Nagorno-Karabakh’s top military official signaled on Monday his opposition to the return of any of the districts in Azerbaijan proper that were occupied by Armenian forces during the 1991-1994 war.
“All the territories that we had liberated required human victims, and every person here has memories related to them,” General Movses Hakobian, defense minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), told a news conference. “It will be difficult to cede those territories to anyone.”
The remarks highlighted the NKR leadership’s serious misgivings about the basic principles of a Karabakh settlement proposed by the U.S., Russian and French mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group. The call for the liberation of at least six of the seven Armenian-controlled districts surrounding in Karabakh that would be followed by a referendum of self-determination in the disputed region itself.
The so-called Madrid principles have been largely accepted by Armenia. But Georgi Petrosian, the NKR foreign minister, said on April 29 that the authorities in Stepanakert strongly disagree with “several basic points” of the proposed peace accord.
Karabakh President Bako Sahakian was more vague on that score when he spoke to journalists over the weekend. He said only that no Armenian-Azerbaijani agreements can be put into practice without being approved by the Karabakh Armenians.
“It is impossible to implement any decision not accepted by the Nagorno-Karabakh people,” agreed Hakobian. He also said that Armenia’s Karabakh-born President Serzh Sarkisian “can not make a decision that could harm the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.”
The general spoke ahead of the 15th anniversary of a Russian-mediated truce agreement that stopped the Armenian-Azerbaijani war. The Minsk Group co-chairs issued a statement on that occasion on Monday urging the warring sides to bolster the ceasefire regime.
“Unfortunately, this ceasefire has been imperfect and tragically every year lives are lost along the front lines,” read the statement. “We sincerely hope that a peace settlement, towards which the parties are now working, will allow new generations to grow up in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh without experiencing the horrors of war.”
Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, the OSCE’s current chairman-in-office, made a similar appeal to the conflicting parties. She expressed hope that they will soon make peace “on the basis of the Madrid Document.” “Such a settlement is the only way for the peoples of the region to enjoy the fruits of peace and cooperation and we must keep up the momentum that all sides have worked so hard to achieve," said Bakoyannis.