WASHINGTON—The Armenian National Committee of America recently held talks with senior State Department officials regarding sustainable pathways to a durable and democratic peace between Artsakh and Azerbaijan.
The meeting included the participation of Cheryl Fernandes, Director of the Office of Caucasus Affairs and Regional Conflicts, and Andrew Schofer, the U.S. Co-Chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, the multilateral body charged with mediating the Artsakh talks. Participating on behalf of the ANCA were national Chairman Raffi Hamparian and the ANCA Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan.
“The ANCA values our longstanding dialogue with the Department of State on a broad range of issues and – in particular – welcomed this most recent opportunity to discuss the most constructive avenues for the United States to contribute to peace, progress, and prosperity for the citizens of Artsakh and the neighboring states,” said ANCA Chairman Raffi Hamparian following the meeting.
“First and foremost, the U.S. and our OSCE partners – recognizing that progress at the peace table requires stability on the ground – must provide stronger leadership in countering Azerbaijani incitement and aggression. Second, we need to find ways to overcome Baku’s irresponsible opposition to the implementation of the Royce-Engel Peace Proposals. And third, the U.S. needs to help restart the stalled peace process by replacing the deeply flawed and clearly failed Madrid Principles with a more durable and democratic approach to peace within the OSCE Minsk Group platform.”
The Royce-Engel Peace Proposal, supported by the ANCA, has three elements:
- An agreement by all sides not to deploy snipers, heavy arms, or any new weapons along the line-of-contact separating Artsakh and Azerbaijani forces;
- The deployment of OSCE-monitored, advanced gunfire-locator systems and sound-ranging equipment to determine the source of attacks along the line-of-contact, and;
- The introduction of additional OSCE observers along the line-of-contact to better monitor cease-fire violations.
To date, Azerbaijan has yet to agree to the implementation of the Royce-Engel proposal.
Earlier this year, the ANCA issued the following statement outlining the flaws of the Madrid Principles:
The ANCA supports the OSCE Minsk Group negotiations as a constructive platform for continued talks, but rejects its current proposal (known as the “Madrid Principles”) as a deeply flawed and ultimately counter-productive plan that sets back the cause of peace and raises the risks of renewed war.
– The Madrid Principles are profoundly asymmetrical, demanding upfront, strategic, and irrevocable concessions of land and security from Artsakh in return for only vague, deferred, and reversible promises regarding status from Azerbaijan.
– The phasing of the Madrid Principles front-loads all the risk on Artsakh and all the rewards on Azerbaijan. This flawed formula will not lead to peace, but, rather, sets the stage for continued conflict and regional instability.
– The Madrid Principles would force Artsakh, a predominantly Christian nation, under a violent Azerbaijani regime that has recruited extremists (including Afghanistan Mujahideen and ISIS militants from Syria) to fight its anti-Armenian war.
– Azerbaijan has, over the past 25-years, consistently violated its obligations under its 1994 tripartite cease-fire agreement with Armenia and Artsakh, calling into serious question whether its current or future leadership would, in actual practice, respect Baku’s commitments under a Madrid Principles-based peace plan.
– The Madrid Principles run counter to our core American belief in democratic self-determination. A democratic and durable settlement should be based on the right of free citizens to live under a government of their own choosing.
– The Madrid Principles do not address or even acknowledge Azerbaijan’s occupation of Ardzvashen (Republic of Armenia) and parts or all of Shahumyan, Martakert and Martuni (Republic of Artsakh).
– There is no basis – in the context of Armenian history, Azerbaijan’s stated policy, democratic principles, international law, or conflict-resolution precedent – to believe that:
* Artsakh surrendering vast areas of its sovereign territory will somehow make Artsakh more secure or Azerbaijan less aggressive.
* Artsakh making upfront strategic land concessions will be followed by Azerbaijan forfeiting its claim of sovereignty over Artsakh.
* International peace-keepers deployed around Artsakh would actually prevent or even discourage renewed Azerbaijani attacks.
The free citizens of the independent Artsakh Republic, having built a thriving democracy following decades of Soviet rule and Azerbaijani aggression, deserve the same democratic freedoms and human rights that we cherish as Americans.
Artsakh is, at its heart, a very American story, representing the victory of a free people over foreign rule.
The citizens of the Republic of Artsakh, through their democratically elected government, are entitled to make decisions regarding their destiny, including through Artsakh’s full return to any and all international talks regarding status and security issues.
Artsakh – a democratic, Christian, pro-Western republic, standing strong against the forces of intolerance, deserves strong American support.
The ANCA encourages the United States to exercise continued leadership in the OSCE Minsk Group and encourage all parties to:
- Set aside the failed Madrid Principles and abandon this deeply-flawed phased and asymmetrical approach to conflict resolution,
- Develop a new, democracy and self-determination driven approach that addresses – on a horizontal basis and in a package-based format – outstanding status and security issues between the republics of Artsakh and Azerbaijan, and
- Join with Armenia in demanding the full restoration of the Republic of Artsakh’s participation in all peace talks, negotiations, and decision-making regarding its future.
Prior to being named the U.S. Co-chair for the OSCE Minsk Group in the summer of 2017, Schofer served as the Deputy Chief of Mission at U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna. Prior to his assignments in Vienna, Schofer served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Nicosia, Cyprus from 2011 to 2014, and has also worked overseas at the U.S. Embassies in Kuwait City, Kuwait; Manama, Bahrain; and Moscow, Russia. Cheryl Fernandes serves as the Director of the Office of Caucasus Affairs and Regional Conflicts, which is in the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. Her office is responsible for matters related to Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia and is also charged with supporting the work of the U.S. co-chair of the Minsk Group.