SANTA ANA, Calif.—A wide array of Orange County community organizations joined forces recently with the Armenian National Committee of America in hosting an online question and answer session on the ongoing Artsakh peace negotiations, the reckless Madrid Principles, and the path forward to a truly durable, democratic resolution of Artsakh-Azerbaijan status and security issues.
The June 2nd Facebook Live event, moderated by ARF Orange County ‘Armen Karo’ Chapter Chair Garo Kiledjian, featured a presentation by ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.
“The Orange County community appreciated the opportunity to have an in-depth discussion with the ANCA about the flawed Madrid Principles which put Artsakh security and freedom in jeopardy,” explained Kiledjian. “They should be rejected immediately and replaced with a balanced plan based upon the right to self-determination of the people of Artsakh.” Kiledjian continued, noting “it is particularly disturbing to hear of the U.S. State Department’s efforts to de-fund life-saving Artsakh demining projects, particularly when military assistance to Artsakh has increased to over $100 million. Such decisions only serve to put U.S. impartiality as a mediator in question as we continue to seek a long-term, sustainable Artsakh solution.”
Kiledjian opened the online forum asking Hamparian to review the ANCA’s policies, priorities, and results on a broad range of issues from justice for the Armenian Genocide, to US-Armenian ties, US foreign assistance, US-Turkey ties, and the ANCA’s commitment to youth empowerment. Hamparian noted that the ANCA’s positions in each of these areas are part of a 360-degree advocacy strategy, with a single aim: the security, prosperity, and long-term viability of a free, independent, and united Armenian homeland.
The discussion then focused on the central theme of the evening, US policy on Artsakh, during which time Hamparian and Kiledjian took a deep dive into U.S. aid to Artsakh and the ongoing peace negotiations, including the unjust Madrid principles, highlights of which are provided below.
The Madrid Principles: Unfair, Fake, and Unenforceable
Hamparian offered an overview of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group supported “Madrid Principles,” first referenced by the Artsakh peace mediators some 13 years ago. The flawed proposal calls for a phased Artsakh settlement in which the Armenian side would cede six or more territories liberated during the 1988-1994 war with Azerbaijan in return for an “expression of will,” to be held at an undetermined time in the future, which purportedly would ensure security and determine its long-term status.
The deal is “land now, status later; you might say, land now, for peace later; or land now, for status later; or land now, for a piece of paper that talks about status and peace later,” explained Hamparian. “Those terms are so ridiculously unfair that I don’t think there is more that needs to be said. Would anyone of the [OSCE] mediators – the Russians, the French, the Americans – take a deal like that for their own house? Would they accept a deal where they sign over the title to their home in return for an agreement to talk about compensation down the road.”
Hamparian described the Madrid Principles as a “fake deal”, noting that even-before being negotiated and agreed upon, Azerbaijani government officials are walking away from the agreement, arguing that upon Armenian ‘return’ of lands, the people of Artsakh should rely on Azerbaijani government security guarantees extended to Artsakh’s Armenian and Azerbaijani communities.
“So you give up all your land, you give up all your security, you put at risk the rest of Armenia, and in return, you get a deal worse than what we had under the Soviets. A deal worse than before Azerbaijan lost a war against Artsakh,” explained Hamparian. “Having established an independent Artsakh, having built a free and open society, having held free and fair elections for more than a generation, why would we cede all of that in order to go back to where we were under the Soviets, in the process trusting Azerbaijan that Aliyev won’t take advantage of the process and just press for more concessions?”
Hamparian also argued that the Madrid Principles are totally unenforceable, noting “all the concessions the Armenian side is expected to make are made on day one. After that first stage, Azerbaijan will control this historic Armenian homeland, will control the strategic territories and heights, and the Armenian side will be left with a piece of paper. What is that piece of paper worth? If Azerbaijan responds in good faith to an Armenian good faith surrender of territory, then possibly down the road, you could have peace. But does anyone believe, for even a second, that Azerbaijan responds in good faith? Isn’t it much more likely, in fact certain, that Azerbaijan would leverage those concessions to then take the next steps against Zangezur, and the rest of Armenia? It’s hard to believe that Armenian concessions lead to a less aggressive Azerbaijan.”
