Edward Nalbandian delivered lecture at Stanford University

On September 28, Edward Nalbandian, the Acting Foreign Minister of Armenia, delivered a lecture entitled “Nagorno-KArabakh: Is Solution Visible” at Stanford University’s Institute for International Studies.

Professors, fellows and students of the Stanford University attended the meeting. In his opening remarks Michael McFaul, the Director of the Institute, mentioned that is a profound honour to launch the series of lectures after the opening of the academic year by hosting the Foreign Minister of Armenia to get first-hand information on the current situation in the process of settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.

In his speech Edward Nalbandian, particularly, said:
“Ladies and Gentlemen,

One year ago a well-known academic magazine “Politique Internationale”, published in Paris my article entitled Nagorno-Karabakh: Is a Solution Visible?

I stressed in it that the conflict cannot be solved until Azerbaijan gets rid of its illusion that it can gain unilateral advantages through military means. It took only a year to witness the vivid demonstration of that reality.

This April Azerbaijan unleashed a large scale preplanned aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh, with the use of offensive weaponry – aviation, heavy artillery, rocket systems, tanks – accompanied by gross violations of international humanitarian law, such as indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas, DEASH-style mutilation of bodies and beheadings. It goes without saying that these actions that resulted in hundreds of casualties from all sides, have seriously undermined the negotiation process.

So, it is about a very complex situation that I am going to address you today and the April escalation is only the last act of the long conflict. In a few words I would like to present the essence of the conflict for those who are not much familiar with it and then I will try to address the main issue: what are the prospects of the settlement.

Nagorno-Karabakh – historically one of the regions of Armenia and always having an overwhelming majority of Armenian population was arbitrarily annexed to Soviet Azerbaijan in 1921 by Joseph Stalin.

70 years passed, on the eve of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the people of Nagorno-Karabakh voted at the referendum for an independent statehood in line with the then existing legislation and international norms.

Years later on the Kosovo case the International Court of Justice would consider that general international law contains no applicable prohibition of declarations of independence.

However, Azerbaijan in defiance of the international law, its norms and principles which first of all urge to refrain from use of force or threat of use of force, tried to suppress the aspirations of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh for self-determination through coercive measures. It started with Armenian massacres in late 80s – beginning of 90s in Azerbaijani cities of Sumgait, Kirovabad and capital Baku. Many were killed, hundreds of thousands were expelled from their homes. Nobel Peace Prize winner and famous human rights defender Andrei Sakharov on the pages of the New York Times called it a threat of a new genocide of the Armenian people.

Azerbaijan continued with large scale military offensive against Nagorno-Karabakh committing new atrocities.

The May 1991 US Senate resolution condemned the attacks on innocent Armenian children, women, and men in and around Nagorno-Karabakh. Previously adopted US Congress resolution reads that the United States supports the fundamental rights and aspirations of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. A similar resolution was adopted by the European Parliament.

During the war against Nagorno-Karabakh Azerbaijan used mercenaries from Afghanistan closely linked to notorious terrorist organizations. That was widely reported in the international media outlets, including the Washington Post. The heavy, indiscriminate use of force, massacres and ethnic cleansing perpetrated by Azerbaijan against the Armenian population was yet another confirmation that the struggle of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh was existential and legitimate.

The hot phase of the conflict ended in May 1994 when Azerbaijan was obliged to negotiate a truce due to its military loses and sign a cease fire agreement with Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. In July 1994 and February 1995 new trilateral agreements were signed on consolidation of the cease fire. The terms of these agreements do not expire and they are in force till now. The July 1994 document stipulates to maintain the ceasefire regime until signing of the big political agreement.

However, as a rule Azerbaijan has been regularly violating those agreements. Baku instead of engaging seriously in the negotiation process has concentrated its efforts on military buildup having in mind the illusion of military option for conflict resolution.

A clear case of negotiations at the barrel of a gun. Its military budget reached $4.8 billion in 2015, a 30-fold increase since 2003, when Ilham Aliyev succeeded his father as the Head of State.

We warned – if there is a gun on the stage, it will fire. And that gun fired many times and most recently as I mentioned this April.

Armenia together with the mediators, the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group – the USA, France and Russia exert efforts for exclusively peaceful settlement. Several times in this framework parties were close to the resolution, but at the very last moment Azerbaijan made a step back derailing the process. This was the case with Paris principles of 2001, negotiated with active involvement of the then French President Chirac, when President Heydar Aliyev backtracked. Another example was the round of negotiations with active mediation of the then Russian President Medvedev, when at the Kazan summit of 2011, the son Aliyev backtracked again. To mention just two examples.

