By Ruzanna Khachatrian
President Robert Kocharian on Wednesday again ruled out the return of Nagorno-Karabakh under Baku’s control, reiterating the Armenian argument that the disputed region has never been part of independent Azerbaijan.
"Nagorno-Karabakh has never been part of Azerbaijan and never will be," Kocharian said in a speech at Yerevan State University. “This is the bottom line. Beyond it one can think of some solutions and invent new statuses,” he added to the rapturous applause from the university faculty.
Kocharian and other officials in Yerevan have said repeatedly that all peace proposals made international mediators in the last three years are largely line with the Armenian position that Karabakh should maintain its de facto independence from Azerbaijan.
Also on Wednesday the president of Nagorno-Karabakh, Arkady Ghukasian, and Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian said that their military forces should be strengthened to maintain a strategic balance in the region, the Associated Press reported.
"Preserving the balance of forces is the most reliable guarantee that combat will not resume in the zone of conflict," Sarkisian said following his meeting with Ghukasian .
The two officials pledged to continue searching for a peaceful resolution of the conflict with Azerbaijan, which has ground to a standoff.