PEACE TO KARABAKH
(to the structure of settlement)
¬ů Vladimir Kazimirov
Instead of introduction
Dear visitor of this site,
Under this heading I placed my memoirs
basically on the period when I was obliged to head
I would like to spur a serious study of history of peaceful and political settlement of Karabakh conflict. I shall be glad for critical remarks, corrections, even for refutations on separate episodes. I am ready to survey them, first of all, not from positions of authorís insulted vanity but from natural desire to attach more reliability to the description of events of recent past, which, unfortunately, already suffers both involuntary confusion and deliberate distortions. Moreover, I am ready to make corrections to my text or include alternative versions in view of remarks. I have turned to Azerbaijani and Armenian colleagues either involved in this process or closely watching it with an offer to draw the objective picture of Karabakh settlement history in this site.
Iíll post the sketches in the site bit by bit
as they are ready. I shall begin with a number of important, at least as I
see them, though inconsequent episodes: my
appointment to "fire brigade" on Karabakh, first restrictions of
military actions, Bishkek, ceasefire since
And now let me start looking forward to your arguments or criticism. Alexander Tvardovsky put it right indicating the truth: "Let it be thicker no matter how bitter it is".
Many of my colleagues from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ventured, especially after retiring from active work, to take up writing their memoirs and thoughts on their service. Some of them hid it behind book covers, others in their desks. They urged me to write many times. Friends often reproached me telling that not everybody bechanced to witness so many diverse and important events during diplomatic service. But I obviously lacked courage or serious motivation to venture that.
Besides, I was not sure whether the others
would be interested in it. Meanwhile, things began slipping my memory,
breaking whole periods into separate episodes. So,
I also was embarrassed that authors of memoirs often puff up trying to play up their personality amidst eventsÖ Nobody, certainly, can avoid subjectivity if he tells about events that involved not necessarily his personality but that he witnessed. I was afraid to give way to such sins or, even worse than that, I feared of filling up the gaps in my memory with fantasy or adjust the narrative to a made-up scheme.
Suddenly I received stimulus from the most
unexpected side! Karabakh is like a drug. Having invincibly addicted to it, I
kept on watching settlement process over Nagorno Karabakh issue that I had to
take up comparatively recently, from 1992 to 1996. This period is still fresh
in my memory and there are more materials on this than on other events.
Reading what the others wrote on Karabakh I found every now and then
inaccuracies, confusion, false versions, pretentious statement etc. Most of
them dealt with
Meanwhile, the history of the conflict and
its neutralization is being recited by people who learnt things through
hearsay, were far from the events they describe and read and cut out
information from here and there. I would put up with it if it were
journalists as they work helter-skelter and can be excused for some mistakes
more or less. But among those who mess with the facts are researches that are
supposed to seriously check and recheck sources instead of blindly referring
to them. Some participants of events also stretch the truth whether because
of memory failure or yearning to push through their own version. What kind of
researches or memoirs are these if they lack the vital element --
authenticity?! The ringing of these alarm clocks already began flow together
in unbearable boom. Itís time to put an end to lies and slander over
Just then I realized that I still remember certain things, that there are many documents of 90s on Karabakh. But even this could not make me take up my pen -- I simply stuck to the keyboard and began typing letters with only one finger -- I never learnt typing.
Everything connected with Karabakh began for
me very simply but thoroughly turned my life for some years. At the end of
April of 1992 minister of foreign affairs of
By then I had already served at the Ministry
for almost 40 years; though I was the head of the Department of African
Countries at the Foreign Ministry for the last 1.5 years, it would be
difficult to call myself specialist in African studies as my only experience
was the mission in only one African country --
Now try to guess what motivates the
principals of the Foreign Ministry in their choices? I do not know what
Eduard Shevardnadzeís motivation was for recalling me from
Someone asserted later as if my experience of
participant in conflict settlement in southwestern
Now we had to deal not with a remote
continent but with close countries that were already "foreign" for
I played only a rather incidental role of
member of a mandatory commission of XXVIII congress of the Communist Party.
This commission was to immediately look into the mandates of three
"unwanted" delegates of the congress of Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous
Region (at that point, striving to outwit the Center, the Karabakh Armenians
refused to participate in republican congress in Baku, where three delegates
by Nagorno Karabakh quota were elected for the ’’VIII congress: an Azeri, an Armenian and a
Russian but right after this they elected three delegates of their own in
Karabakh). At the same congress, I started correspondence with the first
I have stayed in the South Caucasus only two
days before while accompanying minister of foreign affairs of Cuba Isidoro
Malmierca in his
What was Nagorno Karabakh conflict for us
during that period, in the beginning of 1992? The widely used definition
"friend-enemy" from military aviation could hardly be applied in
this case. The conflict was not to be considered "ours" any more --
But at that moment, in the ministerís room,
rather puzzled by his offer, I could only murmur without choosing words:
"Frankly speaking, I am not excited over the idea. But if it is necessary,
Iíll take it". A. Kozirev has not found it probably a sufficiently
convincing refusal. The order on setting an intermediary mission of
I used to recollect my conversation with my
friend and classmate envoy Vsevolod Oleandrov as a funny incident. He told me
that has just got a new post connected with
I began looking into the tough essence of
Nagorno Karabakh conflict. I spent a year only on digestion of the
principles. I remember that only in the first half of 1993 I felt confident
enough as regards to the conflicting sides and in contacts with many foreign
To proceed closer to the matter, I shall tell
at once about the character of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict and its
peculiarity. Seemingly, there is no need of special introduction. The shock
from the first armed convulsion that shook the foundations of great world
power -- the
The word "Karabakh" became a common
noun indicating armed conflicts on the territory of former
The malignancy of Karabakh precedent is in the fact that it encouraged, almost "legalized", a number of such confrontations. Its destabilizing effect overflowed regional boundaries. But somehow Karabakh also served as caution as it prevented political confrontations to flare up in bloody clashes and direct military actions.
Yet, it is impossible to bypass a series of features of Karabakh conflict that were distinguishing it from other post-soviet conflicts in many respects.
