By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The leadership of Nagorno-Karabakh will hold a referendum next December on its draft constitution that declares the Armenian-controlled territory an “independent and sovereign state,” a senior official in Stepanakert said on Wednesday.
Rudik Hyusnunts, deputy speaker of the Karabakh parliament, told RFE/RL that the decision was made on Monday at a meeting of a government commission that has for years been working on the text of a first-ever Karabakh constitution. The commission is headed by Arkady Ghukasian, president of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
“The NKR president will sign a decree to hold a referendum on the constitutional draft on December 10,” said Hyusnunts.
The decree can be signed only after the NKR National Assembly debates and endorses the commission’s constitutional draft. According to Hyusnunts, the assembly will receive the draft on June 15 and open debates on it in September. The Karabakh parliament is dominated by members of Ghukasian’s Democratic Artsakh Party and its junior coalition partner, the Azat Hayrenik Party.
Stepanakert’s decision to effectively set a date for the referendum came on the same day as the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan again failed to reach a framework peace agreement, all but dashing hopes for a settlement of the Karabakh conflict in the near future. Meeting in Bucharest on Sunday and Monday, Robert Kocharian and Ilham Aliev apparently discussed a peace deal that would enable Karabakh’s predominantly Armenian population to determine the disputed region’s status in a future referendum.
Ghukasian and other Karabakh leaders have been less than enthusiastic about this formula proposed by international mediators, saying that the Karabakh Armenians had already voted to secede from Azerbaijan in December 1991. The legitimacy of that referendum was never recognized by Azerbaijan and the international community, however.
“On December 10 we will try to reaffirm the results of our independence referendum,” said Hyusnunts.
(Photolur photo: Arkady Ghukasian.)