YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Citizens of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic will replace their Soviet-era passports with the ones currently used in Armenia–senior officials said on Wednesday. Speaking to the press in Yerevan–deputy speakers of the Armenian and Nagorno-Karabakh parliamen’s said Karabakh passports are fully identical with Armenian ones except that they will contain a special stamp notifying their carriers’ place of residence. Emma Gabrielian–deputy speaker of the Karabakh parliament–said the replacement is necessary as the population of the disputed region finds it increasingly difficult to travel abroad with old Soviet-era passports.
According to Gabrielian’s Armenian counterpart–Albert Bazeyan–the move does not violate Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. "Karabakh has never been part of Azerbaijan," he claimed. Bazeyan said a Karabakh stamp in the passports will allow to distinguish Karabakh citizens to prevent them from voting in Armenian elections.
The two law-makers are co-chairs of a joint ad hoc committee of the Armenian and Karabakh parliamen’s charged with promoting integration and cooperation between the two Armenian-populated territories. They said the commission has decided to increase the number of experts from Armenia consulting the Karabakh government and parliament. In Bazeyan’s words–Karabakh and Armenia’should have the same "legal framework."
A number of inter-government agreemen’s signed with Stepanakert in recent years–have led some Armenian officials to announce its "de-facto recognition" by Yerevan.