BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
We may be on the cusp of getting some good news regarding resolution of the Artsakh “frozen conflict” (as miscellaneous observers like to refer to this part of our national liberation struggle).
The ANCA just released a strongly worded critique of the so-called Madrid “Principles” – using the word “principle” is galling in this context because Madrid “Articles of Artsakh Capitulation” might have been a more accurate, representative, and honest name for the document in question. Any number of observers of the years have noted that Artsakh may be the only case in history where the winning side of a war is expected to make all or most of the concessions.
The ANCA’s criticism of the Madrid document is not new. Even non-Armenians have noticed that it is long-running. What inspires hope for the “intrusion” of common sense into the long stalled negotiations is that the prime minister of the Republic of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, has recently taken to calling for the return of Artsakh to the negotiating table instead of just having Baku and Yerevan represented there.
Here, a little bit of history as a reminder might be useful.
The Karabakh Movement broke out in the late 1980s, before the fall of the Soviet Union. Petitions and public gatherings/rallies were met with brute force and massacres, leading to a new Armeno-Tatar (Azeri as the people are now referred to) war, resulting in the independence of Artsakh. In addition, hundreds of thousands of Armenians and Azeris became refugees. Periodic sniping and small clashes along the “Line of Contact” (diplomatic polite-speak for “battlefront”) have been the norm since, along with endless, fruitless, negotiations.
Along the way, a set of “principles” were propounded in Lisbon in 1996 that were crammed down Armenians’ throats that were utterly ridiculous. These came about in the context of discussions of security arrangements and other conflicts in the European sphere. In 2007, the Madrid document came out, only slightly less bad than Lisbon. These documents and various negotiations were often marked by chatter about Armenian concessions, i.e. liberated land being given by Artsakh to Azerbaijan, with nothing to show for that action in return except vague promises of rights and security.
All of these ignore or radically downplay, the importance of two key, and intertwined, factors that mitigate in favor of the Armenian side. Factor 1= The internationally accepted principle of the right to self-determination for people (the basis of Artsakh’s demands), largely, has been made subordinate to the principle of inviolability of borders. Factor 2= The governing laws when the people of Artsakh sought separation from Azerbaijan and union with Armenia were those in the Soviet Constitution which permitted such a change. Thus, without Azerbaijan’s murder and mayhem, Artsakh would have been part of the Republic of Armenia long ago.
The other relatively early development was the exclusion of Artsakh as a party to the negotiations. This happened when Robert Kocharian became the president of the Republic of Armenia and asserted his ability to speak on behalf of Artsakh given his status as its former leader. Even if this made some sense in the mid-late 1990s (a very questionable proposition), it certainly does make sense now. Excluding the party to a conflict that is at the core of that conflict is flat-out preposterous.
Some circles even argue that refugees, residents of villages near the line of contact, women, and other groups that are usually not included in post-war peace talks ought to have a voice in the Artsakh negotiations, how much more reasonable and sensible is it that Stepanakert/Sdepangerd ought to be present at the table?
Let’s join the chorus of voices urging Artsakh’s return to the locked rooms where a final resolution will be hammered out.