By Armen Zakarian
Nagorno-Karabakh President Arkady Ghukasian claimed on Wednesday that Armenia may recognize his self-proclaimed republic’s independence if Azerbaijan sticks to its “non-constructive” position on the conflict.
The issue was on the agenda of Ghukasian’s meetings in Yerevan with the leadership of the Armenian parliament and representatives of its factions. He told reporters afterwards that a recognition could happen “in the near future.”
“I believe that Karabakh’s independence can not be a subject of negotiations,” he said. “We will not abandon our independence.”
The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s de facto independence from Azerbaijan, declared in 1991, is not formally recognized by any country, including Armenia. Official Yerevan has so far avoided doing so for fear of a negative international reaction, while maintaining that the Armenian-populated territory must not be placed back under Azerbaijani rule. For its part, Azerbaijan refuses to accept the NKR as a separate party to the conflict and has preferred to discuss the problem in direct talks with Armenia in recent years.
But Ghukasian insisted that the NKR is viewed by international mediators as a “de jure party to the conflict.” “This means that when negotiations within the framework of the [OSCE] Minsk Group resume, Karabakh will participate in them,” he said. “It is impossible to resolve this problem without Karabakh.”
The Karabakh Armenian leader also noted that his administration is largely indifferent to the outcome of the October 15 presidential election in Azerbaijan as all of its candidates, including president-in-waiting Ilham Aliev, favor a hard line on a peaceful settlement. He shrugged off their threats to win back Karabakh by force.
“I don’t believe that Azerbaijan is today ready to begin a war and win it,” Ghukasian said. “I think that they understand this very well in Azerbaijan. In any case, we must continue to strengthen our defense.”
The Azerbaijani vote is expected to be followed by a new peace initiative of the Minsk Group’s U.S., Russian and French co-chairs. Ghukasian said they should continue to seek a “package” solution to the conflict that would resolve all contentious issues, including Karabakh’s status, with a single peace accord.