Azerbaijan Downplays Self-Determination, Insists On ‘Self-Rule’ For Karabakh


A map of Armenia with Nagorno-Karabakh and the liberated territories.

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Azerbaijan insists on the restoration of its control over Nagorno-Karabakh despite accepting peoples’ right to self-determination as one of the core principles for resolving the Karabakh conflict, Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov indicated on Wednesday.

“Providing self-governance for Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan will be a just and durable solution, and it can dramatically reduce tensions and challenges for peace and stability in the region,” Mammadyarov said in a speech at a ministerial conference in Athens of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The remark highlighted the conflicting parties’ differing public interpretations of the basic principles of a Karabakh settlement put forward by the U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. The proposed agreement calls for the transfer to Azerbaijan of liberated territories linking Armenia and Karabakh and a future referendum of self-determination in the Armenian-controlled territory.

Mammadyarov and his Armenian counterpart, Edward Nalbandian, reaffirmed their governments’ overall support for those principles in a joint statement on Tuesday that was also signed by top U.S., Russian and French diplomats. They agreed that the conflict’s resolution should based on the internationally recognized principles of non-use of force or threat of force, territorial integrity and self-determination of peoples.

Nalbandian described the joint statement as one of the “greatest achievements of Armenian diplomacy.” He was referring to the statement’s reaffirmation that the parties will “reach an agreement based, in particular, upon the principles of the Helsinki Final Act of Non-Use of Force or Threat of Force, Territorial Integrity, and the Equal Rights and Self-Determination of Peoples.”

He said that this was the first time the Co-Chairs had adopted a written statement underscoring the need to observe the three principles of international law. Nalbandian said Wednesday he hoped the foreign ministers of the 56 OSCE member states would make a statement confirming the principles.

An Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman, however, said last month that the principle of self-determination does not call into question Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over Karabakh. The region’s predominantly Armenian population could only determine the extent of its self-rule within Azerbaijan, he said.

Armenian officials insist, however, the Karabakh Armenians would be able to vote for independence, reunification with Armenia or return under Azerbaijani rule in the would-be referendum. “Self-determination means self-determination and territorial integrity territorial integrity,” the Foreign Ministry in Yerevan said on November 7, dismissing the Azerbaijani interpretation of the Minsk Group plan.

In his speech, Mammadyarov also accused Armenia of occupying almost 20 percent of his country’s internationally recognized territory, displacing hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis and destroying their cultural heritage. “We in Azerbaijan strongly believe that withdrawal of Armenian troops in a fixed time framework from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan will open a tremendous opportunity for the region, providing different environment of predictability, development and benefit for everyone and for the entire region. This is the core of the issue,” he said.

Speaking at the OSCE forum later in the day, Nalbandian accused Mammadyarov of seeking to “distort” the essence of the Karabakh conflict and international efforts to resolve it. That, he said, is hampering further progress in the peace process.

Still, both two ministers noted that the parties have moved closer to hammering out a compromise peace accord. “I should admit that there are positive dynamics in the latest talks and both sides together with the Minsk Group Co-chairs agreed to intensify negotiations,” said Mammadyarov.


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  1. Lusik said:

    Very urgent.
    Let’s generate some surrogate replacing “territorial integrity” and offer azeri FM. Something that does not exist in the diplomatic international vocabulary. So that it will take years and decades actually to make a sense of that. Since integral is a summation of incremental parts, I think “territorial summation” might suit.

  2. John said:

    Armenians should now respond to the Azeris by downplaying the artificial boundaries of Azerbaijan and talk only about outright independence of Artsakh. What is “self-rule”, Armenia has to shut Azerbaijan up once and for all.  Now is the time Armenia questions Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and raise the issue of Armenian refugees, which for some reason the leadership of Armenia has forgotten them.

  3. Samvel Jeshmaridian, PhD said:

    Mr. Levon Ter Petrosyan does not understand that after returning one inch of Karabakhi soil, a new war will start. The ANM also should know that any evil force should be destroyed via heavenly powers.

  4. Armanen said:


    Official Yerevan hasn’t forgotten about the Armenians who were kicked out of azerbaijan, many of them settled in Armenia/Artsakh and the rest went abroad, mainly to Russia.

  5. Haro said:

    We must go on with Artsakh issue, we already solved it in 1993. Now we need to talk about Javakhg and Nakhichevan. We will also talk about the rest of our lands soon.
    As for Azerbeijan, I am going to repeat their own Turkish governor’s statement back on them: “Whoever has an eye on Arstakh land, we are going to gouge their eye…”
    So leave Armenia and Artsakh alone!

  6. most pessimist optimist said:

    why isn’t the issue of armenian refugees from azerbaijan not being discussed (repeatedly)  like a broken record, as  azeris do about their displaced people

  7. Armen said:

    A year ago when this regime grabbed power, Armenians of the world didn’t think it would be this bad. Unfortunately we have leaders who have soviet background, and are suffering from a soviet hangover. They are politically and legally illiterate; the proposed protocols between Armenia and Turkey are the proof. How can one drop ‘Self-Determination’ and just keep ‘Territorial Integrity’ in the text. And to add insult to injury, while the protocols are supposed to be between Armenia and Turkey only, they refer to the ‘Territorial Integrity of ‘other’ countries in the region…’?! It is mind bugling. There was no self-reported victory for the Armenian diplomacy in Athens? Red faced timid people cannot win. Where was the talk about the 400,000 Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan? What about the property and wealth of Armenians who left Baku?  It is high time for a quick regime change in Armenia. We need intellectual ‘lawmakers’ with political experience, not just police chiefs turned business tycoons turned politicians at the 11th hour.

