On June 24, 2011 Kazan hosted a trilateral meeting of the Presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia - Serzh Sargsyan, Ilham Aliyev and Dmitry Medvedev. Ahead of the meeting, optimistic statements had been voiced about the possible signing of a document that would record the Basic Principles of the Karabakh conflict settlement. However, the meeting ended in failure.
Deauville statement and preparation of the meeting in Kazan
On May 26, 2011 presidents of Russia, the USA and France urged leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan “to demonstrate political will and conclude the work over the basic principles during the upcoming Armenian-Azerbaijani summit in June.”
The statement of the leaders of OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries approved within the framework of “G8” Summit noted that “further delay [of NK settlement process] will put to question the adherence of the sides to reaching agreements.”
On June 6, the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group visited the region to prepare the meeting in Kazan.
On June 14 Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said that progress at the talks, to be held in Kazan is possible if the positive tendency is preserved. At the same time he stressed that he fully agrees with NKR President Bako Sahakian’s statement that “no breakthrough can be reached in the settlement process without the participation of Stepanakert.”
“The second stage envisages drafting a peace agreement, and NKR should definitely take part in these talks,” Armenian FM stated.
History, Basic Principles and Kosovo factor
On June 15 hearings on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh were held at the session of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament with the participation of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, which shed some light on the details of the negotiation process.
U.S. co-chair of OSCE Minsk Group Robert Bradtke said that “the current version of basic principles of Karabakh conflict settlement is fair and balanced and we want the sides to take it as a basis for the peace agreement.”
While OSCE Minsk Group French co-chair Bernard Fassier noted that “if the sides do not accept the basic principles on the basis of Madrid proposals in the nearest future, the mediators will have to put forward a new concept of settlement.”
Presenting the history of proposals, made by the co-chairs for the entire period of OSCE Minsk Group existence, Bernard Fassier reminded that in late 1990s, the mediators were suggesting the variant of reintegration of Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan, and this proposal was turned down by Armenia. In early 2000s, an effort was made to settle the conflict on the basis of legitimization of Nagorno-Karabakh’s separation from Azerbaijan, which was turned down by Baku.
Bernard Fassier noted that learning this lesson, the mediators decided to make a proposal, which would allow solving the tasks, “the solution of which seemed possible.”
In particular, Fassier said, according to Madrid proposals, the territories, adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh, were to be freed, given the condition of Nagorno-Karabakh’s security provision and its self-government, and the status of Nagorno-Karabakh should be determined in future by means of voting.
The mediator noted that the co-chairs were working over this proposal in 2005-2006, and it received the name of “Madrid proposals” in late 2006. Bernard Fassier noted that the process slowed down in 2008, “since recognition of Kosovo independence became a reason for Azerbaijan’s concern.”
According to the Fassier, co-chairs hoped to achieve a breakthrough in 2009, and “exactly because of this the presidents of OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries for the first time took upon themselves the responsibility to publicize the basic principles of the settlement.”
Bernard Fassier said that “only in early 2010 Azerbaijan gave its consent to the updated version of the proposals,” after which the mediators suggested a few modifications to the sides.
“Thus, today we have neared the end of the third cycle of Karabakh conflict settlement,” the diplomat said.
Bradtke expressed discontent as to the opinion of some European Parliament MPs, according to which Karabakh conflict settlement “is in the hands of the Russians,” and said that a “unique cooperation” was formed between Russia, the USA and France.
“It was not Russia but some other country helped Azerbaijan”
At the same hearings Bernard Fassier said that “it was not Russia, but some other country” that helped Azerbaijan master production of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).
This is the way he responded to the statements of some MPs, according to which Russia provides armament to Karabakh conflict sides. The French mediator noted that in the nearest future a plant for UAV production would be launched in Azerbaijan and expressed confidence that the Azerbaijani side could not have established this production without external assistance.
Bernard Fassier also noted that Azerbaijan’s military budget equals the entire state budget of Armenia and welcomed in this connection the statement of Miroslav Lajčák, Managing Director for Russia, Eastern Neighborhood and the Western Balkans in the EU’s External Action Service, according to which “EU should send clearer signals on unacceptability of use of force and on the exclusiveness of the peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict.”
Representatives of the Armenian opposition were not particularly optimistic.
Head of “Sasun” self-defensive detachment, activist of Armenian National Congress (ANC) Sasun Mikaelyan stated that “if the liberated territories are surrendered, Karabakh will not gain a status,” and this is why he saw no prospects for compromise.
