Foie Gras, Force-Feeding and the Madrid Principles

The Madrid Principles are the diplomatic equivalent of foie gras. Pictured here is an image of the process of gavage – the force feeding done to produce foie gras. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/L214 – Éthique & animaux)

If you’re not a foodie, you may not know that foie gras is a delicacy coveted across the globe – a culinary marker of a sophisticated palette for elite and wannabe elite connoisseurs worldwide. 

But like so much of what gets sold as stylish, this dish comes with an ugly backstory.

The fact is that foie gras is duck or goose liver, forcibly fattened by a process known as “gavage,” which drives nutrients down the throats of male fowl until their livers expand to as much as ten times their normal size – before they’re slaughtered. (The females are butchered at birth.)

First, this practice is cruel, so much so that it has been outlawed in many countries.

Second, we’re supposed to ignore its barbarity, because it produces a high-priced, fancy menu item.

Much the same can be said about the Madrid Principles.

These are the reckless accords – forced relentlessly on the Armenian nation – that would deny the Armenians liberty in the same way that “gavage” destroys the livers and ultimately the lives of innocent animals – all for the amusement of the wealthy and powerful.

The international community is trying to shove the pro-Baku Madrid Principles down the throat of the Armenian people, while global elites look away – eager to dine with Aliyev on the remains of Artsakh – but not quite wanting to see the horrid process of preparing their upmarket meal.

To grasp the comparison, we all need to understand the Madrid Principles – a phased plan put on the table more than a decade ago by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to settle status and security issues between Artsakh and Azerbaijan after the latter lost its war of aggression.

Flawed from the start, the OSCE Minsk Group – without Artsakh’s participation – has been pushing relentlessly for the Madrid Principles, including, notably, at the 2009 OSCE meeting in L’Aquila, Italy. While they have been updated from time to time, leaked when convenient, and kept secret when needed, their basic outlines are clear: the upfront, strategic surrender of sovereign territory and security by Artsakh in return for vague, deferred and reversible promises by Azerbaijan.

This reckless formulation has been rejected by Armenians for more than a decade – a unified stand of Armenians in the homeland and diaspora against an irresponsible deal that places the fate of Artsakh, and ultimately Armenia, at the mercy of Azerbaijan. Artsakh can never rely on Azerbaijan’s paper promises, nor place at risk the lives of its citizens based on international pledges. We have seen too much venom and violence from Baku, too much indifference and betrayal from the world, to place our faith and our future in their hands.

The ANCA’s stance has been clear from day one. “The Madrid Principles are profoundly asymmetrical, demanding upfront, strategic, and irrevocable concessions of land and security from Artsakh in return for only vague, deferred, and reversible promises regarding status from Azerbaijan.” We have explained time and again that “the phasing of this plan front-loads all the risk on Artsakh and all the rewards on Azerbaijan. This flawed formula will not lead to peace, but, rather, sets the stage for continued conflict and regional instability.” The fact of the matter is that the Madrid Principles would force Artsakh, a predominantly Christian nation, under a violent Azerbaijani regime that has recruited extremists (including Afghanistan Mujahideen and ISIS militants from Syria) to fight its anti-Armenian war. That’s setting up Artsakh for deportations, massacres and worse.

With the stakes so high, the dangers so stark, our basic self-defense instinct as Armenians kicks in. Our common sense tells us to reject reckless risk, recognizing that there is no basis in the context of Armenian history, Azerbaijan’s stated policy, democratic principles, international law, or conflict-resolution precedent to believe that Artsakh surrendering vast areas of its sovereign territory will somehow make Artsakh more secure or Azerbaijan less aggressive. We know, in our bones, that Artsakh making upfront strategic land concessions will not be followed by Azerbaijan forfeiting its claim of sovereignty over Artsakh. They have said as much. We know, as well, that the international community, which is reluctant to deploy words to criticize Azerbaijan, will not step in with arms to protect the people of Artsakh.

Yet they keep forcing Madrid down our throats.

Like feed forced into a duck’s gullet.

The Madrid Principles are the diplomatic equivalent of foie gras.

We don’t want them. 

They are brutal.

Dangerous and, ultimately, deadly.

We won’t be fattened for slaughter so Aliyev and his fat-cat oil company friends can have Artsakh for lunch, especially since we know they’ll only be coming back for dinner – for Zangezur, then more.

What we are doing is demanding that the US and OSCE abandon the Madrid Principles, and instead – with Artsakh at the peace table – develop a new approach based upon our core American belief in democratic self-determination and the inalienable right of free citizens to live under a government of their own choosing.

Ani Tchaghlasian

Ani Tchaghlasian

Ani Tchaghlasian is an investment banker in NYC. She is an active member of the Armenian community in NJ. A relentless Hai Tahd activist, she has been a part of ANC-NJ for over two decades. She has a B.A. in International Relations and French from Franklin & Marshall College, an M.A. in International Politics from Syracuse University and an M.B.A. from Columbia University. Ani currently serves on the ANCA National Board and ARF-ER Central Committee.
Ani Tchaghlasian

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  1. Thank you for your great article. Did Armenian leaders at the time agree to the Madrid Principles? If yes why aren’t they prosecuted now? Because they were definitely corrupt to do so.

  2. Why the current President doesn’t trash the agreement? this was orchestrated by criminal Hillary Clinton at that time. Turkey and Azerbaijan rarely honor their agreements and signatures.

  3. Perfetta similitudine.Ora fortunatamente e grazie al popolo armeno non vi sono più i corrotti di prima e Artsakh dovrà essere coinvolta nelle conversazioni e decisioni con azerbaijan per eventuali risoluzioni,come più volte evocato dal primo ministro Armeno.
    Quindi OCSE si o no i principi? di Madrid sono finiti nel cestino per sempre!!

  4. Thank you for writing about such an important issue. The analogy is very good. One would never know from these “Principles” that the Armenians had their land stolen, suffered 70 years of oppression, sought a peaceful and legal solution, were attacked in a in vicious war, were successful in defending their rights and have spent the last 29 years building a functioning democracy. In order participate in advocacy , Armenians need to become educated and informed on what the Madrid Principles are and other initiatives relative to Artsakh. Publishing more articles like this and holding public forums to inform the
    general community are essential. Thank you again for the truth.

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