As you see there has never been a deficit of high-level international interest in solving the issue. Moreover, starting from 2009 the presidents of the U.S.A., Russia and France made five statements on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution. They proposed a package of basic principles, which constitute an integrated whole, as a foundation of future comprehensive agreement. Unlike Azerbaijan, Armenia accepted it as a basis for negotiations.

The Presidents of the Co-Chair countries have proclaimed a rather civilized formula for the settlement – ballots instead of bullets. The proposal stipulates determination of the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh through a legally binding expression of will of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is not resolved yet, since one of the negotiating parties, namely Azerbaijan is not ready to go along with this proposal and by all means strives to undermine the peace process. The mentality that supports medieval barbarism, demonstrated again in April, can hardly accept the civilized approaches of the modern world.

The leadership of Azerbaijan which adopted a xenophobic, aggressive anti-Armenian stance. Baku frequently uses the slogan – “Armenians of the world are our enemies number one”. History knows such cases of ethnic hatred, including in the recent past, isn’t it? The eleventh year textbook of Azerbaijan’s school reads “Armenians are the generic enemies of the Turkic peoples”. It is the generation raised under such propaganda that committed despicable crimes during the 4 days aggression this April. It is this generation that witnessed the glorification of an Azerbaijani officer who killed by axe a sleeping Armenian officer in Budapest while both were at the NATO training course. Subsequently the murderer was handed over to Azerbaijan where he was proclaimed as a hero and example for youth.

Most of Armenian historic, cultural and religious monuments have been destroyed in Azerbaijan, including a masterpiece of the medieval Armenian art – the cemetery of thousands of cross stones in Jugha. American Ambassadors to Azerbaijan were several times refused by Baku authorities to visit the site. A prominent Azerbaijani novelist was ostracized and persecuted for writing about the Armenian massacres in Azerbaijan and for the calls of reconciliation. All those civil society representatives who have been engaged in people to people contacts with the civil societies in Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia were put behind the bars as “Armenian spies”. The leadership of Azerbaijan tries not only to mute the independent voices from within the country but from the outside world as well. More than hundred journalists have been included in the so called Azerbaijani black list just for visiting Nagorno-Karabakh and writing about it. Indeed, as the Washington Post wrote the Azerbaijani leadership not only crushes individual lives but tries to imprison the very concept of freedom itself.

This doesn’t come as a surprise for the state considered to be among the 10 most censored countries in the world.

If there are any proven remedies for conflict settlements then the preparation of the public for peace and not war should stand in the center. This is what the Co-Chairs are continuously urging. Building trust and confidence is another important dimension again strongly encouraged by the international mediators, especially after the April escalation. To restore the trust in the process of the conflict resolution, measures should be taken to prevent use of force and create conditions conducive to the advancement of the peace process.

This was the main aim of the two Summits on Nagorno-Karabakh held in Vienna in May organized by the U.S. Secretary of State and in St. Petersburg in June hosted by the Russian President. First of all, it is a necessity to implement what was particularly emphasized and agreed upon in the framework of these Summits – the full adherence to the 1994-1995 trilateral ceasefire agreements, the creation of mechanism for investigation of ceasefire violations, which can serve also as a mechanism for prevention, the expansion of the capacity of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, which monitors the ceasefire.

These proposals are not new, they have been reiterated by the Co-Chairs many times, Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia have accepted them, Azerbaijan rejected. It is interesting to note that House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce and Ranking Member Eliot Engel together with more than 80 other Congressmen have endorsed these and some other confidence building measures. They urged to publicly condemn specific acts of aggression along the line of contact. Indeed, the party which violates the ceasefire, which rejects the confidence building measure, which refuses the proposals of the mediators should stand accountable. Otherwise impunity will encourage to continue destructive policy. Baku criticizes the Co-Chairs, including the United States for islamophobia, and conspiracy against Azerbaijan, calling the mediators useless tourists.

Ladies and gentlemen,

By establishing the independent United States through the Declaration of Independence 240 years ago the founding fathers of this great country proved that nothing can deprive peoples of their right for independence. This is what the people of Nagorno-Karabakh have been aspiring for – the liberty to freely organize their life in a democratic manner, based on the principle of self-determination. This right is enshrined as the purpose of the United Nations Charter and in many other international documents. The visible solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict goes through ballots not bullets.”

Following the remarks Edward Nalbandian answered the numerous questions of the attendees.

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