Dr. Hayk Kotanjian, Major General, Armenia, Fellow Member of the Academy of Military Sciences (Russia), Counterterrorism Fellow, National Defense University (USA). Dr. Kotanjian specializes in conflict analysis and security studies.

An unbiased political and legal identification of the Karabakh conflict brings about establishment of the main criterion of these principles’ coupling. This criterion and the parameter of the Karabakh conflict settlement quality is objectivity of the attitude towards the legal fact establishment of the two legitimate states in the territory of the Azerbaijani Soviet Socialistic Republic in 1991, the Azerbaijani Republic and the Nagorno Karabakh Republic (NKR).

It is known that formally the NKR is listed among unrecognized countries. However, one should proceed from the indisputable assumption that the Nagorno Karabakh Republic is a recognized subject of the regional stability and security in South Caucasus.

Recognition of the NKR as a subject independent from other states by the international community based, firstly, on the fact that the establishment of the republic was lawful. Secondly, the international community admits the practical contribution of the NKR, including its regular army’s activities in supporting the ceasefire in frameworks of the combined effort to ensure security in South Caucasus. These facts, as well as its persistent 14-year effective functioning of the Karabakh elected institutions in foreign and domestic policies are an undisputable basis for cooperation of the appropriate organizations of the international community with the NKR authorities in Karabakh conflict settlement.

Applying the concept of territorial integrity to the parties in the Karabakh conflict supposes recognition of the fact that the Nagorno Karabakh Republic was established through a referendum in the period when the USSR law was in force that regulated the procedure of settling the issues concerning the process of dropping out of the republics from the USSR. Thus, as a result of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic establishment, the relations of the administrative subordination of the territory and the authorities of the NKR to the Azerbaijani Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) had been suspended in accordance with the law before the announcement of the Alma-Ata Declaration on December 21, 1991.

From the day of cessation of the USSR existence, being out of the Azerbaijani SSR, the NKR has left the territorial subordination of the USSR and acquired an independent legal personality.

Undoubtedly, the attention the International Crisis Group pays to Nagorno Karabakh as a party in the conflict and an authoritative member of the settlement process is important. The ICG, being a respectable actor in the analytical community, appreciates constructive criticism and mostly takes it into consideration. That is why, with all respect to the job done by our colleagues from the ICG, I have to admit their conclusions are not realistic enough. Following their recommendations to bring back refugees forcefully, we can hardly achieve the stability we are striving for, as a fundamental premise of an extra referendum in the conflict zone in the crisis of trust in the relations between the nations at odds. The international practice has witnessed to many examples of the impetuous formalism in dealing with refugees. That is why, it is preferable to hold the referendum under control of the authorized organizations of the international community at the places where the Karabakh refugees live at present moment outside the NKR territory.

A Road Map on the Karabakh conflict settlement can be an effective instrument of establishing long term peace and secure democratic development of the region in case the parties of the conflict as well as the Minsk Group including Russia, the USA, and France, will elaborate it in coordination. Taking into consideration the specifics of the Caucasian political culture, undoubtedly, measures to “save faces” of all the parties in the conflict are also important. Analysis of the process has shown that main stages of the Road Map on Nagorno Karabakh conflict settlement could include following general components:

The first stage is providing conditions for applying the right to self-determination of peoples in Nagorno Karabakh under the aegis of the UN Security Council and OSCE (Minsk Group), as well as the local authorities of the NKR and the Azerbaijani Republic, which includes:

- public announcement by Republic of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, and Republic of Armenia of their refusal from the use of force for Karabakh conflict resolution, which should be guaranteed by the international community: UN Security Council, OSCE (Minsk Group), EU, NATO, CSTO, USA, Russia, France;

- recognition by the OSCE Minsk Group, UN Security Council, as well as by Azerbaijan and Armenia of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic as an authorized partner in organizing an additional referendum among NKR residents as Karabakh refugees who live outside Karabakh;

- declaration of a moratorium to war and violence propaganda made by political officials and mass media monitored by the OSCE (Minsk Group) of Azerbaijani, Armenian and NKR mass media;

- under an agreement with all the parties in the conflict and the international community [the OSCE (Minsk Group) and UN Security Council] deployment of observers for the process of securing stability and order in the zone of the extra referendum by the police and the armed forces of the NKR (within the NKR boundaries), and the police and armed forces of Azerbaijan (on the territories of temporary residence of Azerbaijani refuges from the NKR outside Nagorno Karabakh);

- holding an extra referendum under the aegis of the UN and the OSCE Minsk Group among the Armenian and Azerbaijani population in Nagorno Karabakh with a wide range of alternatives on Nagorno Karabakh status — -independence, joining Armenia or Azerbaijan;

- inclusion of Nagorno Karabakh in the EU integration European Neighborhood Policy in accordance with results of extra referendum.

The second stage is the application of the territorial integrity concept towards the territories temporarily occupied by the troops of the Azerbaijani Republic and the Nagorno Karabakh Republic:

- withdrawal of the NKR troops from the territory of the Azerbaijani Republic (except for Lachin and Kelbajar Districts) included into the security zone of the Nagorno Karabakh Rebublic, as well as of the Azerbaijani troops from the territory of former Shaumyan District and the parts of Mardakert and Martouni districts;

- simultaneous deployment of peacekeeping forces under the aegis of the OSCE Minsk group and UN Security Council in the security zone of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic (except for Lachin and Kelbajar Districts), as well as former Shaumyan District and the parts of Mardakert and Martouni districts, which are currently occupied by the Azerbaijani troops;

- providing joint control by peacekeeping forces under the aegis of the UN Security Council and OSCE (Minsk group) and the Republic of Armenia over the guaranteed operation of Lachin and Kelbajar districts as communication passage between Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh;

- cessation of Azerbaijani blockade of the Armenian frontiers and communications.

The third stage is rehabilitation of the returned territories, return of refugees and displaced persons:

- guaranteed mine clearing of the returned territories;

- voluntary return of the Armenian and Azerbaijani refugees as well as displaced persons to the territories of their previous residence in the Karabakh conflict zone;

- comprehensive rehabilitation of the former Karabakh conflict zone under the aegis of the UN Security Council and OSCE (Minsk Group);

- decreasing level of militarization of Azerbaijan and Armenia through coordinated transformation of their defense systems under control of the EU, OSCE, NATO and CSTO;

- economic, political and defense cooperation of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia in building up effective architecture of the regional security in South Caucasus in the context of joint Euro-integration programs;

- joint development under the aegis of the OSCE Minsk Group and UN Security Council of Lachin and Kelbajar Districts as a free economic zone.

Hayk Kotanjian

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