The Karabakh Armenians’ decision to declare independence ten years ago has proved justified as evidenced by growing international support for their resolve not to return under Azerbaijani rule, Karabakh President Arkady Ghukasian said over the weekend. In a speech devoted to the tenth anniversary of the proclamation of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Ghukasian said the move may have saved them from “extermination.”
“The NKR’s ten-year independence has showed the entire world that its independence and statehood have been a success,” he declared. “A new generation is growing up in our young republic that has the obvious advantage over its seniors: the possibility of living freely in the country of its ancestors and preserving national values. Our struggle and sacrifices were worth it.”
“No less important is the fact that the international community increasingly realizes that peace and stability in the South Caucasus can not be achieved without taking into account the vital interests of the Nagorno-Karabakh people,” he claimed.
Commenting on the current state of the internationally sponsored Karabakh peace process, Ghukasian noted “favorable conditions to reaching a quick solution to the conflict based on mutually acceptable concessions.” He again warned the Azerbaijani government against attempting to regain control of the disputed territory by force, saying that the Karabakh army is prepared to fight back any assault.
President Heydar Aliev and other Azerbaijani leaders increasingly warn that they will resort to the military option if the deadlock in the peace talks drags on.
The two-day official celebrations of the “independence day,” which were attended by Armenian President Robert Kocharian, were yet another occasion for the Karabakh authorities to publicly rule out restoration of Azerbaijani control of the enclave. Ghukasian argued that Baku’s decision to launch a large-scale military campaign against the Armenian-populated region in late 1991 showed that there was “no alternative” to the declaration of independence. The Karabakh Armenians’ armed resistance to the Azerbaijani army averted their “forced deportation and, possibly, extermination,” he added.
The decision on September 2, 1991 by the leadership of the Soviet Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast to break away from Azerbaijani rule was followed by a three-year bloody war that killed at least 20,000 and left the Armenians in control of almost the whole of Karabakh and surrounding Azerbaijani districts. Seven years of negotiations sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have yielded few results.
Last month Aliev slammed the international community for “not caring about the fact that the territorial integrity and borders of Azerbaijan are being violated.”