Mikaelyan claimed that “authorities today have very weak positions in the negotiation process” and “if we want to avoid a war, it will be better to try to settle the internal political situation.”
While ANC’s leader, first president of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosyan, said in an interview to “Moscow News” paper that the idea of holding a referendum on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh “is not backed by anything.”
Levon Ter-Petrosyan said that the settlement variant which he backed in 1997 “was almost the same plan which lies on the negotiating table as Madrid principles: return of part of occupied or, as we say, liberated territories, which did not include Lachin and Kelbajar then, deployment of international peacekeeping forces throughout the whole length of new Karabakhi borders and opening of roads.”
“We have had all this then. What did it give to us? It gave the same situation we face today, only in a shortened variant in terms of territories, but already with a guaranteed international agreement, with guaranteed international peacekeeping forces. It’s much more complicated today. The mood is different and the correlation of forces has changed. Azerbaijan and Armenia were on the same level at that time, and from the macro-economic point of view Armenia was even at better level by indices per capita. What do we have today, 13 years later? Azerbaijan’s GDP exceeds Armenia’s 5 times, the budget is higher fivefold and military expenses are ten times higher. Azerbaijan will, naturally, be more arrogant and demands will be tougher. Today, it would be very difficult to achieve what we could have achieved then. There is only one detail which differs from that project: the idea of holding a referendum on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. But it is not backed by anything yet. They even avoid pronouncing that word. They speak of a plebiscite, a poll, etc. Nothing is said about legal consequences of that referendum. Developments prove that things are much more complicated today. Any decision today will be worse than then. Unfortunately,” the ANC leader said.
“Next task will be the return of refugees to Armenia”
The failure in Kazan could have been evidenced by the statement of the Azerbaijani Vice-Prime Minister Ali Hasanov, made 10 days before the trilateral meeting.
He, in particular, said that “after liberation of territories, the next task will be return of refugees to Armenia.”
“Azerbaijan will never renounce those territories. These are the lands of our ancestors. Armenians established a state there and exiled our compatriots. But those are Azerbaijani lands. Although we do not consider those lands the territory of independent Azerbaijan, we will claim that our compatriots reside there,” Hasanov said.
Pressure from Moscow
On June 20, “an expert familiar with the preparations for the talks” told TASS news agency that the presidents of Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia could approve the basic principles of the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement at the meeting in Kazan.
It was obvious that the Russian side was seeking to achieve progress in every possible way. A year later, Dmitry Medvedev’s term of office was coming to an end while a breakthrough in the Karabakh settlement could become a useful trump card in his desire to head for the second term.
On June 23 Russian Foreign Ministry made a statement saying that “the meeting in Kazan is meant to play a turning role in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement.”
On the morning of the meeting “Kommersant” newspaper wrote that Yerevan and Baku had principle readiness to sign the document in Kazan. “The only thing that can cloud the Russian president’s triumph is the unexpected surprises at the moment of the very negotiations. The final decisions and wordings will be approved immediately in Kazan, so we are not ensured against unexpected difficulties,” the source of the newspaper said.
Pressure from Washington and Paris
Ahead of the meeting in Kazan U.S. President Barack Obama called leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan and “strongly encouraged” them to endorse the basic principles during their meeting with President Medvedev.
“President Obama told both leaders that now is the time to resolve this conflict and to offer the people of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Nagorno-Karabakh a better future for themselves and for their children. The United States will continue to support both leaders and the Minsk Group co-chairs in their important efforts to advance security and prosperity in the region,” White House stated.
And Robert Bradtke said that “this is the most important stage in the negotiation process since 2001, after the efforts made in Key West to reach a peace agreement.”
The address of French President Nicolas Sarkozy to Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan ahead of the meeting in Kazan said:
“You should know that, as a close person to you, me and entire France, which considers itself Armenia’s sister, sends you the sincerest wishes regarding this decisive meeting. My country will not spare effort to support you on this path.”
“Say ‘yes’ or ‘no’”
Speaking at PACE session in Strasburg on June 22, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan said that “even in conditions of anti-Armenian moods ruling in Azerbaijan, we are leaving for Kazan expecting progress.”
Speaking of compromise, the president said that it is quite difficult to convince societies of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh to take up concessions towards Azerbaijan, which carries out open anti-Armenian propaganda.
In the interview with Euronews before departing to Kazan, Serzh Sargsyan said that “international community requires a ‘clear and final answer’ from Armenia, Karabakh and Azerbaijan.”