Firstly, Karabakh issue has ancient historic roots (as opposed to the other, "young" conflicts): the clashes between Armenians and Azeris in the 19th century and in the beginning of the 20th are well-known. This fact predetermined a special degree of mutual mistrust of the sides, emotional-psychological tension of the present conflict, its fierce and lingering character. What sets military actions in Karabakh apart is the fact that there were very few POWs compared with the killed and the unaccounted-for people: the sides took captives in exceptional cases. Thatís why the ethnic cleansing there during the war was specific: hundreds of thousand civilians ran upon enemyís oncoming thus turning into refugees. The sides quite often accuse each other of deportation but it was more inherent in the first phase of the conflict. There were less deported people during the years of war than those who abandoned native places, fearing deportation or severe treatment of the other side.
The other peculiarity of Karabakh is the
gradual overflow of separate hotbeds of conflict into a real war, especial
from the end of
Thirdly, it was in Karabakh that the modern heavy armament, including tanks and other armored vehicles, artillery and mounts for volley fire and bombarding aviation, largely was used. The strikes on settlements and civil objects were no rarity, and that resulted in great number of victims among the civilians as well as in increase of mass flows deportees and refugees. Multiple rough violations of norms of the international humanitarian right that didnít stop even after the ceasefire are peculiar for this conflict. The phenomenon of mercenary is another feature of the Karabakh conflict.
The specific political configuration of Karabakh conflict created and still creates complexities. Contrary to "two-dimensional" domestic conflicts in Georgia, Moldova and Tajikistan, where two sides directly confront each other on ethnic, clannish or other basis, the picture of confrontation in Karabakh is not that simple: there were two sides in the military conflict and three in the political: Azerbaijan, Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia. Features of both domestic and external conflict (let alone the Soviet period of 1988-91) are intertwined in Karabakhís case. And only this conflict includes two former soviet republics and nowadays two sovereign states that are members of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
All these peculiarities of war in Nagorno Karabakh urgently called for preventing it from further overgrowth, especially internationalization, and its soonest suppression -- to stop at least only the bloodshed and then achieve gradual de-escalation of the conflict, passing on to political settlement in state of ceasefire. Unfortunately, ruling elites of the conflicting parties, especial one of them, could not part with illusory hopes to achieve their goal by military power for long and displayed irreconcilability and inflexibility.
There is no need to explain that the specificity of this conflict only aggravated the matter and complicated peacekeeping efforts. General destabilization of the situation in the region stymied ceasefire efforts and peaceful settlement.
Everything I told does not certainly exhaust
all the characteristics of Karabakh conflict but much has already been told
and written about it. Though much less was written about its settlement,
there are just greater absurdities and distortions in this sphere. Therefore
I also ventured on a "crusade" against lie and muddle over Karabakh
settlement with a focus on
THE FIRST RESTRICTIONS of MILITARY ACTIONS
The basic scope of military actions, especially attacks in Nagorno Karabakh and around it, fall on 1993. It doesnít lessen the importance of the events in Shushi and Lachin at all (May, 1992) and the attacks of the Azeri army in the summer of the same year in territory of the former NKAR, as well as double-edged battles in the winter and spring,1994, shortly before the ceasefire on May 12.
As a whole, 1993 passed in the atmosphere of
the Armeniansí military activity. In late March they occupied Kelbajar
region, widely closing
In winter, 1993-94, the Azeri armed forces
initiated a series of attacks. But the attacks either ended in failure
(particularly, in Kelbajar), or brought local success (for example, in
Goradiza, near the border with
* * *
The first year of the OSCE Minsk groupís
activities (since June, 1992) showed that it canít effectively play the role
of mediator, to stop or hold the spreading of the armed conflict in the new
regions with all the consequences following: increase in the number of the
victims and the material destructions, increase of refugee wave, as well as
the danger of making the conflict an international one. Moreover, the
In this situation we had to double our own
efforts as mediator, more actively meeting with the authorities of the countries
in conflict, calling them for achieving a ceasefire. It is necessary to
indicate in points the line of our actions directed to the ceasefire since
the mid 1993. Certainly, in real life they coincided with our activities in
There have been a number of ceasefires or
other restrictions of the military actions achieved by direct mediation of
One canít say that we realized Ė sooner, we felt intuitively -- that no miracle will take place, that we will fail to stop the fire with one step, as P.S. Grachev, Russian defense minister, expected in Sochi, September 1992. We will have to achieve that through insistent attempts, notwithstanding the frequent digressions, prevarications of the sides, or stopping the short ceasefires they happened to achieve.
"Annals" of the military actionsí restrictions and ceasefires in Karabakh can seem rather boring but one canít understand how a long ceasefire and relative stability were achieved in the region without that. The long-lasting narration can be explained by the fact that each day of restricted or stopped military action has saved many human lives. Mainly, this covers the period since mid-1993 till May 1994.
It is worth mentioning that serious inner
changes took place in
The mission of
The arrangement between the parties achieved
as a result of our telephone conversations with
Recently, I found out that the documents I have, half forgotten, but historical for this conflict, began fading without any chances to restore them. It was already impossible to read the text on some of the sheets.
In June 1993 we had the best and contemporary
means of transferring texts via fax. We could use telephone communication,
even through HF (high frequency phone), only for conversations, negotiations.
In order to make more concrete and specified statement we had to either
dictate the texts by HF or better send them by fax. The Electronic
communication was not available for us and our partners even in the capitals
of developed countries. We used fax communication so widely for sending texts
Such a frequent use of fax was conditioned by
other factors, too. The parties, as a rule, evaded from direct meetings
either with the participation of a mediator or without it. It was hard to
gather their representatives around one table for signing the arrangements
that we had already achieved. The military actions also hindered the
transport communication in the region. There have been few transportation
means in the region, as well. We had to do many things very quickly and at a
distance, very often from
Alas, the facsimile paper fades fast. Recently I decided to reprint the text of the first documents to preserve their essence, at least, even without grace of the forms and arms, without "odor" of signatures.
