STEPANAKERT (Combined Sources)—The President of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Friday firmly urged the immediate and direct inclusion of Karabakh in peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan that international mediators have claimed may provide a “breakthrough soon.”
Speaking at a two-day pan-Armenian conference that opened in Stepanakert on Friday, Sahakian said Karabakh’s independence “is a reality not subject to discussion.”
The conference was organized by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation “to address lingering concerns in Armenian society over the Armenian-Turkish relations and the current stage of the Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations” and was attended some 120 delegates representing political, public and business circles in Karabakh, Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora.
“Artsakh, as the main party to the Azerbaijani-Karabakh conflict, is now out of the negotiations and we must restore this important principle,” Sahakian underscored. It is impossible to realize any solution without the consent of the people of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.”
Nagorno-Karabakh, an indigenous Armenian region placed under the jurisdiction of Soviet Azerbaijan by Stalin, declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and has been free from Baku’s rule since a 1994 ceasefire put an end to nearly three years of fighting that erupted after Azeri forces invaded the newly independent republic to stifle its self-determination movement.
International mediators have yet failed to broker a solution to the longstanding dispute that represents a clash of two major principles of international law–territorial integrity and the right of nations to self-determination—the latter has been the determining principle guiding international politics since the end of World War I and is the basis upon which most of the world’s modern countries—including the United States—were founded.
The United States, France and Russia that spearhead the international mediatory effort as co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group have been cautiously optimistic in the past year or so about prospects of achieving a breakthrough in the protracted negotiations currently conducted between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
But Azerbaijan’s aggressive and uncompromising position in the negotiations–with their continued threats of use of military force to solve the conflict—preclude any real or lasting resolution to the conflict, Sahakian said, stressing the need to include Karabakh in the talks.
While saying that Karabakh has always advocated for negotiations, Sahakian added that “Our peaceful statements do not mean that we are not ready to deliver a proper counterblow to the adversary.”
The summit opened amid the still continuing visit of the Minsk Group troika to the region.
On the last leg of their tour in Baku, the cochairmen of the group were paving the way for another Armenia-Azerbaijan summit after securing the Armenian leader’s consent for a meeting in Moscow on July 17.
Earlier in Yerevan, Matthew Bryza, mediating on behalf of the United States, spoke of ‘significant progress’ at the talks and hoped that the planned meeting will mark further progress towards the settlement of the conflict.
His French colleague Bernard Fassier said the conflicting parties have all but agreed on the most important of about 15 “basic principles” of a Karabakh peace proposed by the co-chairs.
In an interview with a state-run Russian television channel shortly before the start of the Minsk Group troika’s visit to Armenia, President Aliyev said that the main bone of contention in the Karabakh conflict was “not on the agenda” of the ongoing peace talks and that agreement on the final status of Karabakh could ‘never happen’. In his July 4 statement Aliyev also excluded Karabakh’s independent status and alleged that the parties had agreed on a withdrawal of the liberated territories surrounding Karabakh.
Meanwhile, in Yerevan, Fassier described Aliyev’s comments as a “step forward” as he argued that the Azerbaijani leader did not threaten to resolve the conflict by force.
“But any attempt to present the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic within the framework of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity is completely unclear and unacceptable to us,” responded Karabakh President Sahakian while addressing the conference held under his patronage on Friday.
In his speech, Sahakian also stressed that no Armenian-Turkish rapprochement should or could be achieved at the expense of Armenian concessions in the Karabakh settlement process.
After nearly a year of talks between Armenia and Turkey, in which official Yerevan has insisted that any rapprochement should be achieved without preconditions, Ankara is now working to link the establishment of diplomatic ties with Yerevan and opening the closed border with Armenia with major concessions to Azerbaijan in the Karabakh settlement.
The Karabakh President’s concerns about this possible compromise were echoed by a senior member ARF Bureau Chairman Hrant Markarian, who stressed in his opening remarks, that Karabakh is a part of Armenia and will remain so forever.
“It would be naïve to think that it is possible to make a concession in any national issue without jeopardizing the whole [national cause]. On the contrary, making a concession in one issue will result in a chain of concessions in others,” stressed Markarian in addressing other delegates of the conference.
Markarian also told the conference attendees that political players, in fulfilling their personal interests, have often used the Armenian Cause as a vehicle. He warned that such instances do not correspond with the interests of Armenia and the Armenian people and said he saw a danger and “wrong course” in the Armenia-Turkey relations and the ongoing Karabakh settlement process, which might have “heavy consequences.”
In discussing the Genocide, Markarian said the political powers have leveraged the recognition of the Armenian Genocide to bloc Turkey’s entry into the European Union, while, on the other hand, others use the issue to expand their reach into the Caucasus.
Among others scheduled to speak are Armenia’s former foreign minister Vartan Oskanian, Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Foreign Minister Georgi Petrosian, Armenia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian and several influential voices from the Diaspora, including representatives from the Western United States.
