This year marks the 30th anniversary of a number of significant events in the history of independent Armenia. Despite the small time distance by historical standards, not everyone now has a correct idea of the events of those years. The respective facts and documents were discussed in the below interview to Armenian News-NEWS.am by the First Ombudsperson of Armenia, human rights activist Larisa Alaverdyan.
How did the internationalization of the Nagorno-Karabakh [(Artsakh)] conflict begin?
2022 is a special year in the history of independent Armenia. It was in 1992 that Armenia became a member of the European Conference on Security and Cooperation, which later became the OSCE. Thus began Armenia's entry into the international community. Although the process of sovereignty and independence began in 1990, Armenia, like other former USSR republics—except the Baltic states—was not yet a member of the international community, was not a member of the UN, was not a member of the OSCE, as well as was not a participant in or member of other international intergovernmental organizations.
The only thing that happened before 1992 was in the end of December 1991, when Armenia, along with several other former Soviet republics, began the process of joining the CIS, which was founded in early December by Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. It should be noted that Azerbaijan (represented by A. Mutalibov), which was present at the meeting of the leaders of the countries participating in the meeting in Almaty, did not join the CIS. (It happened in September 1993, after the military coup, when the popularly elected President A. Aliyev (Elchibey) was overthrown and H. Aliyev seized power). The Baltic states were not included in the CIS; they were recognized by the members of the international community back in September 1991.
In January 1992, Armenia and Azerbaijan invited the OSCE Mission to the region, which visited Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the NKR [(Nagorno-Karabakh Republic)] in February. The history of the formation of the CSCE deserves special attention. Few remember that the organization was established on the initiative of the Soviet Union. It was the Soviet Union and the other countries of the Warsaw Pact that offered to sign such an agreement in the early 70s, whose participants will be both Western and Eastern European countries, as well as Canada and the United States; that is, the two opposing camps (socialist and capitalist) of the time, as they thought the Cold War was over.
During the two years (1973-1975), as a result of discussions, the Helsinki Final Act (HFA) was formulated and adopted, which played a significant role in the institutional development of the CSCE. The HFA's goal was to unite—30 years after the end of World War II—the borders and territories of the states that then resolved the existing, if not disputes, then the "unevenness," and consolidate the easing of international tensions.
When we talk about the CSCE (OSCE since 1995) and the UN, it is necessary to distinguish the positions of these organizations on the principle/right of peoples to self-determination. In the UN documents, the self-determination of peoples is a RIGHT, whereas in the HFA it is interpreted as one of the ten PRINCIPLES which will play its unique role in the future, proceeding from the political interests of the OSCE members. Looking ahead, we note that the OSCE Lisbon Summit (December 1996) proposed three principles for the settlement of the "Karabakh conflict," previously agreed with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan, according to which Nagorno-Karabakh (not NKR) can self-determine as part of Azerbaijan, not to be independent of it as it already existed. And all that was "substantiated" by the "principle of territorial integrity."
In all those years, the Azerbaijani leader, claiming that "the principle of territorial integrity is more important to the international community than the principle of the right of peoples to self-determination," referred to that resolution which was not adopted. It was not accepted due to the disagreement of Armenia, which used its veto power (this was not due to a change of position, but to the tense situation in the country, which was connected with the well-known fact of "illegitimacy of the election" of the first president for the second term, "destabilization of the situation, and the authorities’ threatening to suppress the discontent"). Armenia's refusal caused understandable bewilderment by all other OSCE members and the leadership, as in all previous years the Armenian leadership, led by L. Ter-Petrosyan, put forward such a model for "resolving" the agreed conflict with Azerbaijan. And from that position, as it became clear from the subsequent events, neither the first president nor the leadership of the ANM [(Armenian National Movement party)] has ever retreated.
Going back to 1992, it should be reminded that in response to the application of Armenia and Azerbaijan to the Council of Ministers of to the CSCE in late January 1992, it was decided to send a special mission to the region, which was instructed to study the issue on the ground and submit a report on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. The mission report was presented on February 28, 1992, and on the same day the Committee of High-Level Officials of the CSCE adopted a decision in which twice—in points 1 and 2—it is spoken about "the conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of the Republic of Azerbaijan." Thus appeared the wording according to which the national liberation movement of the Armenians against genocidal Azerbaijan was described as a conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, or in Soviet terminology, a "conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh."