The technology of remote dialogue between the
sides through the mediator, when he was in
Certainly, not always the sides signed the text in the way it was send by the mediator. There were many cases when this or that side made its corrections into the text, which is quite normal before signing the document. But sometimes it was done during signing without discussing with the mediator or directly with the opponent. Such, behavior of the sides revealed the lack of political culture or, at least, lack of relevant experience. Sometimes these could be trifles that didnít touch upon the very essence of the agreement but in some cases such steps of the parties could ruin the principal agreement that was supposed to be reached orally. We will touch upon a classical example of such behavior later, dwelling on the events of December 1993.
In June, 1993, The Karabakh side didnít use official form but they had an unusually large (diameter 4,5 cms) round stamp with an inscription "The Nagorno Karabakh Republic. Committee of Self-Defense". The inscription was made in Russian and Armenian. The text prepared by the mediator and signed by a Nagorno Karabakh military principal, said:
"In case of the opposite sideís consent to immediately undertake the commitment not to shell and bomb Stepanakert, we will immediately undertake the commitment not to shell and bomb Aghdam.
S. Babayan, commander of the Army of Defense,
And a huge round stamp!
The form of the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry
bore the state symbols and the address, as it was required: 370601,
"June 17, 1993 23:00
Ministry of the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of
To Mr. Kazimirov
In case of the opposite sideís consent to immediately undertake the commitment not to shell Aghdam, we will undertake the commitment not to shell Khankendi.
S. Abiyev, head of the Headquarters of the
As soon as I received the signed faxes in my
office on the
It is not accidental that the June 17 documents bear no indication of deadlines of actions. Each time we had the opportunity we achieved open-ended commitments, trying to stop or limit the military actions.
When comparing the texts of both sides, one
can see the disputes of the sides around the name of the main city of
But even this shortened agreement was severely tested soon. Only two days later, on June 19, the same Samvel Babayan sent me Note Ļ97, having signed the form of Nagorno Karabakh Self-defense Committee already as acting commander (here, I will represent the original message, edited by the author).
"Taking advantage of the previous
arrangement between the sides on undertaking commitments not to expose to
shooting the cities of Stepanakert and Aghdam, the Azeri side is gathering
military equipment in Aghdam, including "Grad" rockets and exposes
to shooting and bombing the dwelling places of
On behalf of the Commanders of NKR Self-Defence Forces, I have to warn that in case such actions continue to take place, we will take steps in response to press the hotbeds. The actions in response will begin in an hour after you receive the given message.
The Azeri side will bear the responsibility for everything".
The natural reaction to such a note will be that one will regret about the lack of the common sense or literacy of the author. But this reaction will pass away very soon, as you come to think that hardly the mater is about only this.
One can read between the lines of this "notification" that both sides tried to deceive each other. In this case, the Azeri side didnít break the arrangement of June 17 (as it forbade to shoot, rocket the two cities only). Certainly, bombing and shelling of towns and villages directly violate the international humanitarian right but the Azeris did not undertake commitments concerning military actions in other regions or about not gathering military engineering in this or that district. If the matter was really that the Karabakh authorities could suggest to enlarge the former arrangement, including two new obligations. But, probably, it was not included in their plans.
The "warning" concerning "the continuation of such military actions" is hardly grounded. The insignificancy of the motivation is obvious, as the mediator had not a single opportunity to agree and decide these issues at a distance in an hour only. The very text of Babayanís letter testified to their decision to deliberately break the former arrangement that was hidden behind the epistolary tricks of the newly appointed commander from Karabakh.
So, it was so hard to deal with the first arrangement between the sides. Certainly, we managed to preserve it somehow through contacting with the parties. The Armenians called their actions responding measures for pressing the weapon emplacement of the enemy around Aghdam. Both sides protested about violations during the next days. The protests were discussed by the sides as well as during the telephone talks with RF Foreign Ministry; some measures were taken for remove concerns . Nevertheless, the military commanders of the parties stated that the general activeness of military actions, as well as usage of hard weapons decreased in those regions for a while.
On June 24 the Foreign Ministry of Russia
emphasized the inadmissibility of interfering the affairs of
On June 25 I discussed with the military
commanders of the Armenians of Karabakh some measures of limiting the
military actions for removing concern of the sides in over Askeran-Aghdam, as
well as in Mardakert/Agdere. I immediately sent my suggestions to Safar
Abiyev about balanced withdrawal of Karabakhís Armenians and the Azeri forces
from a number of dwelling places and hills of the region. We wanted to
decrease the fire of the battles and to make the parties return to the
positions of June 14 when Stepanakert, last of the three sides, gave consent
for the plan of the "
Receiving no answer from Abiyev concerning my
suggestions, I had to send the same message with the sign "urgent"
to Heydar Aliyev on June 26. At about 15:00 Heydar Aliyev called the head of
the mediatorsí mission of
On June 26, during the second telephone
conversation about the situation around Aghdam, Aliyev said that he wants to
change the permanent representative of
Reporting A.V. Kozirev about the
conversations with Aliyev, I stated that in my contacts with
Here is the first text. No comments:
to Mr. V.N. Kazimirov
In case you confirm the consent of the opposite side, we undertake the commitment that for one week beginning from 5:00 a.m. of June27 we will stop any attacks and attempts to go forward from the contact line that is set up at the abovementioned moment; any rocket, artillery fire as well as air bombardment on the whole area of the military actions from the village Madagiz, in the North, and to Aghdam, in the South. This arrangement will be in force immediately after the abovementioned confirmation is received.
head of Headquarters of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijani Republic.
June 27, 1993".
We received the same text from Stepanakert,
signed "Samvel Babayan, Commander of Defense Army of NKR". After we
sent the texts to Stepanakert and
Unfortunately, the arrangement of June 27 wasnít achieved easily. They still were shooting in the morning, some incidents took place, and only by the noon we managed to cease the fire.
In the same period, the Russian mediator, facing the violations made by the one or the other side, began suggesting them a system of measures directed to decreasing such incidents to secure the achieved agreement even in such cases. These measures envisaged informing the opponent side about the violation either though High Frequency communication or though RF Foreign Ministry (its exact time and place, character and consequences). The other side had to give a written answer not later than in three hours, including the measures taken. When RF Foreign Ministry received such information, we had to inform the other side (immediately during the working days, while during the rest of the time as soon as possible).
