Armen Sarkisian (no relation to Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian), a lawmaker in Stepanakert representing the nationalist Armenian Revolutionary Federation, made this proposal during a Karabakh parliament session on Wednesday.
“Through a referendum the people of Karabakh adopted a constitution that clearly defines our borders and territorial integrity,” said Sarkisian. “I direct these words to law-enforcement bodies and suggest that they start criminal prosecutions against all citizens who call into question our territorial integrity in the context of a compromise or in some other way, because it is not dissidence or manifestation of democracy, but an anti-constitutional step.”
Nagorno-Karabakh, a mostly Armenian-populated region of Soviet Azerbaijan, broke free of Baku’s control simultaneously with the collapse of the Soviet Union. A ceasefire in 1994 put an end to three years of fighting between local ethnic Armenians and Azerbaijan. By that time, Armenia-backed Karabakh forces had managed to establish control over seven districts of Azerbaijan proper. They continue to control them as a security zone today.
An Armenian withdrawal from a majority of these territories is a key element of the peace plan proposed by international mediators that leaders in Baku and Yerevan are currently negotiating. Along with security guarantees for the local population, the plan also offers an interim status for Karabakh providing guarantees for its security and self-governance and a future determination of the territory’s final legal status.