By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Leaders of Armenia’s governing coalition endorsed on Friday President Robert Kocharian’s threats to formally recognize the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic if Azerbaijan hardens its stance and prepares for a military solution to the dispute.
The parliamentary leaders of the Republican, Dashnaktsutyun and Orinats Yerkir parties said Kocharian’s televised remarks were a natural reaction to hawkish statements made by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev since the collapse of the Armenian-Azerbaijani summit at Rambouillet, France last month. “Nobody can frighten us with the prospect of war,” said Dashnaktsutyun’s Levon Mkrtchian.
Visiting the Azerbaijani side of the Karabakh frontline on Wednesday, Aliev blamed the Armenians for the failure of the Rambouillet talks and urged his countrymen to be prepared for winning back the Armenian-controlled territory by force. “The opposite side must know that we are capable of liberating our lands militarily at any moment,” ANS television quoted him as saying during a meeting with Azerbaijani soldiers the next day.
“Talks are under way [but] there is no result. How long should we wait for? We will
speed up the process of army building,” he said.
“War will not be a solution to the Karabakh problem,” countered Galust Sahakian, a leader of the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
Mkrtchian went further, warning that Azerbaijan will suffer another humiliating defeat if it again tries to win back Karabakh by force. “The result of another war would be a peace treaty or capitulation. Either Azerbaijan will capitulate or will have to recognize Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence,” he claimed.
In a televised interview broadcast late on Thursday, Kocharian warned that Aliev risks forcing Yerevan to recognize the NKR “de jure,” formalize its “responsibility for the security of the Karabakh people,” and “reinforce the security zone” around the disputed enclave. He said that will happen if Baku continues to reject any peace that would not restore Azerbaijani control over Karabakh and drags out the negotiating process in the hope of converting its soaring oil revenues into military superiority. Aliev’s top foreign policy aide, Novruz Mamedov, dismissed the threats as “populist,” Interfax news agency reported.
The latest bitter exchange between Baku and Yerevan, which dealt a further blow to hopes for a speedy settlement of the Karabakh dispute, was deplored on Friday by the U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan, Reno Harnish. “Obviously, comments that raised the temperature are not helpful,” Harnish told reporters in Baku. “We have seen that there is a reasonable negotiated solution within reach. So we encourage the presidents, the foreign ministers and the people of both countries to concentrate, to focus their efforts on that search for negotiated solution.”
Both Kocharian and other Armenian officials say they sill believe that the conflicting parties may still use a rare window of opportunity for Karabakh peace created by them last year. “There are still possibilities of getting closer to the conflict’s resolution by means of negotiation,” said Mher Shahgeldian, an Orinats Yerkir leader who heads the Armenian parliament’s committee on defense and security.
Armenian opposition leaders, meanwhile, maintain that neither Aliev nor Kocharian is committed to pursuing mutual compromise. “The authorities in both Armenia and Azerbaijan won’t sign an agreement that could lead to the collapse of their regimes,” said Victor Dallakian of the opposition Artarutyun alliance. “We therefore believe that the existing status quo is good for both of them.”
(Photolur photo: Levon Mkrtchian.)