Willingly condemning each other in both real and false violations, the sides didnít express big readiness to use the incidentsí settlement mechanisms. Thatís why, the Russian mediator had to return to this for several times, insisting of the suggested system of measures.
In the evening of June 27, Heydar Aliyev and
Robert Kocharian agreed through me that they can enlarge and prolong the
agreement on ceasing the attacks, the shooting and bombardments. On June 29,
according to the arrangement with Aliyev, A.V. Kozirev especially sent a
message to the sides in conflict with this very suggestion. UN Secretary
General, acting chairman of OSCE, members of the Security Council and
On July 2, RF Foreign Ministry made a new
suggestion to the sides in the development of these ideas, i.e. to prolong
the June 27 arrangement for a whole month (till August 4) and spread over the
zones of Fizouli and Hadrout. We also suggested not to bomb
the dwelling places within a radius of
Stepanakert didnít accept the suggestion of mutual withdrawal of the forces from the recently occupied hills and the occupied villages, but they agreed with the rest of the suggestions. As for the Azeris, it seemed that the idea was talked over with Aliyev. But Abiyev, notwithstanding the numerous cases of reminding, gave no response to our suggestions.
Meanwhile, we received the information that
Using the issue of legitimacy of the changes
that took place in
On the other hand, what did the reproaches of
Aliyev hurled in
As a result,
December Fraud of 1993
The peak of military actions in Karabakh
falls on 1993. Those were not local skirmishes anymore but practically
pitched battles and wide-range operations with application of modern arms and
seizures of extensive territories. The initiative passed to the Armenians:
apart from the Karabakh people and volunteers from different countries, the
regular army of
Nobody, except for
The result of faded hopes in 1993 produced
not only affliction but also serious direct or indirect consequences. In
early September the Armenians slowed with troopsí removal from conquered
Azerbaijani regional center of Kubatlu as official
In October breakdowns from the Azerbaijani side followed: a dangerous incident took place on at Kuydzhak village on October 10 and Azeris finally broke ceasefire on October 21 losing all southwest of the country.
But it must be noted that the ceasefire would maintain longer when even one of the sides really needed a break. So, one such break was prolonged for four times and lasted from August 31 till October 21. Heydar Aliyev needed more favorable conditions for the presidential election on October 3, which was the last step transferring authority in his hands.
The break of ceasefire in mid-December of 1993 that was reached on "the highest level" by Russian Foreign Ministryís support is especially notable for its absurdity and bloody consequences it yielded. This time the cause of the break was not any annoying incident on the front (as it happened before owing to precipitate actions of commanders or uncontrolled of groups) but a bungle or a cynical trick in made in offices in capital cities. Here is how it was.
I learnt in
Heydar Aliyev told that from political
leadership A. Jalilov, deputy chairman of Supreme Council of Azerbaijan, will
sign the agreement and from the military -- head of the Supreme Headquarters
N. Sadikhov. Robert Kocharian charges Arkady Ghukasian and S. Ohanian with
the job. I immediately faxed
We have barely enough time, only few hours, as after documents are ready we should send both sidesí faxes to each other to confirm reciprocity of accepted obligations. And the military command should give appropriate orders after that and to inform commanders at the front as soon as possible.
I soon receive the fax from Stepanakert:
everything is signed without corrections or insertions. Precious hours pass,
and the document from
Taking into account tough situation in
Beylagan and that everything was talked over personally with the Azerbaijani
president (there is no one higher Ė I have to trust!), I probed Robert
Kocharian: what about terminating fire today at midnight "as gentle
gesture" and not postpone it because "of a technical delay" in
Baku? (I repent now of my naivety!). To my surprise, Robert Kocharian known
for his toughness does not object. It seemed that both sides issued orders to
armies: it is impossible to control it from
Yet, mutual pretensions for infringements
followed again in the morning. I continued forcing
It continued the next day too. The president
At last, only on December 19, at 9:40 p.m.
(more than three days after the arrangement with Heydar Aliyev!) the fax on
the blank of the minister of the defense of
And most importantly, there was almost
nothing left from our draft in the text that we had dispatched to
Should I remind how such delicate agreements
are to be drawn up? Usually, plenipotentiary representatives of the sides
sign one document at one time and in one place. But
(By the way, on 18 and 19 December minister
of defense of
In the meantime, Heydar Aliyev was already in
What kind of performance was it? A chain of
ridiculous misunderstandings? Fatal inconsistency inside the
How simple it was to find a solution! Mid-December was the beginning of attempts of Azerbaijani counterattack on the front. Some date it back just to December 17, others to the beginning of December 20s but it is clear that it was the largest attempt in Karabakh war to throw the Armenian troops back.
Our new offer during the escalation of fights to agree on two-week "New Year" armistice from December 31 was not accepted either. The offer was sent personally to Heydar Aliyev on December 30 but we got no answer, though Karabakh Armenians agreed this time, too.
At the CIS summit in Ashghabat on December 23-24, i.e. in the interval between failures of both attempts of ceasefire, Aliyev told mass media that (quoting ITAR TASS) "[he] prefers peaceful settlement of the conflict and stands for the immediate halt of military actions between the confronting sides". In his opinion, "necessary conditions for that have not been created yet and direct contacts with the representatives of the Armenian community of Nagorno Karabakh did not help the process either".
The counterattacks called, probably, to create these "necessary conditions", soon have choked, bringing Azeris only small local success in the region of Horadiz. But fierce fighting in the winter of 1993-94 still long continued taking heavy tolls for both sides.
From now on Baku stops direct contacts with
Stepanakert, completely ignoring it as a side in the conflict, though in 1993
it entered into agreement on restriction of military actions and ceasefire or
its prolongation with Nagorno Karabakh (even without any participation of
Yerevan) for ten (!) times.
