Statement by the Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration of Azerbaijan Novruz Mammadov in his interview with ANS TV channel on June 22 that on June 20 at the meeting of the Presidents of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia in St. Petersburg was reached an agreement on a phased settlement of the Karabakh conflict was accepted as a sensational news.
"During the meeting preference was given to a phased settlement of the conflict. That is, it is required to continue to move forward step by step in resolving the conflict. First stage the release of the five regions in Azerbaijan (Agdam, Fizuli, Jabrail, Zangilan and Gubadli), then two more regions (Lachin and Kelbadjar,) and the definition of the corridor (between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.) Further definition of the status of Nagorno Karabakh. On these issues the parties have reached agreement in principle," said Mammadov.
The sensation lasted a couple of hours, and was promptly refuted by the Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbaldyan. "At the summit in St. Petersburg not any agreement on the resolution of the Karabakh problem was reached. As for the package settlement of the question, then, first of all, the basis of this, as has repeatedly been claimed, is to be incorporated recognition by Azerbaijan the right of the people of Nagorno Karabakh to self-determination and its implementation, "said Nalbandyan.
Nalbandian’s statement showed that the key problem of the settlement - the creation of synthesis of two contradictory principles of international law: respect for the territorial integrity and right of nations to self-determination, has not been resolved at this stage of the negotiations.
However, it is a fact that of the settlement of the two approaches: the package settlement on which more insisted the Armenian side, and the phased settlement, the preference was given to the latter. A phased approach throughout the conflict has been a priority for the international mediators, which, as the chronicle of a settlement shows, has consistently improved it.
Gradual settlement of the Karabakh conflict, as the initiative, was discussed in the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group immediately after the armistice at the front in May 1994. In May 1996, Foreign Ministry spokesman Armen Baghdasaryan said that official Yerevan understands the inadequacy of the variant of the settlement the issue (simultaneous solution to all points of the negotiations) in favor of the gradual settlement of the conflict. However, it is stipulated that on the stepped approach insists the Armenian community of Nagorno-Karabakh.
After the Lisbon summit of OSCE in 1997 the official Baku stated on the soon start of the stage by stage peace process. On 26 September, 1997 President Levon Ter-Petrosyan also spoke out openly in support of a phased approach, which resulted in "palace coup" and his resignation.
This period of "phased decision" problems was told during the Bishkek stage of peacekeeping (1994-1999) with the dominant role of Moscow. But then the process was preserved: for a short period a phased version gave the way to a dubious idea of a "common state" at the very moment when the foundations of a new stage of settlement of the conflict was laid with the dominance of the United States. With the increased role of the US the official Baku refuses from this harmful for it model of the "common state".
In November 2007, in Madrid the Minsk group passed the conflicting parties first principles of the phased settlement principles, called "Madrid principles".
In November 2008, the presidents of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia signed the so-called Mayen Dorf declaration, in which said that the two sides reaffirmed their commitment to "the principles of Madrid." Main provisions of the updated version of the Madrid principles were announced on July 10, 2009in the statement of the Heads of the OSCE Minsk Group, made during the summit of the "Great Eight" in the Italian city of L'Aquila.
It is noteworthy that strengthening the phase-setting process was in parallel to the formation of the Turkish-Armenian peace "road map" in 2009. In August 2009, the Azerbaijani side represented by Deputy Prime Minister Ali Hasanov presented the program "Great Return" worth $60 billion to support
the phased return of the occupied territories under the jurisdiction of Azerbaijan. However, this initiative also was postponed after the failure of the project of rapprochement between Ankara and Yerevan, although a phased plan was debated on October 9 of the same year at a meeting of the presidents with the participation of co-chairs in Chisinau. In the Moldovan capital the attention was paid to the main provisions of the updated version of the Madrid principles.
Baku and Yerevan expressed satisfaction with the results of the consultations and have shown strong commitment to the continuation of an active dialogue, making confident predictions of the imminent security breakthrough in the settlement process. However, the discussion of phased process again suspended for 5 years.
On the 20th anniversary of the armistice between Azerbaijan and Armenia on May 7, 2014 the US co-chair of OSCE Minsk Group James Warlick unveiled new proposals for the phased settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict consisting of six items prepared with the participation of Russian and French colleagues. The new initiative made some corrections in the "updated Madrid principles" and pull together the possible compromise of the parties. The positive momentum can be regarded as a compromise that the future status of Nagorno Karabakh should be decided by the agreed between Azerbaijan and Armenia expression of the will, which allows a balanced approach to the problem, not only in the future, but in the course of the process of restoring confidence.
Co-chair countries believe that the way out of the stalemate is possible on the basis of further easing of positions of the conflicting sides and their readiness for new compromises. In fact, the talk is about more flexible and compromise rethinking the fundamental principles (the right of nations to self-determination and territorial integrity of the State), in order to ensure their effective coordination. That is, Armenia is suggested the need self-limitation of the principle of the right of nations by certain, even if only the formal framework of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity. Azerbaijan is imposed inevitability of a significant limitation of sovereignty in the "self-defined area", but with the formal preservation of the territorial integrity of the state and subject to a phased release of the territories occupied by Armenia.
The phased nature of the implementation of the "updated Madrid principles”, initially involves de-occupation of Azerbaijani lands, and only then the determining status of Nagorno Karabakh. However, the deceit of the Madrid principles is that it is a kind of synthesis of the phased and package solutions. Phased implementation of the provisions laid down in the document is based on mandatory and pre-package acceptance: if one thing is not agreed, it means that nothing is agreed. This means that many future risks and threats to Azerbaijan can find concrete expression at the stage of conclusion of the framework agreement. Then it will be extremely difficult to challenge them or evade. No less, and perhaps to greater extent, the implementation of the adopted package of agreements poses serious risks for Armenia – the release of the occupied lands of Azerbaijan will give Azerbaijan more opportunities for political maneuvering and influencing the situation.
The new initiative of the Minsk Group was discussed at the next trilateral meeting of the presidents of Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia on June 17, 2014 in St. Petersburg as part of the annual International Economic Forum. For this reason, the main "constructive" result of the meeting became willingness by the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia to continue the dialogue to harmonize "the updated Madrid principles." However, later the dialogue was interrupted by almost for half a year and was marked in April 2016 by the most large-scale fighting since May 1994, when an armistice was concluded.
The April fighting gave new meaning to the gradual settlement, stimulating meeting of the presidents in Vienna in May and in June in St. Petersburg. But the most interesting is that the three-day war has caused new discussions in the Armenian society on a phased solution to the conflict, which was first offered to the Armenian society by the first president of Armenia Levon Ter-Petroyan, and caused his resignation.