All the attempts of the NKR leadership, as well as many analysts, to prove to the international community that the essence of the complete distortion of what is happening in the region directly threatens the right of the Armenian population to live and create in their historically uninterrupted settlements, as well as the impeccable international legal basis for NKR independence from Azerbaijan as the only way to avoid genocide met with this wording that reflected Yerevan's position but contradicted reality, which clearly ignored national interests and threatened the security of the Armenian state, nation, as well as of the region.
Thus, the internationalization of the Karabakh conflict started from a completely distorted point of view; that is, at the suggestion of the Armenian leadership, the CSCE considered everything taking place in the region on the eve of the former Soviet republics to join the UN as a conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, which "claimed" the territory of another independent (in a few days) state.
At that time I was an analyst at the Special Commission on Artsakh of the Supreme Council of Armenia, and that document also appeared in our commission. On that occasion, I spoke on the radio. At the suggestion of the Secretary of the Security Council of Armenia, I prepared a text that reflected on the main risks of that wording and the complete contradiction of the realities, both legal and factual. All the members of the commission were also convinced that such a beginning completely distorts the essence of what is happening and predetermines the status of the NKR, whereas it should have been the subject of discussion within the CSCE. Moreover, there was hope that, unlike the Gorbachev Moscow, the international organization would assess the impeccability of the international legal and domestic legitimacy of the formation of the NKR.
However, the first president of the RA [(Republic of Armenia)] did not agree—from the lips of infamous G. Libaridian—with that, and therefore the above-mentioned absolutely biased opinion and position, which, apparently, has long been rooted in the ANM leadership, became the beginning of the so-called internationalization of the Karabakh conflict, catastrophically distorting the essence of the issue.
The current [Armenian] authorities regularly reprimand the second president of "withdrawing Karabakh" from the negotiation process. How justified are such allegations? And to what extent are the statements about the recognition of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity by Armenia justified?
It is a completely different story. Recently, many have begun to use "oral folk art" even in matters that require serious discussion and require minimal familiarity with real events and documents. There is a definite time: the beginning of April 1997, when L. Ter-Petrosyan was still president when the last meeting took place around one [negotiating] table with the participation of NKR representatives. All the other "opinions" are idle talk, aiming to mislead the general public of the country and all Armenians.
The logic of pulling Karabakh out direct trilateral contacts (but not from the negotiation process) came from the initial position of the ANM, or rather the party leadership, and contradicted the people's movement the roots of which were the Karabakh movement. One of the most important consequences of the Karabakh movement becoming the ANM was the transformation of the NKAO into a constitutional demand to reunite Armenia against corruption, a movement against democracy, totalitarianism, which soon turned into a struggle to leave the USSR. Such movements took place in 1989 in all (except Central Asia) Union republics. Already in September of the same year, the ANM party leaders and the non-governmental organizations created by them voiced the idea that an end would be put to ethnic discrimination in democratic republics, as a result of which the demand for the NKAO to leave Azerbaijan would lose its meaning. This artificial "idea" became the unchanging basic thesis of the ANM team that came to power in August 1990 and personally of the first president.
Let us also turn to Armenia's commitments under other ratified documents, indicating its entry into the CSCE, the UN and later other international organizations. There is not a single document that mentions Soviet borders. There is not and cannot be such a document recognizing any state within its declared borders. Modern international law understands recognition as a bilateral political act that is not tied to designated borders. And the periodic voicing of a statement of recognition, allegedly by the UN, is both illiteracy and gross manipulation, since the UN does not have the function of recognizing a state, it accepts (or does not accept) it as a member of the organization.
For three decades now, gross manipulation has been going on both on the part of Azerbaijan and certain political circles of Armenia, which find themselves in power and implement plans that directly contradict international law in its correct sense outside the political conjuncture and are ultimately directed against Armenia and all Armenians. Finally, if we are talking about existing borders at the end of 1991, it should be emphasized that the NKR was not part of Azerbaijan, and in this sense, all attempts to prove that Azerbaijan has any rights over the NKR only emphasize the depth of the crisis in modern international relations. Thus, everyone should be well aware that there is no such document in which Armenia recognized the Soviet borders of Azerbaijan.