STEPANAKERT (Combined Sources)—Ara Harutyunyan, the Prime Minister of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, on Monday ruled out the possibility that Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian would make territorial concessions in the Karabakh peace process in order to normalize relations with Turkey, arguing that “every step” Sarkisian makes “is well balanced and reasoned.”
Harutyunyan’s remarks come amid a period of heightened tension and uncertainty surrounding the fate of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, with Armenia under pressure from the international community to normalize its relations with a stubborn Turkey unwilling to open its borders until the Karabakh conflict is resolved in Azerbaijan’s favor.
He said his party, “Azat Hayrenik,” which boasts the largest faction in the Karabakh legislature, “absolutely trusts” Sarkisian’s ability to negotiate with Turkey and Azerbaijan. “His 20-years if experience makes us believe that every step that President of Armenia makes is well-balanced and reasoned.”
Harutyunyan himself seemed to welcome the prospects of open borders with Turkey, saying he believed that normal relations between Armenia and Turkey will “enable the country to develop” and “Armenia’s economic development implies Karabakh’s as well.”
The Karabakh premier, however, maintained that relations should be normalized without preconditions. “Opening of the border does not mean that the preconditions and claims are accepted,” he added, referring to Turkey’s demands on Armenia to make concessions to Azerbaijan in the Karabakh peace process.
International mediators working through the OSCE Minsk Group are to present Armenia and Azerbaijan with updated principles for a settlement to the Karabakh conflict that is expected to require, among other things, a return to Azerbaijani control of nearly all the liberated territories of Karabakh and a population transfer into Karabakh of Azeri refuges. According to the plan, Karabakh will then be required to hold another referendum to decide its future status.
President Sarkisian has signaled his overall acceptance of this formula. But according to Harutyunyan, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is “not ready” to make territorial concessions to Azerbaijan.
“Karabakh’s territory is the territory stipulated by the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Constitution and we are not ready to make any concessions in this regard. By ‘the territory’ we mean the present actual territory of Artsakh. This is our standpoint and we will stick to it,” he said.
“Both Karabakh and Armenia’s Presidents have stated that any document that would be signed by both authorities would only be signed with the approval of the nation,” he said. “We have no right to doubt this, as the people have the final say.”
But the Karabakh government has yet to officially receive the updated document, Harutyunyan said. “We know about them [the principles] only from press and news, which cannot be considered as document.”