Madrid Principles are Blueprint—and Carte Blanche—for Baku’s Aggression

OSCE Minks Group mediators meet with Armenia's Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan in Moscow on Oct. 13
OSCE Minks Group mediators meet with Armenia's Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan in Moscow on Oct. 13

OSCE Minks Group mediators meet with Armenia’s Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan in Moscow on Oct. 13


The so-called Madrid Principles, based on which the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairs have been mediating a settlement to the Karabakh conflict served as a blueprint for Azerbaijan to launch an aggressive attack on Artsakh beginning on September 27.

Since then Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev has wasted no opportunity to tell the world, including over last weekend during an interview with Fox News, that since the settlement of the conflict, in his view, was stalling he was exercising his right to settle the conflict based on the very provisions—or steps—outlined in the Madrid Principles.

First discussed in 2007, Madrid Principles set forth a proposed formula which calls for Artsakh’s up-front surrender of seven regions of its sovereign territory in return for only a vague promise that Azerbaijan will allow a future “expression of will” that would determine its status, setting the stage for continued conflict and increased regional instability.

These principles, which tepidly were accepted by the sides as the basis for the negotiations, essentially were designed to appease Azerbaijan.

  • Artsakh was supposed to relinquish territory, without being able to negotiate for the return of its own lands that were stolen by Azerbaijan—Shahumyan, Getashen, Martunashen.
  • Artsakh was supposed to turn the other cheek, because no where in the Madrid Principles was Azerbaijan being held accountable for its gruesome pogroms in Sumgait, Kirovabad (currently Ganja, historically Gandzak), Baku, Maragha, Shahumyan and the list goes on.
  • Artsakh was also supposed to sit back and allow others to determine its “status,” despite the fact that its people voted to leave the Soviet Union and become an independent republic—that cherished inalienable right to self-determination.

Since the 2016 April War, and subsequent violations of the 1994 ceasefire agreement by Azerbaijan, the Madrid Principles were never amended to require security guarantees for the people of Artsakh. Furthermore, Baku did not have to pay a price for its brutal aggression in the 2016 war and subsequent—and continued—violation of the ceasefire agreement.

Instead what Aliyev adopted as his motto were declarations that Azerbaijan would militarily resolve the conflict, including the “liberation of Yerevan,” which he called historic Azerbaijani territory. To add to this equation, Aliyev declared all Armenians around the world to be “enemies of Azerbaijan,” based on which he adopted what has become known as Armenophobic hysteria throughout his country.

Before 2016, of course, among many examples, was the Safarov affair, which saw an ax-murderer being treated as a national hero for killing an Armenian soldier in his sleep.

None of this gave pause to the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairs, because they were determined to mediate a settlement based on the Madrid Principles. Their false parity when it came to warnings to the sides became commonplace. Their turning a deaf ear to the military threats from Baku became the norm. The co-chairs were not even moved to act when Aliyev went on national television in July and called them “useless” and challenged their authority by saying “who are these co-chairs to tell me I can’t get what I want through military means.”

Not even a week after that broadcast, Azerbaijani forces brazenly attacked civilian and military targets in Armenia. A week later, Turkey and Azerbaijan held military exercises for a week very near to the Artsakh border. It’s become evident that Turkey left behind its military equipment in Azerbaijan, including U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets and other heavy artillery all in preparation for what was to come in September.

The September 27 attacks didn’t even move the Minsk Group co-chairs, who in their first statement, expressed “concern” for the escalation of violence and urged “both sides” to observe the ceasefire.

Today, three ceasefire agreements later, each being brokered by one of the co-chairing countries, has been violated by Azerbaijan. Yet still the mediators are calling on “all sides” to adhere to the agreements, because their bible—the Madrid Principles—awaits another round of negotiations despite the war crimes committed against the people of Artsakh and regardless of the fact that Turkey has entered the conflict, backed by mercenaries, who are becoming active players in the region.

Baku’s actions have gone unchecked for so long that Aliyev thought he could put into action all his threats, because, at the end of the day, principles on which a settlement would be negotiated would give Azerbaijan the upper hand.

On Thursday, Armenia’s Foreign Ministry announced that Yerevan’s top diplomat will be traveling to Geneva Friday to meet with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Jeyhun Bayramov and the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs. The Foreign Ministry also said that the implementation of the ceasefire agreements reached during the past three weeks would be the only topic of discussion at this meeting.

It has been proven, time and again, that the Madrid Principles can only cause instability and become a real threat to regional security. At the same time these principles also give carte blanche to Azerbaijan to advance war and perpetuate the bloodshed that is now threatening the very existence of Artsakh.

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