“They want to understand whether the interested parties are ready to seek solution based on above mentioned principles. They say: “tell us finally ‘yes’ or ‘no’, hurry up. We hope the answer will be given at the meeting in Kazan,” Armenian president said.
Still, Serzh Sargsyan said that his expectations from the meeting were “not too high.”
Late at night of June 24 Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandyan said that “Azerbaijan failed to endorse the latest version of the basic principles”.
“Azerbaijani side proposed about 10 amendments, and this was the reason that the meeting in Kazan did not become a breakthrough,” Nalbandian said.
He stressed that during last year Azerbaijan for 4 times tried to amend the basic principles proposed by mediators. “But we remain committed to peace talks as there is no other way for reaching the settlement,” the minister said.
On June 27, “Kommersant” wrote, quoting a source in the Kremlin, that the Russian president was “deeply disappointed” with the outcome of the meeting in Kazan, and U.S. Department of State official representative Victoria Nuland noted that Washington is disappointed with the failure of the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan to agree on basic principles.
On July 1, Serzh Sargsyan said at a joint news conference in Kyiv with his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych that Dmitry Medvedev had sent a message to the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan regarding the Karabakh settlement.
On the same day, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe stated that “additional proposals” would be made to the parties.
On July 8, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in Yerevan that he had conveyed to Serzh Sargsyan the Russian president’s proposals prepared after the meeting in Kazan. From Yerevan Lavrov headed to Baku where he handed over the proposals to Ilham Aliyev.
On July 29 U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Alexander Vershbow said that Armenia and Azerbaijan took a “step back” in the Karabakh peace process. Armenia and Azerbaijan “are still unable to complete the coordination of basic principles for conflict settlement and we are still in an unconstructive and dangerous stalemate,” he said.
Statements and revelations post factum
5 years after Kazan failure and 2 weeks after the “April war”, Sergey Lavrov said in Yerevan that if diplomatic process of NK conflict settlement advanced, it would be a deterrent to prevent outbreaks of violence.
Sergey Lavrov said this during the meeting with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, in response to the question the president publicly voiced:
“We were convinced that this conflict could be settled exclusively through compromises, in a peaceful way, but we have what we have today. That is why your opinion is very important for me. Why did it happen nevertheless?” Armenian president said.
“I cannot say for Armenia, Azerbaijan or Karabakh why the situation is at a critical point now, but I believe that if diplomatic process of NK conflict settlement advanced even a little, if we projected at least some principles that the sides would accept for drafting legal documents, that would surely not just play an important role in restarting negotiations, but also become a deterrent to prevent outbreaks of violence. However, I repeat that only the sides themselves can reach a solution,” said Lavrov.
In November 2016, Serzh Sargsyan said in an interview with RIA Novosti:
“It seemed in 2011 that everyone believed we reached the finish line and are ready to sign the document. At that time U.S. president called president of Azerbaijan and me and wished all the best, French president sent a letter to president of Azerbaijan and me with the same wishes, and Russian president partook in the negotiations personally.
We sat down, as is accepted during negotiations. The papers were prepared. Russian president noted in his opening speech that it’s very good that we’ve come to a peaceful settlement. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov delivered a speech as well. Then president of Azerbaijan started speaking and said that of course, they want a peaceful settlement, but they still have questions, and he listed eight or nine points. You can understand what the situation was after that”.
In April 2018, shortly before the “velvet revolution” in Armenia, Lavrov said:
“Another meeting set in Kazan allowed hoping for some serious positive results, as draft documents, which the Russian side prepared in cooperation with co-chairs from U.S. and France, provided for, in our view, all the concerns of Baku and Yerevan in a balanced way. Nonetheless, during the summit additional questions and comments appeared. It happens sometimes, so this is not a tragedy for us. The efforts will go on. I am convinced that a number of points from so-called “Kazan document” are still relevant.
I believe that everything that we worked on those years matters. However, some new ideas appeared during this time, which co-chairs are now trying to promote in contacts with the sides.
The main reason, which hinders the process, is lack of trust, which still exists at the negotiations and doesn’t allow concentrating on available realistic and pragmatic ideas. All the discussed views simply need to be put on paper. Although the sides agree to do it from conceptual point of view, they still find problems when it comes to precise formulations,” Sergey Lavrov said.
2.5 years later the “44-day war” started.
Photos by REUTERS and Photolure used in the chapter.