December of 1993 vividly illustrates constant
difficulties of mediatorís work with the sides. It shows how important are
the political will, accuracy of actions and faithfulness of the leaders to
their given words. And, by the way, it shines light on why the military
actions battered the region for five more months that brought considerable
human loss, material destructions and increase of Azeri refugee flow for
Is that surprising that mutual mistrust of the sides appeared to be the scourge of Karabakh settlement?! The December fraud of 1993 only aggravated it. I shall not hide how extremely disappointed and even depressed was I as a mediator. But I could not give up as bloodshed in Karabakh and over it still continued.
THE BISHKEK PROTOCOL
To stop the bloodshed in
Parliaments also applied force for
elimination of the conflict, certainly, with the most active involvement of
During the meeting of parliamentarians of
The new meeting of the parliamentarians, this
time at the level of the heads of parliamentary structures, was held in
Bishkek on May 4-5, 1994, at the initiative of CIS IPA, parliament of
The chairman of the CIS IPA Council and the
Council of Federation of Russian Federation, Vladimir Shumeyko, the secretary
of the CIS IPA Council, Mikhail Krotov, participated at the Bishkek meeting
as IPA representatives and actually represented also Russia (alongside with
the author of these lines who participated as plenipotentiary representative
of the President of Russian Federation and Russian Foreign Ministry
representative). Few people know that the delegation of Lagthing (local
Contrary to the first meeting on Aland
Islands where no document was signed, we wanted to avail ourselves the
opportunity of the high level forum in Bishkek and try to adopt a final and
agreed document aimed to support the April 15 Declaration of the leaders CIS
States with its imperative on the arrest of bloodshed in Karabakh. We,
certainly, had no illusions that it would be easy. The main thing at that
moment was to shift the public opinion towards ceasefire. I prepared the
scheme of the document - "The Bishkek protocol" - beforehand, still
Whole program organized by the hosts soon
failed: we had to postpone the tempting trip to
Our offer to support on behalf of the parliamentary leaders the accent of the Declaration of the CIS state heads on the arrest of fire and military actions has not caused discussions in itself. The essence of the new documentís scheme was to develop this accent by appealing on behalf of the heads of parliaments of all sides of the conflict to stop fire. But it was necessary to express it not in a manner of good wish but as a real initiative. The day of May 9 that the soviet nations remembered as Day of Victory over fascism was approaching. No one objected that I included this date in the text of the document Ė I wanted to show that reason eventually wins in this conflict as well. In the upshot, appeal with an offer to set ceasefire deadline at midnight of 8 May, 1994, lay as the core of "Bishkek protocol".
But disagreement between the sides on other questions remained insuperable. Unfortunately, issues of procedural character occupied a larger place by far in Bishkek as well: is Nagorno Karabakh a side in this conflict and whether the status of participant in this forum of Nizami Bakhmanov, representative of the Azeri community of Karabakh, should be equated to the status of Armenians from Stepanakert? Jalilov challenged legitimacy of participation of Karabakh Armenians in this meeting (he reduced their status from "the sides in the conflict" to "an interested side" as a matter of fact). Being unable to achieve it, as the participation Karabakh Armenians in Bishkek meeting was considered by Heydar Aliyev beforehand, Jalilov urged to equate Bakhmanov, member of his delegation, with them. But it would contradict elementary logic as the latter did not represent any parliamentary structure (he was once for a very short time the head of executive power in Shushi but not governmental nor even municipal).
Nobody certainly recognized and was not going
to recognize NKR and its parliament but still Karabakh Armenians had a
certain elective structure on the basis local populationís will (it was noted
in the wording of the Helsinki decision of OSCE on March 24, 1992. It says
the "elected" and other representatives of Nagorno Karabakh).
Irascibly casting off Nagorno Karabakh, Azeris failed to estimate properly,
simply took for granted, so to speak, that
Shumeyko stated unambiguous during
discussions that Nagorno Karabakh, as well as
In Bishkek, the sides disagreed also over the
essence of the settlement. The majority of issues, certainly, could not be
taken and, moreover, they could not be solved on such a meeting of parliament
leaders in view of specificity of this forum. However, inertia of disputes
Jalilov did not comprehend also the expediency of offering the parliaments of CIS participating States to discuss the initiative of Shumeyko and Sherimkulov on creating peacekeeping forces of the Commonwealth (there was already the sense that Azerbaijani leadership made a curtsey to the West which was sharply opposed to replacement of Russian peacekeeping forces in the conflict zone - the CIS forces seemed to them to be Russiaís cover).
Ultimately, the Azeri delegation tried to advance its own scheme of the final document which only required to stop fire and immediate withdrawal of the Armenian forces from the occupied Azeri regions but, certainly, the declined participation of Nagorno Karabakh and extremely narrowed the role of CIS in the settlement. Own plans of any of the conflicting sides at such forums are practically unpromising as they are obviously pursuing interests of only one side and are easily rejected by opponents as one-sided. But the Azeris continually did not understand this before and later and pushed ahead their own projects instead of completing the schemes submitted by the mediator. So, their project attempted to remove reference in the beginning of the text that the conflict "essentially affects interests of other countries of the region" but it was easily rejected by other participants of the meeting.
But the Armenians set the stress on necessity of working out a mechanism that would provide maintenance of ceasefire and stopping of operations and would be a reliably guarantee that they will not resume - only after that they supposed withdrawal of their forces from the Azeri territories they occupied. Or else, they logically sought after final signing of ceasefire and cessation of military actions -- military-technical issues -- before passing withdrawal of forces -- military-political issues.
As Shumeyko marked later, it was unprecedented that leaders of such level worked on the text of the document for almost two days continuously. Though, naturally, almost all hard work -- search for alternative wordings, issue of next, renovated variants of the project -- practically fall on me.
At decline of May 5, after really exhausting disputes, "The Bishkek protocol" was signed by the heads of both Armenian delegations and all persons acting as mediators - all except the head of Azerbaijani delegation. Jalilovís refusal, certainly, greased results of the meeting. Azeris motivated their position saying that Nizami Bakhmanov was not allowed to sign and made vague statements that the document does not meet their interests. But these were only outer pretexts.
