STEPANAKERT (Noyan Tapan–RFE/RL)–Addressing the National Assembly Wednesday–Nagorno-Karabakh Republic President Arkady Ghoukassian said direct talks between Karabakh and Azerbaijan is the "shortest way" to settle the decade-long dispute.
"We attach great importance to direct talks because we believe the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s future has a regional significance," he said. "Mutual trust between the two entities can ensure the region’s security and stability."
Ghoukassian described as "fruitless" Azerbaijan’s efforts to "disregard the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic." Baku refuses to establish direct contacts with Stepanakert maintaining that it is an instrument in Armenia’s "aggression" against Azerbaijan. Karabakh says it is ready to renounce an outright independence but deman’s that its future relationship with Baku be based on equal footing. "A settlement of the conflict should rule out the possibility of renewed fighting in the future," Ghoukassian said.
Also–Ghoukassian claimed encouraging tendencies in the Karabakh economy–with a 7.3 percent growth in the first half of the year–which he attributed to accelerating reforms. At the same time–he admitted that serious problems like high unemployment have yet to be resolved. With a population of roughly 150,000–Karabakh now has 3,400 officially registered unemployed residents. A significant part of its male population serves in the Karabakh armed forces.