By Emil Danielyan
Official Yerevan on Tuesday voiced its support for the authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh over their plans to hold local elections next week, dismissing calls by the Council of Europe to cancel the vote.
The Strasbourg-based influential organization warned the Karabakh government that the elections, scheduled for September 5, “cannot be legitimate” in the absence of the disputed enclave’s ethnic Azerbaijani minority which was forced to flee their homes during the 1991-94 war. The Council of Europe Committee of Ministers' Chairman and Liechtenstein Foreign Minister Ernst Walch, Parliamentary Assembly President Lord Russell-Johnston and Secretary General Walter Schwimmer also said in a joint statement that the “one-sided” polls would damage international efforts to end the Karabakh conflict.
But a spokeswoman for the Armenian foreign ministry, Dziunik Aghajanian, rejected those arguments and said only legitimately elected representatives of the Karabakh Armenians can have a mandate to make a peace deal. “We do not share that opinion because we are convinced that by holding local election the Nagorno-Karabakh people are only realizing their legitimate rights in line with internationally accepted standards,” she said.
“The elections in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic contribute to continued stability. We are confident that only authorities that are formed through elections and enjoy popular support can conduct political negotiations.”
The Karabakh foreign minister, Naira Melkumian, told RFE/RL on Friday that Stepanakert will press ahead with the elections, citing similar arguments.
Previous elections in Karabakh were also denounced by the international community.