President Serzh Sarkisian has consented to returning Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan in exchange for international support for his illegitimate rule, the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) said on Friday.
Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s central office coordinator, argued that Armenia for the first time recognized territorial integrity as a key principle of resolving the Karabakh conflict during this week’s ministerial meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
“The most important international mechanism for ensuring Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence can be deemed shattered,” he told a news conference. “Armenia has acknowledged that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict must be resolved within the framework of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity.”
Zurabian dismissed as “ridiculous” Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian’s arguments that the Karabakh-related statements adopted by the OSCE member states, including Azerbaijan, also cite the principle of self-determination of peoples. He said Karabakh’s predominantly Armenian population will only be allowed to determine the degree of its autonomy within Azerbaijan.
“It turns out that Mr. Nalbandian doesn’t know that Azerbaijan has agreed to that ever since the times of [the late President] Heydar Aliyev,” said Zurabian. “Azerbaijan has always been willing to solve the conflict on the basis of the principle of self-determination, while saying that the Karabakh people’s right to self-determination shall be limited by the principle of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity.”
Zurabian added that the Armenian authorities are trying to “deceive” the population with their upbeat statements in order to conceal their “evident defeat” in the Karabakh negotiating process. “Having no popular support, they have to make deals with the international community,” he charged. “The international community has made some overtures to Armenia’s leadership in return for this position adopted by it.”
Zurabian further dismissed government loyalists’ arguments that the HAK’s top leader, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, himself expressed readiness to place Karabakh back under Azerbaijan in a 1992 interview with a Russian newspaper. He said the remark was a diplomatic ploy aimed at changing the balance of forces in the conflict zone which was unfavorable for the Armenian side at the time.
“During that period all statements by Ter-Petrosian were aimed at ensuring a political and information cover for military operations,” said Zurabian.