By Emil Danielyan
Armenia strongly criticized the European Union on Saturday for branding as illegitimate the upcoming presidential elections in the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and upholding Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over the disputed territory.
The Armenian foreign ministry said the statement by EU member countries was “inappropriate” and “unnecessarily complicated” international mediators’ efforts to end the long-running dispute over the Armenian-populated territory.
A declaration, adopted by representatives of EU member states in Brussels on Friday, says the EU supports the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and does not recognize Karabakh’s de-facto independence.
“Since 1994, similar statements have been made about various elections, which have been held in Nagorno Karabakh, and therefore, these statements come as no surprise,” the foreign ministry spokeswoman, Dziunik Aghajanian, said in a statement. “However, what is worrisome is that these statements are made without a priori agreements with the Minsk Group co-chairmen who are immediately involved in the negotiations process, thereby unnecessarily complicating their years of efforts in the search for a final resolution to the conflict.”
Aghajanian said the predominantly Armenian population of Karabakh has a legitimate right to elect its leadership “without the positive or negative assessment of any outside entity.” “The Republic of Armenia welcomes the unswerving will of the people of Nagorno Karabakh to conduct elections and thereby create a democratic society, regardless of this and other similar politically motivated statements,” she added.
Previous elections held in Karabakh have likewise been criticized by the international community on the grounds that the region’s Azerbaijani minority, displaced by the war of the early 1990s, is unable to participate in them. The authorities in Yerevan and Stepanakert have always dismissed the criticism. They argue that only elected representatives of the Karabakh Armenians can have a mandate to sign peace agreements with Azerbaijan.
The current Karabakh president, Arkady Ghukasian, is likely to win another five-year term in office in the elections scheduled for August 11. None of three other presidential candidates is expected to mount a serious challenge to the incumbent. Ghukasian enjoys the full backing of Armenia’s Karabakh-born President Robert Kocharian and his government.
Karabakh, which broke away from Soviet Azerbaijan in the late 1980s, has grown closely integrated with Armenia over the past decade.