The true cause of Jalilovís pose came out
rather quickly. It was known, that the president of
In this context and at that time, Aliyev
hardly needed signing of "The Bishkek protocol", which just most
vigorously supported by the representatives of
Aliyev told during his appearance on May 21,
1994, how he blocked signing of the protocol in Bishkek: he simply forbade
Jalilov to sign there any document without his consent. The latter followed
presidentís indications in
In Bishkek we, naturally, did not know about these instructions of Aliyev, and I vainly tried to connect with Milli Mejlis chairman, Guliyev, on the phone hoping to secure his consent to sign the Bishkek appeal. Nevertheless, the decision taken by those signing the document to leave Milli Mejlis an opportunity to join it later, if it will wish, was undoubtedly right.
It would be too prodigal to throw the issue
halfway after such efforts. We had to keep going. Having arrived in Moscow
for a day (for participation in the first meeting of Kozirev with the new
Swede chairman of OSCE Minsk conference, Jan Eliasson, on May 6), I flew to
Baku on May 7 having agreed with my minister and Shumeyko to discuss
"The Bishkek protocol" with the president of Azerbaijan and
chairman of Milli Mejlis. We had to find out
On Sunday, May 8, Heydar Aliyev gathered high leadership of Azerbaijan in his office: the heads of parliament R. Guliyev and A. Jalilov, State adviser on foreign policy, V. Gulizade, foreign minister G. Hasanov, minister of a defense M. Mamedov, deputy minister of defense T. Zulfugarov, Azerbaijanís ambassador to Russia . Rizayev and others, sat down at a lengthy table basically to the right from Aliyev. I had to sit to his left.
Opening the meeting, the president heaped the
next portion of reproaches to the Russian mediator literally saying:
"You have again prepared a document that goes against interests of
Naturally, the statements of those present at
meeting supported the president. The correlation of "votes" at the
table could not be favorable for a soloist mediator. Suddenly Ramiz Rizayev,
A "compromising" idea was also
suggested: to sign the document but with amendments. Someone offered to put
"international" before the word "observers", someone to
tell more abruptly -- instead of "occupied" put "seized
territories". The first correction meant that the observers were to be
not only from Russia (by the way, inserting the word "international"
before the observers was inappropriate in that context, as it dealt with the
Protocol of a meeting of defense ministers in Moscow on February 18, 1994.
I explained from my side that corrections to the text have no substantial sense at all, as all other participants of the Bishkek meeting have signed the document as it was and will not consider it again - this not a treaty after all, not a legal but political document.
The traditional "sore" of Azerbaijani diplomacy came out: they again began insisting on the signature of Bakhmanov on behalf of the Azeri community of Nagorno Karabakh. I showed them that Bakhmanov can not be equated to the heads of representative structures. Yet, the interest of Azeri participants of this meeting was hotter and sterner than any logical reasoning! To tell the truth, I thought that every cloud has a silver lining: slips of tongue "save the face" of the Azerbaijani authorities, facilitate their joining to the document.
At the end of the meeting Aliyev told Jalilov: "Well, sign, Afiyaddin!" But the latter declared that could not do that as he had bound himself by the position taken in Bishkek.
It was a delicate, even funny situation, not only in the sense of Afiyaddin Jalilovís disobedience. After the participantsí mood turned in favor of the ceasefire, his evasion allowed to come up to the chairman of Milli Mejlis, Guliyev, for signature - a higher and natural level! The other signatures of the sides in the conflict belonged to the first persons of parliaments after all. Therefore, strangely enough, I was to express comprehension of Jalilovís position and support him before Aliyev, making my way though to reach speakerís signature.
Not without a reproach to his deputy, Guliyev said that someone is anxious for his reputation here - he personally was not concerned with it if only the people would benefit. He was ready to sign the document with the mentioned corrections and Bakhmanovís signature under it. Aliyev agreed, and Guliyev put his signature in the place where Jalilovís was supposed to be. They added two "corrections" on the last page in legible handwriting in Russian. Other important but delicate points of the document (reference to the Protocol of February 18 meeting of defense ministers, the role of CIS, idea of setting peacekeeping forces within the Commonwealth) were not affected.
In one word, the meeting started on a sad note but finished on a merry one.
The freak with Bakhmanovís signature resulted
in discomfiture. The Azeris entered his surname by hand but could not find
In the morning of May 9 I had to answer an
unusually populous (with 20 mass medias representatives) and long -- more
than three hours -- press conference in
I had also to confirm to the journalists that Guliyev signed "The Bishkek protocol" with two corrections, which caused sensation. A had to say about the corrections to the protocol that they should be viewed as a special opinion of the Azerbaijani side as all others who had signed the document in Bishkek the text remains such as it was at the point of signing.
(I could not announce that defense minister
Mamedov was going to sign another document as well on that very day, May 9,
-- a document on ceasefire. I was not sure up to the last moment that it will
be signed, as we planned it the day before, besides we needed to receive
later the signatures in
Given the vacillation and zigzags of the
Azerbaijani authorities, it was a right and more or less timely and
courageous step from
There were, certainly, sober voices as well
The session of Milli Mejlis was postponed from May 10 till May 13 then till May 18 (because of my joint Baku visit with Eliasson on May 12 and four-hour talks that day at Aliyevís where speaker Guliyev should have been present).
A parliamentary crisis burst out in
Allegedly Jalilov let the press know in
The Azerbaijani journalists turned to me as
well on this occasion. They phoned to
Despite the oppositionís hysteria, the
Passion over Bishkek did not retreat in
Taking alarm that the bloodshed was stopped
due to Russiaís mediation, the westerners, first of all USA, feverishly
quartered pressure both on Baku and Yerevan to keep them back from accepting
"the Russian plan" (they did not have direct levers of pressure on
Stepanakert). But it is necessary to tell about it in detail - probably, even
in a separate chapter. I shall note here only how difficult it is to believe
"The Bishkek protocol" became the culmination of those political efforts beyond the talk process and military-diplomatic work that we applied aiming ceasefire. The highest leadership of the conflicting sides was standing behind the heads of parliaments after all. The document was vital in struggle for public opinion. It was the "dead color" for the first sketch of future ceasefireís picture.