  8. Hovsep said:

    Any solutions for Artsakh must be tied to changes of the circumstances within Turkey. If Azeris are to return to their homes, what about Armenians and Armenian cultural sites within the Turkish state? Will the hidden Armenians there be able to come out of their closet? Will Armenian cultural and religious sites be restored? Will the property rights of the Armenian churches and the children and grandchildren of those who were massacred or exiled be honored? You can not discuss Azeri refugees without considering the Armenian refugees scattered to every corner of the globe. Without a quid pro quo any concessions to Azeri refugees are a farce

  9. Ishkhan Babajanian MD said:

    Now  that  Azerbaijan   insists  on the   restoration   of    it’s   control  over   Nagorno-Karabakh and asked  for withdrawal of Armenian troops  in a fix time   framework   from   liberated  territories   In response   Armenia   should consider   three  following  options,
    A- Insists   for a  “Referendum”   within  a  fix   short  time framework    for   Karabakh  peoples’   right  for   Self – Determination”    Or,
    B- Insists   for  Participation  of    Nagorno-Karabakh   government   in  negotiations   Or,
    3-  Withdraw  from  negotiations.

  10. Serge said:

    I don’t understand why should be an other referendum if Artskh people have already done that. We should not talk about self detrmination, we should talk about independance and that’s it. 

  11. Dino Ajemian said:

    My Armenian brothers and sisters, we all know what the right thing to do  regarding negotiating with our eternal barbarian neighbors. One does not need a degree in international relations. One needs backbone and honor and love of country and consciously knowing our history while negotiating. But as we discuss these important matters, we are ignoring the pink  elephant in the room. The plutocracy that runs the country has no sense of honor because they have no love of country concerning any issue of Armenia. You name it, they screwed it up. All to line their pockets. For the people who are in government and the people who make money in a non free market way, it’s a going out of business sale, Armenia must go. The treason has been going on loooong before the protocols. And it will only get worse. It’s time to notice that pink elephant and pull out the elephant gun and set Armenia on an honorable course.

  12. Kisul said:

    Although Serge has a firstname not sweet to my ears, I do agree. Stop even discussing. This is the way Russians act, Turks act, Azerbaijan acts.
    No should mean no! Voch eli voch. Jamais. Nein. Net.

  13. Jansi said:

    A peoples’ right to self determination outside the colonial context does not entail independence without the consent of the majority of the state from which the peoples wish to secede. Territorial integrity is of the whole state, not of some particular group within that state e.g. Nagorno-Karabakh. They only have an internal right to self-determination, which may include self-governance, or at least representation, etc.

  14. Dino Ajemian said:

           Your ideas don’t apply to genocidal states or aggression against minority populations which exist as political entities. The bottom line is if the majority is evil the minority can seceed.   Nagarno Karabakh was not a “group” as you say. Nagarno Karabakh was an autonomous region whose status was revoked by the Azeribaijani state. Under the soviet constitution ever political entity had a right to seceed. So did nagarno karabakh. It legally seceeded. The Azeris then started a war of ethnic cleansing and mass murder of Armenian civilian populations throughout Azeribaijan. This is well documented. 
           Unfortunately you are not seeing the whole picture of what actually happens in the real world. Kosovo and Montenegro are independent of the Serbian Republic. Without consent of the majority. If  what you said was true in the real world Cyprus would be part of Greece today not divided. I know all the excuses and bla bla bla about those and other cases but that just proves the point of the problem of territorial integrity vs right of self determination. 
          Balkanization of the planet would make for a better world. Anyway these rules that you so adhere to were invented by Imperialist powers so they can decide who can seceed and who can not. Those powers also have committed genocide and ethnic cleansing on a vast scale overseas and in their backyards.   Turkish rule over Christians always ends with Christians either dying or fleeing   from their native lands. Azeris are really an evil entity. To put Armenians under turkish rule  would be like puting nazis in charge of Jews.

  15. Haro Mherian, Ph.D. Mathematics, UCLA said:

    Artsakh was never Azeri or Turk land, it was always Armenian and never lost its independence during  Arab, Tatar, Mongol, Seljuk and Ottoman Turk invasions. On the other hand, Azerbeijan still controls 40% of the rest of the Armenian lands, and 100% of Aghuank land (keen brothers of Armenians). The mongol and turkic hordes have destroyed everything in their path and now Aghuanits people are becoming extinct together with the Talish people (and several other ethnic groups).
    The surface area of liberated Artsakh is as large as Lebanon, it has its own army and government. It is de facto independent, and it is de facto united with Republic of Armenia. There is no way in the world this situation can change even one inch.
    We know Turks are afraid of Armenians, given our success in Artsakh. Controlling such a large piece of land for more than 16 years now, indeed implies that strategically speaking, we can easily control the entire Azerbeijan till Baku. So, I would advise Turks and Azeris to mind their own business and do not bother Armenians any more.
    If Turks are serious about friendly neighborhood, they should recognize their atrocities (i.e. Genocide) and return the rest of the Armenian lands to Armenians and start the reparation process. Otherwise, we will continue the fight till all Armenian lands are returned to Armenians. These lands extend from Kur river westwards till the whole Willsonian boundaries. The retribution for peaceful friendship must also include monetary means. If these preconditions are met, I see no problem making peace with Turkey and Azerbeijan.
    I believe, in the long run, these steps will also benefit the Turks and Azeries, because, they indeed have many enemies in the region, and the volatile environment of Asia Minor is not meant for newcomers like Turks. Look at the history, there are no Arabs in Asia Minor, no Mongols, no Seljuks, not even Persians. Soon, there will be no Turks as well. They will all assimilate back to their origins (i.e. Greeks, Kurts or Armenians).