An interview with Alexan Hakobyan, Member of the Karabakh Committee, PhD in History. The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: Do we speak more about war than peace?
Mr Hakobyan, why do the parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict at the international level, i.e. in the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group, speak about a peaceful resolution, yet within the states in question, the discourse focuses primarily on the probability of war?
The ceasefire was signed on 12 May 1994 following the hot phase of the war. After the ceasefire, military activity ended and some efforts were made to reach a peaceful agreement. In the middle of the 1990s, Armenian authorities undertook some steps to achieve this. Although I was not personally engaged in the process (I had to solve other problems), I witnessed it. The Armenian government was committed to a peaceful agreement, and it was trying to convince Azerbaijan to pursue a peaceful agreement as well. The same efforts were made by Russia during the presidency of Boris Yeltsin. However, in Armenia after the transition of power when Levon Ter-Petrosyan was replaced by Robert Kocharyan, these efforts either stopped or their direction was changed. Believing that it was impossible to achieve peace directly, the Armenian authorities were trying to achieve it by solving issues in a roundabout way. The Meghri option was put forward. Until now, it has not been customary to say that the option was actually discussed, yet I think the opposite. In my opinion, they tried to solve the conflict through the Meghri option, which was not permissible for Armenia, but then the authorities became open towards the exchange of the Meghri corridor for the Lachin. This failed due to multiple reasons.
Then came the presidency of Serzh Sargsyan. During his term, the Armenian authorities were again trying to achieve peace through alternative means, such as through the opening of the Armenian-Turkish border via two protocols signed with Turkey and the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations. The Sargsyan administration tried to pursue peace in this way, yet serious steps towards the establishment of real peace were not actually undertaken. Azerbaijan was not interested in it; Armenia did not express serious interest in it either. The Armenian government was satisfied with the fact that, apart from the attempts to solve small issues, they managed to ensure the status-quo through any means. I mean, one can maintain the status-quo by either active or passive means. But during these past 20 years, it has been maintained by passive means.
What changes have the discussions on peace in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict undergone throughout time?
Peace discourse has always been there. Simply, our policy was not active, but passive: we were waiting for international organizations, particularly the OSCE Minsk Group to come up with an initiative. If it works, fine, if it does not, still not bad. That was the main approach. Even in the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group, Armenia was not active. Today, the transition of power in Armenia has resulted in a new situation, and I think our new authorities will undertake efforts in both directions. Firstly, these efforts will likely include actively pursuing the realization of the Madrid Principles declared by the Minsk Group. This includes finding realistic options of conflict resolution as well as actively working towards the development of conflict resolution options. Secondly, there should be efforts towards the development of conflict resolution options other than the Madrid principles that, first and foremost, will provide peace in the form of a ceasefire or contribute to the realization of a peaceful agreement.
What is the formula for the establishment of peace based on compromise?
Compromise means to reach peace by giving and receiving something. It is a dream for two states and nations. We should not consider that formula as a negative. We should suffer to achieve peace and should wait for it. We also should demand the same from our authorities. If something does not work today, it does not mean that we should weaken the efforts. Society should demand it from the authorities. The efforts should be seen. They should be seen as much as, for example, the steps undertaken in the field of economic development. I am personally for implementation of other international principle than Madrid principles – that of remedial secession. It could be quite a viable formula. Now it is absolutely irrelevant, yet I think that our authorities should pay more attention to that principle. This principle was used in the Kosovo, Eastern Timor, South Sudan conflicts. It has not been discussed in the framework of our issue, since such steps have not been made. In my opinion, now efforts in that direction will activate. It was shown by Nikol Pashinnyan’s speech at the UN, and I am glad about that. The principle implies that for fulfillmCompromise means achieving peace through a process of giving and receiving. It is a dream for two states and nations. We should not view compromise as something negative. We should sacrifice in order to pursue peace and we should expect to receive it in return. We also should demand the same from our authorities. If something does not work today, it does not mean that we should stop trying. Society should demand it from the authorities. The efforts should be seen. They should be seen as much as, for example, the steps undertaken in the field of economic development. I am personally in favor of the implementation of an international principle other than the Madrid principles: that of remedial secession. It could be a viable formula. Now it is absolutely irrelevant, yet I think that our authorities should pay more attention to that principle. This principle was used in the Kosovo, Eastern Timor, and South Sudan conflicts. It has not been discussed in the framework of our coflict, since such steps have not been made. In my opinion, efforts in that direction will now be pursued. This was demonstrated by Nikol Pashinnyan’s speech at the UN, and I am glad to see it. The principle implies that for the fulfillment of self-determination, Azerbaijan simply organized genocide of Armenians in the territory of the Azerbaijan SSR, and Armenians were forced to resort to self-defense in order to survive. We managed to defend ourselves and survive in the territory that we have as the Artsakh Republic.ent of self-determination Azerbaijan simply organized genocide of Armenians in the territory of the Azerbaijan SSR, and Armenians were forced to resort to self-defence in order to survive. We managed to defend ourselves and survive in the territory that we have as Artsakh Republic.
The interview was conducted by Arshaluys Mghdesyan
The post is part of a project on Engaging society and decision-makers in dialogue for peace over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict implemented by the Caucasus Institute and funded by the UK Government’s Conflict, Stability and Security Fund. The opinions and statements that are made in the publication may not coincide with the official position of the UK Government.