Sassounian: Bryza’s Plans for Artsakh: Formula for Disaster for Armenians

Matthew Bryza, the U.S. mediator for Artsakh (Karabagh), discussed in great detail for the first time the critical issues dealing with the behind the scene negotiations on resolving that conflict.

Bryza is the U.S. co-chair of the Minsk Group and deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. He delivered a speech on the Artsakh conflict at the International Center for Human Rights in Tsakhkadzor, Armenia, on Aug. 7. Bryza’s lengthy presentation, followed by an extensive question and answer period (19 pages), was transcribed by Armenian news agency.

While Bryza has regularly met with members of the media during his frequent visits to Armenia and Azerbaijan, often recanting in Yerevan what he reportedly said in Baku, he has never before disclosed the details of the settlement being negotiated between the presidents of the two conflicting countries and the three co-chairs of the Minsk Group, composed of France, Russia, and the United States.

The Armenian public certainly appreciates Bryza’s willingness to discuss the terms of a future agreement on the Artsakh conflict. Nevertheless, one wonders why was Bryza in such a talkative mood?

Was he preparing the Armenian public for the painful compromises that are to be made or was he trying to impress his Washington superiors with his negotiating skills, as he is being considered for an ambassadorial post in Baku?

Bryza began his remarks by stating that the negotiations for the settlement of the Artsakh conflict are based on the three fundamental principles of the Helsinki Final Act: self-determination, territorial integrity, and non-use of force.

Claiming that the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan “right now are on the verge of a breakthrough,” an assertion he has made many times before, Bryza proceeded to disclose a highly controversial roadmap of the agreement currently under consideration. He stated that

Artsakh would preserve its current status for an “interim period.” Armenians would then turn over to Azerbaijan most of the “seven territories” surrounding Artsakh. After the Azeri refugees who left Artsakh during the war return to their homes, a referendum would be held to determine the final status of Artsakh.

During the question and answer period, Bryza stated that the Minsk Group co-chairs were disappointed that during their July 17 meeting in Moscow, Presidents Sarkisian and Aliyev did not come to an agreement “on several of the final elements of the basic principles,” despite the

fact that, during their January meeting in Zurich, they had “agreed on the basic concepts.” He said he expected an agreement in September “on the last few elements of the basic principles that remain not yet agreed.”

When asked if Azerbaijan was making any compromises, Bryza pointed out Baku’s increasingly accommodating position on the Lachin Corridor which links Artsakh to Armenia, its concern for the security of Artsakh

Armenians and their need to run their own affairs. Bryza further claimed that “Azerbaijan had to give up quite a bit from a position where it was in the beginning when it said it will never talk about self-determination. And, of course, to bring Azerbaijan to that point, Armenia had to give something up as well… So, both sides are making compromises.”

Bryza defended the non-recognition of Artsakh by the United States by pointing out that the government of Armenia has not recognized it either. He said that the reason Armenia does not recognize Artsakh’s independence is that “it knows that if it does that, the chances to negotiate a peaceful settlement finish.”

In response to a complaint from the audience that Artsakh was left out of the negotiations, Bryza blamed its absence on the Kocharian government. “Until 1998, Karabakh Armenians were formally part of the negotiations, when it was the former government of Armenia who decided

to change that situation. It was not the co-chairs who made the decision—that was the government of Armenia,” he said.

Bryza did not mention the fact that Azerbaijan had rejected Artsakh’s inclusion in the talks.

Responding to another question, he made the surprising disclosure that the international peacekeeping troops to be stationed in or around Artsakh would not be armed, simply because they would not be able to compel the two sides not to fight, if they are intent on going to war against each other. He stated that “the co-chairs have to be smart and skillful enough to put at place a settlement in which the international peacekeepers will be primarily observers.”

Bryza candidly told his Armenian audience not to trust the international peacekeepers to secure the peace in Artsakh. He also stated that a “legally binding” referendum to determine the status of Artsakh would be held in several years, after the original Azerbaijani inhabitants, who before the war constituted 20 percent of the territory’s population, would return to Artsakh.

Bryza concluded by urging Armenians to accept “a compromise settlement now,” warning that “a decade ago, Armenia was in a much stronger negotiation position.”

The terms of the possible settlement, as outlined by Bryza, is a disaster waiting to happen to Armenians. They are supposed to first turn over to Azerbaijan practically all of the territories surrounding Artsakh. Then the former Azeri inhabitants of Artsakh are to return, after which a referendum would be held on the status of Artsakh, under the watchful eyes of unarmed international peacekeepers. If Azerbaijan, at a future date, uses its massive petrodollars to acquire sophisticated weaponry and invade Artsakh, particularly after Armenians have given up the buffer zones they are currently holding, the population of Artsakh risks being completely destroyed.

From the Armenian point of view, the only acceptable solution to the Artsakh conflict would be to either maintain the status quo or to agree to a package deal that would require Azerbaijan’s recognition of Artsakh’s independence and the establishment of a demilitarized zone on the Azeri side of the border, before giving up a single inch of land or allowing the return of a single Azeri refugee!


Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh $917 million of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.


  1. It does not make any sense,when one side gives up security buffer zone;while the other party on paper promises no to invade.Referendum my donkey.What are Azeris doing to compensate for all the Sumgait pogroms?This is pure male bovine fecal matter.Always remember Khrimian Hayrig’s “Yergate’ Sherep” Sermon.Armenia should consider simeltaneous withdrawal with Karabagh’s self determination.Tit for Tat.No other alternative.All the  written papers treaties in the past were in vain.We couldnot even use them as TP.
    No independece  =Noland.

  2. Very interesting analysis, but still fails to mention Armenian refugees from territories surrounding Karabakh.  Don’t forget that Shahumyan region that had 90% Armenian population before 1992 is currently under Azeri occupation.  There were about 70,000 Armenians living homogeneous Armenian towns and villages  in Northern Artskah before the conflict. It is really a shame that even Armenian side fails to mention it or even tries  negotiate their right to return. No territory surrounding Karabakh that used to have Azeri population should be returned unless Armenian territories are returned.

  3. Is Mr. Sassounian the Armenian president? To my knowledge he is not. So, how he dares to formulate “From the Armenian point of view, the only acceptable solution…” Mr. Sassounian is not even the president of Artzakh. This situation is because of the fact that both presidents have grown too feeble. Both Artzakh and Armenian societies should properly support their presidents. Otherwise, Mr. Bryza will fullfil his mission as a grossmaster and the two Armenian presidents (but not the societies) will have to dance under Mr. Bryza’s duduk. This may lead to a new war.

  4. Armenians all around the world should be OUTRAGED.  Mr Bryza must take the entire Armenian people for fools.  This whole agreement is buying the Azeris time before they are in a perfect position to completely wipe out Artsakh, and the Americans will let them get away with it, just like they are letting Turkey get away with our Genocide.  Their interests are with the Azeris and Turks, and that is the only thing on their minds.  They have never been objective and fair moderators. They are not mentioning the Armenian refugees from around Karabakh, because they want to populate “our historical” lands by Azeris only… Sounds familiar?  Artsakh has the RIGHT FOR SELF DETERMINATION.  First and foremost, its independence must be acknowledged by Armenia, Azerbaijan and the US before moving any further. The Armenians in Azerbaijan were attacked by the Azeri government, defended themselves, won the war and won their historical lands back.  Those lands were always ours until Stalin gave them away to Azerbaijan.  We are behaving as if we invaded and took over another country’s land!!  We need to find an effective way to make a strong stand in this, otherwise, we will be signing off some more of our rights  by our own hands. The US needs to put its principles for Democracy and Self Determination where its mouth is.  It is fighting the rightful Self Determination of Artsakh because it does not suit it.

  5. I do not understand why Armenians who are Azeri citizens are not populating the Lachin corridor. What are they waiting for? I understand that they lost their porperty during the attacks by Azeris. In Lachin area it would bve almost impossible for the Azeris to attack them again.
    Somebody should ask Bryza why he is taking orders from Stalin.

  6. Correct me if  I’m wrong, but didn’t the Armenians win the war? Usually sides that win wars are the ones dictating terms. Why do we need to give anything back? Bryza is a Turkish mouthpiece nothing more, nothing less. Our history alone will tell you that relying upon anyone else or any thing else for our well being, security or our future is pure fantasy. WE WON THE WAR. WE DO NOT HAVE TO COMPROMISE! A resumption of war, which no one wants, will also damage Azebaijan and they know it.  To Mr. Jeshmaridian,  Sarkisian, considered by many to have won the election by pure fraud, might not be considered a legitimate president either. Sarkisian worry’s me the most. He doesn’t seem to be terribly shrewd or intelligent. Sassounian is right.The whole point of the war was independence. Karabagh independence first, then land exchange! Anything less is pure loss!

  7. THIS IS JUST SICKENING to my stomach..I can’t stand Bryza and his idiotic speeches on matters that he has no personal experience in.

    I just dont’ get it.. Is our President ready to give up our lands without a fight? He does not have the guts (nicely put) to stand up and say “Minsk Group” Doctrine is nothing but a garbage.

    WE WON THE LANDS.. Our President and his pack need to realize that the entire world is looking at us and nod their heads because they see how much love, dedication and fire the Armenians have for their lands and nation, yet we always retreat.. This needs to STOP……


  8. I agree with John on here.   If Armenians won, why should we give up anything?   All in the name of peace, but there will be no peace.  Bryza is a Turkish mouthpiece.

    Unarmed peacekeepers?  Give me a break!  Sitting ducks is more like it.

    Bryza is married to a Turkish woman, so it doesn’t surprise me that he should espouse the Turkish view.   But it is not his choice of spouse that bothers me, it’s what comes out of his mouth.   Was this guy appointed by Obama?   It tells you something when the man who is the US representative wants to become ambassador for Azerbaijan.

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