The mass media, even the researchers and political scientists poorly familiar with the texts of the documents, mistakenly write often that the ceasefire in Karabakh conflict was signed in Bishkek. They do not distinguish between a call to stop fire and documenting of the obligations taken on the basis of political decisions of the leadership of all sides. Without delving into the "technology" of ceasefire, they do not count that it was the meeting of heads of parliamentary structures of the conflicting sides and not this of executive power. The heads of these structures would need official authorities from higher executive command to sign such an agreement but none of them had that, they were not even requested. The initiators of the Bishkek meeting did not set such a goal though, certainly, strived to realistically stop bloodshed.
It seems to me that the researchers should
have paid attention also to how Babken Ararktsian and Rasul Guliyev who
signed "The Bishkek protocol" estimated it. So, Ararktsian noted at
a special press conference in
The hypertrophy of Bishkekís significance in Karabakh
settlement emerged "on both sides of the barricade": it happened in
It is regrettable that many serious
researchers not only in
As it is known, on April 15,
The researches have not even noticed that
Bishkek was only the continuation of the parliamentariansí meeting on Aland
Islands and in essence was called initially to display parliament headsí
support to the position of the leaders of CIS States on the immediate
stopping of bloodshed that was stated in the
As it happens sometimes, the secondary but garish issue overshadows the main, the basic, more substantial and essential issue...
BreakThough to ceasefire in Karabakh
May 12, 1994, became the day of hope for the
tortured people of
Iíd better say from the very beginning that
neither the sides in conflict nor the mediators strived for the ceasefire so
hard and consistently. Dozens of facts can prove this. And this will be the
most convincing answer to those that for many years try to accuse
The sides in conflict sometimes were unwilling to sign a ceasefire agreement, but, as a rule, in case of unfavorable developments at the front for one of the sides and only a temporal one. Usually, they looked forward to a respite to resume the military actions again to be a success. Unfortunately, the ruling elites of the sides in conflict didnít give up their illusions to achieve their goals through military actions, expressing irreconcilability and inflexibility. While some of the mediators thought that the military actions would continue for sure. Other wasted their energy on quite different priorities, pretending that they were participating in the settlement process.
The situation at the front in the beginning
of May of 1994 became rather contradictory. After the Azeris exhausted their
counter-offensive potential in winter achieving quite poor results but sharply
increasing the losses of both sides, a definite balance of forces was set up.
The most severe battles took pace in Ter-Ter region. The attempts of the
Armenians to conquer this city were of great danger. If they managed to block
the roads leading to Gyandja, the second city of
Thatís why the Azeri authorities were
interested in the ceasefire. Earlier, they were either unwilling to sign the
ceasefire agreement or broke the agreements but in this case, they were
putting forward the issue whether
On May 9, Aliyev held another meeting at his
office to put the final touches to the ceasefire agreement I prepared.
Guliyev, Gulizade, Mamedov and Rizayev, ambassador to
The Azeris who adjusted the documents on
ceasefire with Stepanakert for ten times (without any participation of
The dead-end situation was so absurd: all the sides in conflict agreed to ceasefire but they quarreled about whose signatures should ratify the document. We needed to use the determination of the sides to sign a ceasefire immediately and leave out their unwillingness to meet, in order to normally sign the document.
We had no time to arrange the ceremonial functions. Certainly, we couldnít choose between the continuation of the bloodshed and judicial subtlety. The history of diplomacy didnít help with precedents, there werenít any at all. We needed non-standard decisions, unusual tricks to preserve the precious essence of the case, to avert the danger threatening hundreds or even thousands of new people. That is why the "technology" of the Russian mediators that had been used since 1993 for signing short time arrangements was necessary again (mainly for ceasefire or for its prolonging). We had already used the "facsimile" diplomacy when we couldnít afford our time or it was impossible to gather the representatives of the sides in conflict in one place, the mediator adjusted the agreement by sending the arranged and later the signed documents by cross connection.
This helped us begin adjusting ceasefire
agreement on May 9 already, notwithstanding the unwillingness of one of the
sides to hold a special meeting and sign the document with the representative
of the opponent side in conflict, that really
confronted during the battle, but wasnít recognized in this status since the
late 1993. We managed to arrange the rest of the operation factors of the
agreement. It was decided that the agreement will be signed by the supreme
military commanders of the sides in conflict, i.e. the defense ministers of
The text prepared by the Russian mediator in
To improve the complicated relations between RF Foreign and Defense Ministries, I included Pavel Grachev, RF defense minister in the first place of the list while Kozirev, RF foreign minister, my immediate boss, and the plenipotentiary representative of RF President in Nagorno Karabakh issue occupied the second and the third places relevantly.
Such an order of addresses was used earlier,
too. It was quite a natural one, as the agreement was
signed by the supreme military commanders and, according to the text, ask
Grachev to organize a conference in
As a result of two daysí discussions in
On May 9, Aliyev instructed Mamedov to sign the text consisting of four points and stretching a page. At the bottom of the page where Mamedov put his signature, there were the positions of other officials published, i.e. that of RA defense minister and the commander of Nagorno Karabakh Army but they were to sign their own identical texts in Yerevan and Stepanakert (some people even said afterwards, as if in the beginning the document didnít envisage the signature of Karabakhís representative and the Russian mediator included it in that later, antedating it. I might publish the Xerox of the document in the appendix to this article to stop rather malicious tales).
I sent the text from
Meanwhile, RA defense minister made few
corrections (he left out one of the references to the
These three sheets of paper (with an identical text and a signature on each) in the hands of the Russian mediator became the ceasefire agreement we were striving for. They became a document that is usually signed by the plenipotentiary representatives of the sides around one table or, at least, on one day, in one place and on one sheet of paper (sometimes in several copies). The references to the February 18 Protocol of RF Defence Ministry and the appeal of the parliamentarians from Bishkek in the text didnít mean at all that the document was a kind of a derivation from them. That was an independent agreement, but the references to them as if strengthened the positive dynamics of the peaceful process.
Itís worth mentioning that unlike the previous ceasefire agreements the given agreement was primordially defined as a termless one "by silent consent": this time we deliberately didnít fix any deadline. All the sides in conflict agreed with this extremely important circumstance (though complicated situations arouse around this afterwards).
