Armenian-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, as one of the most tragic conflicts of the previous century, affected the fate of millions of people. Having started with territorial claims and ethnic terrorist attacks of Armenia to the historical lands of Azerbaijan in 1988, the conflict resulted in military aggression and occupation of 20% of Azerbaijan’s territory.
The fact that the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict has deep historical roots is a known truth. This process, which laid the foundation at the beginning of the XIX century the resettlement of Armenians in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, Russian Empire, has gone through the stages of the insidious mass terror against Azerbaijanis and of the bloody genocide that occurred in 1905-1906 and 1918-1920. Subsequently, through the Soviet period, ethnic cleansing against Azerbaijanis living there for centuries, through the ancestral lands of Azerbaijan Armenian SSR was established, which was the predecessor of the current Republic of Armenia, and the decision of the Central Executive Committee of the Azerbaijan SSR on July 7, 1923 in its composition was formed by the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region.
The mass deportation of Azerbaijani people in Gafan district of Armenian USSR from their historical lands started at the end of 1987. Within the short period of time, all the Azerbaijani people living in the territory of Armenia were displaced from their native lands. On December 1, 1989, the Supreme Soviet of Armenian USSR adopted an unprecedented decision on “Reunification of Armenian USSR and Nagorno-Karabakh”. In January 9, 1990, the Supreme Soviet of Armenia included the plan on the social and economic development of NKAO in the Republican plan for 1990. NKAO held the parliamentary elections to send its representatives to the Supreme Soviet of the Armenian SSR on May 20, 1990. The decisions taken by Supreme Soviet of Armenian USSR verify that the territorial claims to Azerbaijan’s historical lands were launched by not only nationalist groups, but also Armenian public authorities.
Both on the eve and after the end of the conflict, Azerbaijan’s position has been just in accordance with USSR Constitution and international legal norms. Absence of Heydar Aliyev, the prominent political and state figure who was distinguished with analytical skills, resulted in exacerbation of the conflict, conformable to the wish of Armenia. After the cruelest attack of USSR troop to Baku on January 20, 1990 and brutal slaughter of peaceful residents, the next day on January 21, 1990, Heydar Aliyev, the national leader of Azerbaijan, at the press conference for the representatives of foreign mass media organized in the Permanent Mission of Azerbaijan in Moscow, condemned the aggression of Soviet leadership against Azerbaijan and its people. His statement became the first political assessment of Black January of 1990.
Benefiting from the Pro-Armenian stance of USSR high authorities, nationalist and chauvinist superiorities advocating the war seized the power in the parliamentary elections in May, 1990 in Armenia. In fact, Yerevan concentrated all its efforts on establishing and arming informal military units. During the collapse of the USSR, when Azerbaijan just began to build its army, Armenia already had well-trained armed units. Armenia had a military superiority from the beginning of the conflict and always preferred a forceful resolution of the conflict in line with their military goals.
On September 2, 1991, the so-called “Nagorno-Karabakh Republic” (NKR) was declared within the borders of NKAO and Shaumyan region of Azerbaijan SSR. On December 10, 1991, a “referendum” was held in “NKR”. Considering the prospect of the collapse of the USSR, Armenia shifted its strategy to avoid describing itself as one of the sides involved in the conflict. On November 23, 1991, in order to respond to these events, the Supreme Soviet of the Republic of Azerbaijan made a decision to abolish the autonomous status of Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia, which had long been openly laying territorial claims, launched military operations against Azerbaijan without announcement of war. Consequently, the conflict entered a new “hot phase”.
During the military campaign, the Armenian armed forces ferociously murdered the peaceful Azerbaijani population in the regions and cities that they occupied, including civilians and servicemen. The Azerbaijanis were subjected to both ethnic cleansing and a real genocide.
On May 12, 1994, the agreement on ceasefire was signed. Until then, as a result of Armenia’s military aggression 20 percent of the Azerbaijani territory – Khankandi town, Khojaly, Shusha, Lachin, Khojavand, Kalbajar, Aghdam, Fuzuli, Jabrayil, Gubadli, Zangilan regions, as well as 13 villages in Tartar, 7 villages in Gazakh and 1 village in Sadarak region in Nakhchivan – had been occupied by the Armenian armed forces. During the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, more than one million Azerbaijanis became IDPs, while 20,000 people were killed in military operations and 50,000 were wounded and became disabled.
The UN Security Council, which acts as the main guarantor of international peace and security, adopted four resolutions – 822, 853, 874 and 884 – regarding the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. These resolutions laid a legal framework for the political process to resolve the conflict based on the norms and principles of international law. All these resolutions condemn the occupation of the Azerbaijani lands and emphasize the inadmissibility of implementation of territorial claims through the use of force, reaffirm the territorial integrity, sovereignty and inviolability of Azerbaijan’s borders and demand immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of the occupying forces from all the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.
Despite Armenia`s attempts to interfere, the OSCE Lisbon Summit held on December 2-3, 1996, discussed the principles of conflict resolution. And the statement by the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, which was added to the final document, featured these principles. The principles, which all the OSCE member states joined, are as follows:
- Territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Republic of Armenia;
- Legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh defined by an agreement on self-determination which gives Nagorno-Karabakh the highest degree of self-governance within Azerbaijan;
- Guaranteed security for Nagorno-Karabakh and its entire population, including mutual commitment to ensure compliance by all the parties with the provisions of the settlement.