Although the mediation efforts conducted for already quite a long period of time within the framework of the OSCE have not always been consistent and have yet to yield results, Azerbaijan continues to be committed to solving the conflict peacefully and in a constructive manner.
The strategy of the government of Azerbaijan is aimed at the liberation of all occupied territories, the return of forcibly displaced population to their homes, and the establishment of durable peace and stability in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, as well as in the entire South Caucasus.
The ultimate objective of the settlement process is to elaborate and define the model and legal framework of the status of the Nagorno-Karabakh region within Azerbaijan. Having said that, Azerbaijan believes that the process of definition of any status shall take place in normal peaceful conditions with direct, full and equal participation of the entire population of the region, namely, the Armenian and Azerbaijani communities, and in their constructive interaction with the government of Azerbaijan exclusively in the framework of a lawful and democratic process.
A number of important steps have to be taken to reach a stage where the parties concerned can start considerations of the self-rule status for the Nagorno-Karabakh region within Azerbaijan.
Firstly, the factor of military occupation must be removed from the conflict settlement context. Delay of return of the territories, which is not justified by the real substantial reasons, can complicate the already difficult settlement process.
Secondly, demographic situation, which existed in the region before the outbreak of the conflict, must be restored. It is clear that the status may only be defined through direct participation of both Azerbaijani and Armenian communities, living side-by-side in Nagorno-Karabakh
Thirdly, the regime of interaction between the central authorities of Azerbaijan and local authorities of the Armenian community must be established, until the new legal status of self-rule for the Nagorno-Karabakh region is elaborated.
Another important element is a rehabilitation and economic development of the region. This step is essential for the process of normalization of life and restoration of peaceful coexistence and cooperation between two communities. It should include restoration and development of economic links between two communities, as well as between central authorities of Azerbaijan and the Nagorno-Karabakh region, restoration and opening of the communications for the mutual use by both sides in both directions. This will in particular provide a connection for the Armenian population of the Nagorno-Karabakh region with Armenia, and for Azerbaijan with its Autonomous Republic of Nakhchyvan through the Lachyn road.
The fifth element entails the cooperation between two communities in the humanitarian sphere, implementation of the special programs on education and tolerance.
As for the implementation of the peace agreement to be signed between Armenia and Azerbaijan, it will be guaranteed by the commitments undertaken by the two sides under the Agreement, and by the relevant international guarantees, including those by the great powers and the international organizations.
It is obvious at the same time that the success of the peace process depends on constructive approach of both sides, as well as on the active contribution of the international community, especially of the OSCE Minsk Group and its Co-Chairmen.
However, it is very difficult to hope for a substantial breakthrough judging from a position, on which Armenia persists. Indeed, the military actions against Azerbaijan were aimed from the very beginning at seizing the territories by means of force and fundamental change of their demographic composition. Therefore, it is exactly for the purpose of unilateral secession Armenia wants to retain control over some occupied districts surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh, prevents the displaced Azerbaijani population from returning to their homes and thus excludes equal consideration of opinions of both communities.
It is obvious that this approach of Armenia cannot serve as a sound basis for the conflict resolution. To hold otherwise would be tantamount to accepting the consequences of breaches of the rule of law and human rights, or, in other words, prevalence of force over justice.
While being committed to the peaceful settlement of the conflict, Azerbaijan, however, will never compromise its territorial integrity and thus accept a fait-accompli based solution, which the Armenian side is trying to impose.
The conflict can only be solved on the basis of respect for the territorial integrity and inviolability of the internationally-recognized borders of Azerbaijan, and peaceful coexistence of Armenian and Azerbaijani communities in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, fully and equally enjoying the benefits of democracy and prosperity.
The continuation of “no peace-no war” situation without concrete prospects for the soonest resolution of the conflict represents a permanent direct threat to the security, independence and democratic development of Azerbaijan. It is also the main source of instability in the whole South Caucasus.