At the OSCE’s year-end Ministerial Council, held in Copenhagen on December 18-19, Armenia twice exercised its right of veto against a final document on the settlement of the Karabakh conflict. First submitted as a Council statement, then resubmitted as a statement by the OSCE’s Chairman-in-Office, the document would have reiterated the basic principles contained in the December 1996 Lisbon summit document — essentially asserting Karabakh’s autonomy within Azerbaijan — adding to that an endorsement of stage-by-stage negotiations toward a settlement. In vetoing the document, the Armenian delegation led by Foreign Minister Aleksandr Arzumanian described the stage-by-stage approach as a "major obstacle to resumption of the negotiations" and as unacceptable to Karabakh. Russia resisted an attempt, supported by the U.S. and Germany, to circumvent a single country’s veto by adopting the rule of "consensus minus one" — a recurrent issue at the OSCE. (Noyan-Tapan, November 19-20)
In his statement to the Ministerial Council, Arzumanian blamed the Lisbon principles for the virtual suspension of political negotiations, and he set conditions for their resumption: direct participation by Karabakh as a fully-fledged party in negotiations with Azerbaijan; an end to Karabakh’s enclave situation; no stage-by-stage negotiations; and no predetermination of Karabakh’s political status. He also called for "Karabakh to maintain full control over its territory and to determine its destiny." (Snark, December 19)
The Armenian delegation’s stand on the latter three points appeared at variance with President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s recent series of statements on the resolution of the Karabakh conflict. The president has endorsed the stage-by-stage approach and has in effect "predetermined" Karabakh’s status by accepting its autonomy within Azerbaijan, essentially along the lines of the Lisbon statement, describing the goal of "self-determination" as unrealistic. Top government officials have, however, openly dissented from Ter-Petrosian’s stand, and he has also run into sharp criticism from opposition parties.