Levon Ter-Petrossian in rejecting the Minsk Group proposal. Ter-Petrossian resigns on 3 February.

November 1997: Armenian President Ter-Petrossian endorses the new approach and comments publicly on need for compromise. His move opens divisions within his own government and sparks a number of opposition demonstrations.

October-November 1997: Armenia and Azerbaijan accept the latest OSCE peace plans as a basis for further negotiations, with some reservations. Nagorno-Karabakh rejects them, demanding a package approach, citing security concerns with the step-by-step proposal. Ghukasian says a “confederative relationship” with Azerbaijan could be discussed, but not proposals that subordinate the region to Baku.

September 1997: Arkady Ghukasian wins Nagorno-Karabakh’s presidential elections, which were condemned by Azerbaijan and Russia. In the wake of the failure of the latest efforts, a modified "step-by-step" peace proposal is presented by the Minsk Group.

August 1997: On 25 August, Nagorno-Karabakh rejects the "package" peace plan submitted in late May.

June-July 1997: The Minsk Group co-chairs discuss the latest proposals with leaders in Armenia and Azerbaijan, who eventually accept the proposal in principle as a basis for peace, Armenia with “serious reservations.” A modified "package" proposal is worked on by Minsk Group co-chairs after meetings with President Aliyev in Baku in July. In late July, Aliyev visits the United States, signing agreements on investment with U.S. President Bill Clinton. Revealing the confidential peace proposals, Aliyev announces that Azerbaijan would agree to a staged withdrawal from the occupied territories, leaving Lacin under Nagorno-Karabakh’s control at the first stage.

May 1997: The Minsk Group presents a new peace proposal.

March 1997: Robert Kocharian becomes prime minister of Armenia.

January-February 1997: On 1 January, France succeeds Finland as co-chair of the Minsk Group. In response to Azerbaijani displeasure, the United States is admitted as a third co-chair on 14 February.

December 1996: At the OSCE’s Lisbon summit, the chairman in office issues a statement on the principles of resolution that support Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. Armenia prevents them being part of the final communique. They are instead included as an annex, with Armenia’s response recorded in a second annex.

November 1996: Kocharian is elected de facto president of Nagorno-Karabakh by popular vote on 24 November.

January-March 1996: Talks in Moscow on security issues fail to make substantial progress.

May-June 1995: A new round of negotiations in Moscow in mid-May fails, with Azerbaijan insisting that representatives of both Armenian and Azerbaijani communities from Nagorno-Karabakh be included as armed -- but not political -- actors.

April 1995: Finland replaces Sweden as co-chair of the Minsk Group.

November-December 1994: In the third round of talks since the cease-fire, Azerbaijan makes new demands for the inclusion of Karabakh Azeris in the process and insists on a CSCE-mediated peace process. At the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) summit in Budapest, in which the CSCE becomes the OSCE, Russia and Sweden become co-chairs of the Minsk Group. The High Level Planning Group of the OSCE is formed 20 December. Robert Kocharian is voted de facto president of Nagorno-Karabakh by parliament on 22 December.

August 1994: Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Karabakh representatives meet in Moscow to discuss a so-called Major Political Agreement to resolve the conflict.

Armenians being evacuated from Karabakh to Armenia in 1989 (Photolur)

July 1994: The defense ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan and the head of the Karabakh armed forces sign a further cease-fire agreement legalizing the one signed in May.

May 1994: At talks attended by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh representatives, the CIS (dominated by Russia), and hosts Kyrgyzstan, the Bishkek Protocol is signed and a cease-fire begins on 12 May.

April 1994: Fierce fighting breaks out in Mardakert and Agdam, during which Karabakh Armenian forces regain some lost territory.

December 1993-February 1994: Azerbaijan launches a new offensive to the south of Karabakh and initially wins back some territory in fierce fighting, but is then forced to retreat.

October 1993: Azerbaijan violates cease-fire by launching a new offensive. Karabakh Armenian forces repel the attack and then advance westward to take Zangelan district in southwest Azerbaijan. The UN Security Council adopts four resolutions calling for a halt to the fighting.

August-September 1993: Russian envoy Vladimir Kazimirov mediates a temporary cease-fire, which is subsequently prolonged until early November. Aliyev meets Russian President Boris Yeltsin and renounces a military solution to the conflict. Direct talks between Azerbaijani and Karabakh representatives take place in Moscow. Aliyev elected Azerbaijani president in October 1993.

July-August 1993: Karabakh Armenian forces take Agdam, then push south toward the Iranian border, occupying the Qubatli, Jebrayli, and Fizuli districts.

February-June 1993: Armenian forces launch a counterattack and retake Mardakert. They go on to take Kelbacar in April 1993, a defeat that paves the way for an uprising in June by rebel Azerbaijani Colonel Suret Huseinov, the flight into exile of Azerbaijan's President Abulfaz Elchibey, and the return to power in Baku in June of Heydar Aliyev.

Summer,1992: The CSCE creates the 11-country Minsk Group with the aim of mediating a solution to the conflict.

June 1992: Azerbaijan launches offensive against Armenians in Mardakert, in northern Karabakh, and the neighboring Geranboi/Shaumian district of Azerbaijan, displacing some 40,000 Armenians.

