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The negotiations during 1997


Since January 1997, three co-chairs of the Minsk Group (Russia, USA, France) institution was established. The most serious decision of the OSCE on the conflict was adopted in 1996 summit held in Lisbon on December 2-3. The Azerbaijani delegation headed by President Heydar Aliyev had carried out the very intense negotiations within the framework of that summit and managed to convince member countries that the conflict should be resolved at Azerbaijan's territorial integrity. As a result of intensive efforts of Heydar Aliyev, the final declaration of the summit included the clause which reflects three principles of the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict:
1) Azerbaijan's territorial integrity is to be restored;
2) the status of high autonomy is to be granted to Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan;
3) the security of both communities in Nagorno-Karabakh is to be ensured.
However, Armenia did not agree with this article, abusing of the principle of consensus. But President Heydar Aliyev informed that he would veto the summit's final document as a step in the response to it. As a result, as a way out of the critical situation by the efforts of the United States, Russia, France and other countries those provisions were adopted in the form of a special statement of the chairman of the OSCE, the Swiss Foreign Minister Flavio Kotti.  Although 53 countries of the OSCE adopted a document, Armenia voted against it. The Lisbon principles on the settlement of the Karabakh conflict remains as the main principles of settlement. Later, head of Armenian diplomacy Vardan Oskanian admitted that the Lisbon principles were their great diplomatic defeat. Because the international community supported the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.
In January 1997, the co-chair country Finland on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the OSCE Minsk Group has been replaced by France (the second co-chair of the country was Russia). The change was not agreed with Azerbaijan. Official Baku objected to it, and put forward as an alternative the co-chairing of U.S.A. On February 15, 1997 the United States have been accepted as third co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group (after Russia and France). Thus, as the compromise version the format of the three co-chairs was adopted. (Since then, international mediation for the settlement of the Karabakh conflict has been operating in this format).

On June 1, 1997 co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (Russia, USA, France) in the course of the visit to the region have proposed to Azerbaijan and Armenia a complex plan for the settlement of the Karabakh conflict.
In this case, it was the first plan of the international mediators on the settlement of Karabakh officially submitted to the parties.
According to the project, the armed conflict was to be stopped and an agreement is to be reached on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. In spite Azerbaijan was ready for constructive consultations on the essence of the above-mentioned documents (the "package solution" option), the Armenian side firmly rejected the proposed solution. Thus, the first serious initiative of Minsk Group co-chairs to resolve the conflict failed because of Armenia.
 After that, the co-chairs continued their work on the new solutions. On September 19-23, 1997 co-chairs during their visit to the region of the conflict presented a new proposal based on "step by step solution". These proposals included at first stage the liberation of 6 regions from occupation, beginning of the OSCE peacekeeping operation, the return of displaced persons to the liberated territories and the restoration of the main means of communication in the conflict zone. At the second stage issues of Lachin and Shusha should be to resolved, the main principles of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh should be agreed and as a result the OSCE Minsk Conference is to be convened.
On October 10, 1997 in Strasbourg the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia made a joint statement and informed that «the recent proposals of the co-chairs were a promising base for the resumption of negotiations within Minsk Group". Later, the President of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosyan made an article with justification of «step by step solution " plan for the settlement of the Karabakh conflict as the only possible version. However, the former field commanders who led directly to the occupation of Azerbaijani territories like Robert Kocharian, Serzh Sarkisian, Vazgen Sargsian, and others were against this plan. In February 1998, Levon Ter-Petrosyan was forced to resign by the R.Kocharian and others from Karabakh.

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