Hamparian continued that the other part of the deal’s unenforceability is the international community’s response to future Azerbaijani aggression. “Let’s say Azerbaijan doesn’t honor its commitments, and the Armenians find themselves under attack. Does anyone think that international peacekeepers from wherever – do we think those countries will send their young men and women to fight and die to protect the citizens of Artsakh? You might, but I wouldn’t bet my life on it.”
The ANCA has set up a community action alert – anca.org/rejectmadrid – sharing concerns about the reckless Madrid Principles with Members of Congress.
On U.S. State Department Efforts to End Artsakh Demining Assistance to “Prepare Populations for Peace”
Kiledjian asked the ANCA’s Hamparian for an update on recent U.S. Embassy to Armenia announcements that the life-saving U.S. funding for Artsakh demining would be replaced by programs to “prepare populations for peace” as part of ongoing efforts for an Artsakh settlement.
“If preparing populations for peace requires killing a humanitarian demining program, that’s very bad preparation,” said Hamparian. “In fact, that’s the opposite of preparing populations for peace. Every landmine accident – in Artsakh, Azerbaijan, or Armenia – are tragedies, with the victims often farmers, and many times children. So the concept that our government – the U.S. government – believes that preparing populations for peace means leaving landmines in the ground that will kill people – is just terrible.”
Hamparian went on to state, “ You can’t throw out a clever phrase like ‘preparing populations for peace,’ and expect us not to scrutinize it. On the surface, who could conceivably be against that? Well, if it’s just a matter of arm-twisting Yerevan, pressuring Stepanakert, with no similar pressure on the Azerbaijani side – then we reject that. That’s just a game.”
The ANCA is working with Appropriations Committee members in the U.S. Senate and House to ensure continued funds for Artsakh de-mining and rehabilitation services like those provided by the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Center are included in the Fiscal Year 2021 foreign aid bill. A nationwide call to action is available at anca.org/aid.
Artsakh Must Be an Equal Party in the Peace Process
“It is a generally accepted principle of international law that agreements shouldn’t be made about parties; agreements should be made with parties,” explained Hamparian, when asked about the absence of the Republic of Artsakh at the OSCE-mediated peace talks. “Azerbaijan is obviously against this because they feel it will prejudice the outcome. They didn’t feel that way in 1994, when they were losing on the battlefield. They were eager to sign an agreement with Armenia and Artsakh that established a cease-fire. […] Now, that the ceasefire is in effect, they want to push Artsakh as far away as possible. That’s wrong on moral grounds, because you can’t make decisions for people. It’s wrong on legal grounds because it’s against every principle of international law to sign accord about people, without the participation of the party in question. It’s also not sustainable. If Azerbaijan is in fact interested in a sustainable solution to Artsakh, it needs to sit at the table with the leaders of Artsakh. That’s ultimately where this issue gets resolved,” concluded Hamparian.
The ANCA is leading efforts to secure passage of Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) Artsakh Travel and Communication Act (H.Res.190), which calls for more open U.S.-Artsakh dialogue and for the Republic of Artsakh to join Armenia and Azerbaijan as an equal partner in the negotiating process. To encourage Congressional support for the initiative, visit anca.org/USArtsakh.
The Facebook Live event was sponsored by the Orange County ARF Armen Karo Chapter, ANCA Orange County Chapter, Forty Martyrs Armenian Apostolic Church, Ari Guiragos Minassian Armenian School, AYF Ashod Yergat Chapter, AYF Aghpiur Serop Juniors, ARS Sevan Chapter, ARS Karni Chapter, Homenetmen Sartarabad Chapter, and Hamazkayin Siamanto Chapter. The organizers thanked the ANCA for their continuous efforts in advocacy, community education, and for a successful informational event.