The other difference from other arrangements
is the factor that in this case only one signature of the representative of
the supreme military power from each side was put on each sheet instead of
two as it was before (that of the political and military authority). These
points seem to be technical details but they reflected some political-
procedural moves. Firstly, notwithstanding the caprices of
As for the unusual form of the agreement, we
can bring as an analogy the widely used form of signing agreements through
exchanging letters between the sides. The peculiarity of the situation was
that the sides were not ready to exchange letters directly between each other
(besides, there were three of them). That is why we used the form of appeal
of each side to
That is why the May 12, 1994, ceasefire
agreement has not one original or several copies signed by the
representatives of all sides. There had been neither seal or sealing wax, nor
shiny folders. There is no formal depositary of the agreement, either, though
all the three samples were addressed and sent to
Other drawbacks of the agreement were more
essential. They didnít include such usual means of fixing the ceasefire
agreement as withdrawal of the forces and heavy armament belonging to the
sides in conflict from the contact line, the creation of a butter zone where
the neutral observers or the separating forces would locate, the measures of
control and international guarantees. It was supposed that a part of these
issues will be settled during the meeting of Azeri and Armenian Defence
Ministers, as well as "the commander of Nagorno Karabakh Army." In
the appeal all the three military officials asked RF Defence Minister to
organize the meeting in
The meeting took place on May 16-17, 1994, by the invitation of Pavel Grachev. It is quite queer but the officials of RF defense ministry, getting accustomed to frequent violations of ceasefire agreements, prepared drafts of documents for their minister in which they again suggestedÖ to stop the fire on May 18. They treated my explanations with mistrust and even without pleasure when I said that such an agreement has been already signed few days ago and the military actions were stopped, mainly (there werenít many incidents, while there was not a single big one). It was hard to believe that the ceasefire was achieved, at last!
Some people lost nerves during that meeting
But Grachev was not the only one to lose
nerves. On the same day Heydar Aliyev promptly instructed his minister
Mamedov not to sign the document elaborated on that meeting and to return
We could feel the difference between the ways
the sides accepted the ceasefire. The feeling of relief prevailed in
Two months later, on July 20, 1994, the West
tried "to take away" the May ceasefire agreement from
I immediately offered the president an
alternative instead: the political or military authorities of the sides could
periodically (together or separately) confirm the ceasefire regime and that
would only strengthen it. Ter-Petrosian approved my idea. After that was
discussed with Stepanakert and
On July 26-27, 1994, the three military
commanders, i.e. defense ministers of
The July 26-27 document was adjusted on one sheet of paper with the positions and signatures indicated on that (it may sound ridiculous but that was almost an achievement!). In this very text for the first time the sides stated that they pledge to secure ceasefire until the Agreement on the Cessation of the Armed Conflict is signed. Literally, it was said in the following way: "The sides in conflict pledge to confirm the commitments they undertook for ceasefire in the terms agreed, until the big political Agreement envisaging full cessation of the military actions is signed."
But even later we didnít stop looking for the
means to document the rejection of bloodshed. In order to fasten the
ceasefire regime (again at the initiative of
Many years passed and I found a pearl of Vafa
Gulizade. In the
A rather strange logic, isnít it? Could
But Gulizade didnít stop on that fable. He continued fancying: "The formula on ceasefire "until the agreement on peace is signed" was achieved though an alternative route, passing by Moscow and Paris, though telephone talks, thanks to the constructiveness and collaboration of Gerard Liparitian, former adviser of the RA ex-president Levon Ter-Petrosian, to whom I directly negotiated. This wording, as well as other factors, without any doubts, contributed to the fact that the ceasefire became stable. The peaceful process began and the people stopped dying".
I donít object the statement about Liparitian
and about the importance of the abovementioned formula, but Gulizade wasnít
accurate about the time. The direct negotiations of the two presidentsí
advisers began in
So, mainly this was the situation with the
ceasefire and cessation of the military actions in Karabakh in the May of
1994. Though, often the press, the political experts and even some of the
observers, being unaware of the documents, get confused and confuse their
readers. More frequently they say that the ceasefire was achieved thanks to
"The Bishkek protocol", knowing not that it only contained the call
of the heads of the parliaments to stop the fire at the night of May 9, and
not a ceasefire agreement. There is another frequent mistake, when they say
that the ceasefire in Karabakh was set up since May 18 (during the
abovementioned meeting of the defense ministers in
Itís worth adding that the ceasefire
embarrassed our western partners in the OSCE Minsk group rather than pleased,
as that was achieved with the assistance of
For instance, even now, after so many years, the
OSCE reference books state that the ceasefire agreement in Karabakh had
unofficial character. We have stated above that it doesnít have legal
accuracy and other details. But it is signed by the chief military commanders
of all the three sides in conflict, authorized by the leaders of
Levon Ter-Petrosian, RA ex-president, also
mixed the facts concerning the character of the agreement. Making a speech at
the UN General Assembly on
Itís important to note that then the
Americans were working on the so-called "formalization" of the
ceasefire (in other words, as if imparting it a more official character). On
September 27, Vice-President Albert Gore and State Secretary Christopher told
our delegation about that as if that was almost of primary importance in
Karabakh issue. If we translate it from the pseudo-legal tongue to the language
of politics, in one hand that would depreciate
One should get surprised at the fact that
later some of the experts began calling this agreement "an unofficial"
one, that the international officials from the OSCE Department keep saying
that for many years already. But this issue has no mere historical and
abstract legal character. The fact that they try to belittle
What part did Russian intermediary play in reaching ceasefire?
There are different opinions about it. Some
were feverously underscoring
The "foreign minister of
There is much to be considered for elucidating this phenomenon.
Firstly, consistent stress on the only
priority, imperative of stopping the fire initiated by
Secondly, this was not simply a fundamental
Fourthly, remember that no other mediator
managed to reach real ceasefire in Karabakh: neither the
But the Swedes Ė chairs of the
If Arkady Ghukasian still sticks to his
former view then let him explain why the leaders of Nagorno Karabakh
This is the role