Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian leadership has joined official Yerevan in welcoming a United Nations court ruling that upheld the international legitimacy of Kosovo’s secession from Serbia and affirming its applicability to the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.
Bako Sahakian, the president of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), described the non-binding ruling handed down by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as an “important event” at a rare news conference in Stepanakert late on Friday. He said it will create a “new political situation” in the Karabakh conflict zone.
“That decision has an extremely important legal, political and moral significance and sets a precedent that can not be confined to Kosovo,” the NKR Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued the next day. It said Karabakh’s predominantly Armenian population broke away from Azerbaijani rule “in full compliance with the basic principles of international law” and is therefore also entitled to international recognition.
A similar statement was also adopted by Karabakh’s three main political parties. All of them are represented in the local parliament and government.
Armenia hailed the ICJ judgment shortly after its announcement on Thursday evening. Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian said The Hague-based court ruled that peoples’ self-determination should take precedence over territorial integrity of states in the resolution of territorial or ethnic disputes.
The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry insisted on Friday, however, that the ICJ ruling applies only to Kosovo and Serbia and can not have any repercussions for the Karabakh conflict -- a view essentially shared by the United States.
“Anyone who reads the ruling will see that this was a specific judgment based on facts unique to Kosovo,” U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said on Friday. “We certainly don’t think it applies to other circumstances.”
Sahakian made clear that the authorities in Stepanakert will not press Yerevan to formally recognize the NKR as an independent state after the ICJ ruling. “After all, Armenia bears responsibility before the international community, and you can’t blame Armenia’s political leaders for not recognizing the NKR’s independence,” he said. “In this regard, we have never expressed our discontent with Armenia’s leadership.”
“We believe that sooner or later we will approach [the launch of] a recognition process by Armenia,” added the Karabakh leader.