What was UN Security Council Resolution 874, adopted on October 14, 1993 about?

UN Security Council Resolution 874 was adopted unanimously on October 14, 1993, at the 3292nd Security Council session. The Resolution was based on a letter dated October 1, 1993, by the Chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group on Nagorno-Karabakh and addressed to the President of the Security Council (S/26522). It mainly addressed the message in Security Council Resolutions 822 of April 30, 1993, and 853 of July 29, 1993. After reaffirming Resolutions 822 and 853, the Security Council expressed its concern regarding developments in the conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh region between the Republic of Armenia and the Azerbaijan Republic, which would endanger peace and security in the region, as well as threaten the inviolability of international borders and the inadmissibility of the use of force for the acquisition of territory. The Resolution also called upon the parties to the conflict to observe the ceasefire established as a result of the direct contacts undertaken with the assistance of the Government of the Russian Federation in support of the CSCE Minsk Group. The Council also requested the Secretary-General, the Chairman-in-Office of the CSCE, and the Chairman of the CSCE Minsk Conference “to continue to report to the Council on the progress of the Minsk process and on all aspects of the situation on the ground, and on present and future cooperation between the CSCE and the United Nations in this regard.”[1] It is noteworthy that while accepting Resolution 874, the Security Council exercised its authority under Article 34 in Chapter VI of the UN charter, which deals with regional peace and security.[2]

While reiterating its support for the peace process, the Security Council called “for the immediate implementation of the reciprocal and urgent steps provided for in the CSCE Minsk Group’s Adjusted timetable, including the withdrawal of forces from recently occupied territories and the removal of all obstacles to communications and transportation.”[3] According to Human Rights Watch, Armenia agreed to the proposal, while the authorities of Karabakh delayed responding. However, Azerbaijan rejected it because the “Adjusted Timetable” that the Minks Group set “linked the withdrawal of Karabakh Armenian forces from occupied Azerbaijani territory with the lifting of Azerbaijan’s embargo of Armenia. The Azerbaijani government complained of being treated like “the defeated side.”[4]

As stated before, the content of Resolution 874 was similar to that of previous resolutions that were adopted after the occupation of the Kalbajar and Aghdam regions of Azerbaijan. The issue was still highlighted as a conflict between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians and did not describe the Republic of Armenia as an aggressor. On the other hand, it is controversial that unlike previous resolutions, which were adopted directly after the occupation of two different regions of Azerbaijan, namely Kalbajar and Aghdam, which are geographically located beyond the border of the former NKAO, Resolution 874 did not mention anything about the three regions of Azerbaijan occupied between August and October 1993. However, the names of the captured regions were also mentioned in Resolutions 822 and 853.

Despite UN Security Council Resolutions 822 and 853, which demanded an immediate withdrawal of Armenian forces from the occupied Kalbajar and Aghdam regions, Armenian forces seized three more Azerbaijan provinces located south of Nagorno-Karabakh between August and October 1993.[5] As soon as Aghdam was captured on July 23, 1993, Armenian forces began their offensive on Fuzuli, which was an important region for both sides because of its geopolitical location, as it was the gateway to the southwestern regions of Azerbaijan: Jabrayil, Gubatli, and Zangilan. If such a land strip were in the hand of Azerbaijan, Armenia would have to fight on two fronts.[6] Therefore, Armenia concentrated all its forces in this area. Consequently, Armenian forces seized Fuzuli and Jabrayil on August 23 and Gubatli on August 31, 1993.[7] Despite the accusation of Armenia by Azerbaijan for occupying a large territory of Azerbaijan that was situated outside the border of NKAO, Armenia was arguing that Nagorno-Karabakh forces, not forces of the Armenian Republic, did the capturing.[8] However, according to Human Rights Watch, “during the August 1993 Karabakh Armenian offensive, there were several reports of involvement by troops from the Republic of Armenia. These forces reportedly committed serious human rights abuses.”[9]

The Armenians justified their occupation of these provinces by arguing that they had to defend themselves from hostile artillery fire in those regions. However, their forces took these large, strategically-vital areas without facing almost any resistance. In this regard, Thomas de Waal explains that “the Armenians preceded all their offensives with a crude propaganda campaign, insisting that they were acting in self-defense against heavily defended positions. In fact, on most occasions, they walked into empty towns and villages after the Azerbaijanis had fled.”[10] In this regard, a Western diplomat who visited the region during the offensive defined the Azerbaijani defenses as “nil”: “It is not a matter of whether the Armenians can take the region, but when.”[11]