Below we present translated remarks by Karabakh President Bako Sahakian’s at the ARF conference on Karabakh and Turkish relations:
Respected participants of the conference, Ladies and gentlemen,
I cordially welcome the participants of this conference on the issues of Artsakh and Armenian-Turkish relations and put special emphasis on the fact that it takes place in the Nagorno Karabakh Republic.
The individuals gathered here today have made the national concerns of the Armenian people their daily life and the essence of their very existence. This conference has brought them together–from Armenia, the Diaspora and Artsakh–for a comprehensive discussion of the issues on our national agenda Today.
Being very much aware that those present are competent and professional people, I would like, nevertheless, to touch upon our recent history. It is known that in this period of our people’s modern history, Artsakh found itself on the frontline of the liberation movement, giving a new impetus to the revival of national consciousness and unity for all Armenians.
Almost two decades have passed since Armenians across the world put aside their ideological differences, personal ambitions and priorities, to stand by the people of Artsakh and fight for the restoration of their human rights and justice.
The unity of our people was the first victory in this struggle. This triumph strengthened the will and spirit of the Armenian people at a difficult and epoch-making moment in our history. At the time of our independence, Armenia had just been rattled by a destructive earthquake and was facing an influx of tens of thousands of refugees; it was also faced with a dual blockade and found itself on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe. We, the people of Artsakh, will never forget all those who were with us during those difficult days, when the fate of Artsakh was being determined.
The war was not of our choosing; it was imposed on us in response to our peaceful and civilized call for the restoration of an historical truth.
Our Defense Army was forged out of the fire of heavy and unequal battle but in a very short period of time it carried out its sacred duty of defending the people of Artsakh and statehood with valor.
Each of you has made a personal contribution to the great and small military and economic victories of Artsakh. And this very spirit, of a unified victory, has amplified our cause and hardened the unshakable will and readiness of the people of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic to live free and independent.
This spirit predetermined our past; it determined the present and the future of our people.
On September 2, 1991, the Nagorno Karabakh Republic was proclaimed independent. On December 10 of the same year the people of Artsakh overwhelmingly voted in a nation-wide referendum and announced their decision to live in a free and sovereign country.
Our position is clear-cut and unchangeable. The independence of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic is an accomplished fact and is not is not a subject for discussion.
Any attempt to present the Nagorno Karabakh Republic within the framework of Azerbaijani territorial integrity is both incomprehensible and unacceptable for us. This neglects natural development of history and life, as well as contradicts the realities of the past and present.
Since the proclamation of independence we have stood behind this path, successfully defending the borders of Artsakh, building and strengthening our state, efficiently overcoming difficulties on the road to recreating and redeveloping the country. As the result the world has seen that it is dealing with a full-fledged state and civil society, which has all the necessary attributes of statehood and is on the path toward democracy.
For this very reason, we do not consider the restoration of our full-fledged participation in the negotiations as an additional pretext as a reminder of our existence, rather we must be included in the process because this current format is indeed a deficient one. Artsakh, being the main party to the Azerbaijani-Karabakh conflict, is now out of the negotiations and we should restore this important principle. Without the consent of the people of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic any decision will be impossible to implement.
We have reiterated many times that we support equal participation for all parties in the peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict. However, the political leadership of Azerbaijan has another vision, always speaking about its alleged right to solve the conflict militarily.
We cannot be indifferent towards the policy or neighboring state follows. The authorities in Armenia and Artsakh have made many statements on the impermissibility of the dissemination of hatred and militant rhetoric. The people of Artsakh have gone through all the hardships of war and are fully conscious of the price and importance of peace for our region. However, it does not mean that we are not ready to repel aggression.
Turning to Armenia-Turkey relations, this complex and multilevel issue touches upon both political and economic spheres and to a great extent depends on some historical and psychological factors, which exercise influence on the political reality and developments on the ground.
In any case it is very much clear that any shift in Armenia-Turkey relations must not and cannot be implemented through the Karabakh conflict settlement process. Any attempt to interconnect these two issues, which are in different realms, will definitely lead to an impasse.
Another important issue that touches upon both the settlement of Artsakh issue and the normalization of Armenia-Turkey relations is orderliness and the unity of our people.
Today we are much more obliged to have a united front to address issues of pan-national importance and assess the situation. This must be so not only by words and viewpoints, but also by our united and joint approach and towards solving issues we face. That is true for Armenia, for the Diaspora and for Artsakh. We need work that will create a firm foundation for our struggle and harness the full potential of the Armenian people to carrying out that struggle.
It is from this very viewpoint that we commend the undertakings of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation in holding this pan-Armenian conference in Artsakh, where we steadily strengthen the independence reached at the cost of many lives and much hardship. On this path, we have already reached large and small victories standing behind either successes or issues still to be solved.
Only with unity and a deep comprehension of national goals and priorities, will it be possible to overcome difficulties and neutralize the threats we face.
I am confident that by combining the efforts of Armenia, Artsakh and the Diaspora, we will be able to solve all problems, build and make prosperous our two Armenian states, and create a worthy future for the generations to come.