STEPANAKERT–The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s top military official signaled on Monday his opposition to the ceding of any of the seven Armenians districts liberated fromAzerbaijani rule during the 1991-1994 Karabakh conflict, reported RFE/RL.
“All the territories that we had liberated required human victims, and every person here has memories related to them,” Karabakh’s Defense Minister, General Movses Hakobian, told a news conference. “It will be difficult to cede those territories to anyone.”
The remarks highlighted the Karabakh Republic’s serious misgivings about the basic principles of a Karabakh settlement proposed by the U.S., Russian and French mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group.
Hakobian’s remarks came as the US Co-chair of the OSCE Minks Group, Matthew Bryza, announced the same day that the liberated territories surrounding the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic will be turned over to Azerbaijan with plans to resettle those areas with so-called Azeri refugees and that Karabakh will be granted a new status, the nature of which is the subject of negotiations.
The peace talks, currently between Armenia and Azerbaijan, call for the return of at least six of those liberated districts, which have served as a buffer zone preventing a renewed Azerbaijani attack since a cease fire was signed in 1994. The return of those districts would also be followed by a referendum of self-determination in Karabakh.
“It is impossible to implement any decision not accepted by the Nagorno-Karabakh people,” said Hakobian, adding that Armenia’s President Serzh Sarkisian should “not make a decision that could harm the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.”
A referendum on December 10 1991 already approved Karabakh’s declaration of independence in accordance with the Soviet Constitution. An overwhelming majority of voters (98.6%) in Karabakh turned out for a second referendum that same day in 2006, voting to approve a new constitution reaffirming that Nagorno-Karabakh is a sovereign state.
Those referenda, however, are largely ignored by the Madrid principles, which serve as the current working document for a Karabakh peace.
But Karabakh’s Foreign Minister, Georgi Petrosian, said on April 29 that the authorities in Stepanakert strongly disagree with “several basic points” of the proposed peace accord.
Karabakh President Bako Sahakian, speaking to journalists over the weekend, reiterated those concerns, saying that no Armenian-Azerbaijani agreements can be put into practice without being approved by the Karabakh Armenians and the Karabakh Republic.
The general spoke ahead of the 15th anniversary of a Russian-mediated truce agreement that stopped the Armenian-Azerbaijani war. The Minsk Group co-chairs issued a statement on that occasion on Monday urging the sides to bolster the ceasefire regime.
According to Hakobian, the Azerbaijani Armed forces had violated the cease fire regime 3,480 times during 2008, with the Karabakh forces violating it 728 times.