During the occupation of these three provinces, the Armenian forces systematically committed several violations of the rule of law, including forced displacement, indiscriminate fire, taking hostages, and burning and looting.[12] The occupation caused the second-largest refugee crisis in Azerbaijan after the influx of the civilian population from Lachin, Kalbajar, and Aghdam. Tens of thousands of civilians were displaced, including 133,725 people in Fuzuli, 58,834 in Jabrayil, and 31,276 in Gubatli.[13]

Following the occupation of the southern regions of Azerbaijan, Iran denounced Armenian aggression and demanded an immediate withdrawal from all occupied regions. The Iranian Foreign Minister also stressed that Teheran “would not remain silent vis-a-vis growing unrest across Iranian borders.”[14] Turkey also reacted to the Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan. According to The New York Times, Turkey’s Prime Minister, Tansu Chiller, warned Armenia when she said that Turkey would not “sit with its arms crossed” if the Armenians continued their “aggression” against the Azerbaijanis, who are ethnically akin to the Turks.[15] Russia also demanded a cessation of the military action, stating “noting that it was unjustified because Azeris were no longer a threat.”[16] The Russian government also mediated a ceasefire agreement between the parties to the conflict on August 31.[17]

As a result of the occupation of three southern regions, Azerbaijan also issued a letter to the UN, which resulted in the acceptance of Resolution 874 by the Security Council on May 14, 1993, that expressed its general views about the situation in the region. Nevertheless, the Armenian forces developed its offensive toward the Zangazur region of Azerbaijan, again considering these entire attempts as “null.” Thus, similar to the previous two resolutions, “the Security Council’s peal was put to the test shortly thereafter, when a new round of fighting broke out along the Azerbaijani-Iranian border in late October.”[18]

[1] United Nations Security Council, “Resolution 874,” s/RES/874, October 14, 1993.

[2] Sadigbeyli, Rovshan, “The Implications of the 1993 U.N. Security Council Action for the Settlement of the Armenia – Azerbaijan Conflict,” Caucasian Review of International Affairs, Vol. 3, No. 4, 2009, p. 366.

[3] “Resolution 874”.

[4] Human Rights Watch, Azerbaijan: Seven years of conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh (USA: Human Rights Watch, December 1994), p. 39.

[5] Babanly, Yusif, “Fizuli, Jabrayil and Qubadli, the Unfortunate History of War,” Foreign Policy News, August 30, 2012; https://foreignpolicynews.org/2012/08/30/the-unfortunate-history-of-war-fizuli-jabrayil-and-qubadli/. Accessed on December 3, 2022.

[6] Cornell, Svante E., Small Nations and Great Powers: Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict in the Caucasus (Routledge Curzon, 2001), pp. 90-91.

[7] Babanly, “Fizuli, Jabrayil and Qubadli, the Unfortunate History of War”.

[8] “U.N. Demands Armenians Give Up Conquests,” The New York Times, August 19, 1993; http://www.nytimes.com/1993/08/19/world/un-demands-armenians-give-up-conquests.html. Accessed on December 3, 2022.

[9] Human Rights Watch, Azerbaijan: Seven years of conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, p. 30.

[10] De Waal, Black Garden, p. 215.

[11] “Caucasus City Falls to Armenian Forces,” The New York Times, August 24, 1993; http://www.nytimes.com/1993/08/24/world/caucasus-city-falls-to-armenian-forces.html. Accessed on December 3, 2022.

[12] Human Rights Watch, Azerbaijan: Seven years of conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, p. 29.

[13] “Profile of International Displacement: Azerbaijan,” p. 29.

[14] “Iran Warns Armenians Over Azerbaijan Issue,” The New York Times, September 8, 1993; http://www.nytimes.com/1993/09/08/world/iran-warns-armenians-over-azerbaijan-issue.html. Accessed on December 3, 2022.

[15] Schmemann, Serge, “Turkey Holds Talks on Caucasus War,” The New York Times, September 10, 1993; http://www.nytimes.com/1993/09/10/world/turkey-holds-talks-on-caucasus-war.html. Accessed on December 3, 2022.

[16] Migdalovitz, Carol, “Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict,” CRS Issue Brief for Congress, Order Code IB92109, August 8, 2003, p. 4.

[17] Babanly, “Fizuli, Jabrayil and Qubadli, the Unfortunate History of War”.

[18] Croissant, Michael P., The Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict: Causes and Implications (Praeger Publisher, 1998), p. 94.