May 1992: Karabakh Armenian forces take the town of Susa and extend control over the Lacin corridor linking Karabakh and Armenia. Former Azerbaijan President Ayaz Mutalibov is forced to flee to Russia after an abortive comeback attempt; the Azerbaijan Popular Front takes power in Azerbaijan.

March 1992: The Azerbaijani parliament blames President Mutalibov for the Xocali massacre and forces him to resign.

February 1992: Karabakh Armenian forces attack the Azerbaijani populated village of Xocali in Nagorno-Karabakh, killing most of the population of several hundred. Iran seeks unsuccessfully to mediate a cease-fire.

January 1992: Nagorno-Karabakh parliament declares the region's independence. Conflict escalates into full-fledged warfare following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

November 1991: Azerbaijan's Supreme Soviet annuls the autonomous status of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO); the region's parliament responds by holding a referendum in which Karabakh Armenians vote overwhelmingly in favor of secession from Azerbaijan.

September 1991: Nagorno-Karabakh parliament proclaims establishment of independent Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Levon Ter-Petrossian elected Armenian president; Armenia holds referendum and formally secedes from the USSR.

1991: Heydar Aliyev elected a member of Azerbaijan's parliament. He quits the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in July and in September is elected chairman of the Nakhichevan Supreme Soviet.

May-June 1991: Soviet Army and Azerbaijani special police troops round up thousands of Armenians from villages in the north of the NKAO and in neighboring districts of Azerbaijan and deport them to Armenia. Sporadic fighting intensifies.

1990: Armenia elects a Supreme Soviet in which Communist Party members are a minority. Ter-Petrossian is elected its chairman

February 1990: Abdul-Rakhman Vezirov replaced as Communist Party of Azerbaijan First Secretary by Mutalibov, who is elected Azerbaijan's first president in September.

January 1990: Soviet leadership declares state of emergency in Nagorno-Karabakh and along Armenian-Azerbaijani border. Soviet troops march into Baku and open fire on civilians, killing 130 people according to official statistics.

Refugees being evacuated from Stepanakert to Armenia in November 1989 (Photolur)

November 1989: The Armenian National Movement -- the successor to the Karabakh Committee -- convenes its first congress in Yerevan and elects Ter-Petrossian as its chairman.

August 1989: Azerbaijan imposes railway blockade on Armenia and NKAO. Armenians retaliate by staging labor strikes

June-July 1989: Popular anger in Azerbaijan over the Karabakh Armenian demands spills over into mass demonstrations in Baku and serves as catalyst for the emergence of the Azerbaijan Popular Front.

January 1989: Moscow imposes direct rule on the NKAO, but lifts it in late November.

December 1988: Karabakh Committee members arrested and taken to Moscow, where they are held in prison until May 1989.

September-October 1988: Following scattered sporadic interethnic clashes, Azerbaijani population begins to flee from the NKAO -- and from Armenia -- to Azerbaijan.

June-July 1988: The Armenian SSR Supreme Soviet calls on the USSR Supreme Soviet to approve the local NKAO soviet's appeal for the region's transfer to Armenia. The Azerbaijan SSR Supreme Soviet condemns that appeal as interference into Azerbaijan's internal affairs. The USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium formally rejects the NKAO soviet's request.

May 1988: The first secretaries of the Communist Parties of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Karen Demirchian and Kyamran Bagirov, resign "for health reasons" on the same day. Vezirov replaces Bagirov.

March 1988: CPSU Central Committee General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev explicitly rules out any changes to the borders between union republics. Moscow announces an aid and investment package for the NKAO.

February 1988: The local soviet of the NKAO appeals to the USSR Supreme Soviet to transfer the NKAO from the Azerbaijani SSR to the Armenian SSR. In the first-ever spontaneous mass demonstrations in the USSR, hundreds of thousands of Armenians take to the streets in Yerevan to express support for that proposal, and an unofficial Karabakh Committee is formed that includes literature scholar Ter-Petrossian and mathematician Vazgen Manukian. Soviet media reports of the death of an Azerbaijani in a clash with Armenians trigger mass reprisals against Armenians in Sumqayit, north of Baku. Official reports put the death toll at about 30, but Armenians claim it was far higher.

The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

Click on the image to view an enlarged map of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone

In February 1988, the local assembly in Stepanakert, the local capital of the Azerbaijani region of NAGORNO-KARABAKH, passed a resolution calling for unification of the predominantly ethnic-Armenian region with Armenia. There were reports of violence against local Azeris, followed by attacks against Armenians in the Azerbaijani city of Sumgait. In 1991-92, Azerbaijani forces launched an offensive against separatist forces in Nagorno-Karabakh, but the Armenians counterattacked and by 1993-94 had seized almost all of the region, as well as vast areas around it. About 600,000 Azeris were displaced and as many as 25,000 people were killed before a Russian-brokered cease-fire was imposed in May 1994.

CHRONOLOGY: For an annotated timeline of the fighting around Nagorno-Karabakh in 1988-94 and the long search for a permanent settlement to the conflict, click here.

Click on the icon to view images of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict (Flash required)

To view an archive of all of RFE/RL's coverage of Nagorno-Karabakh, click here.

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