An opposition faction in the Armenian parliament has delayed the vote on its proposed legislation obliging Yerevan to formally recognize the independence of Azerbaijan’s breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region after the body’s political majority warned to opt out of the procedure.
Armenia’s ruling Republican Party and its junior coalition partners, Prosperous Armenia and Orinats Yerkir, had earlier voiced their concerns that passing the bill advocated by the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party at this moment could be harmful to the ongoing internationally mediated talks over the Karabakh conflict.
In response, Zharangutyun party leader Raffi Hovannisian announced the faction’s decision to postpone the vote until December.
The latest round of talks focused on the future of Karabakh took place between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan, through Russia’s mediation, on Wednesday.
The meeting in Astrakhan, in southern Russia, resulted in a declaration by which the sides agreed to swap prisoners of war and bodies of soldiers and civilians killed in recent skirmishes near Karabakh.
The sides also reportedly agreed to work towards resolving their differences regarding the basic principles of settlement around which a peace agreement should be negotiated.
News agencies quoted Russian President Dmitry Medvedev as saying at a press conference after the meeting that Armenia and Azerbaijan could reach agreement on the principles by early December when a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is planned in Kazakhstan.
Zharangutyun’s Hovannisian said on Thursday his yesterday’s discussions with other parliamentary leader led the party to postpone the vote until December 9 “to see the results” from the OSCE summit in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana due on December 1-2.
“This is the final decision,” Hovannisian emphasized.
Talking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun) on October 27, Hovannisian said his discussions with the parliament speaker and leaders of the four other parliamentary factions had not produced a compromise and said the vote would be held by all means unless such a compromise was found until noon on Thursday.
The political parties of Armenia’s ruling coalition issued a statement later on Thursday explaining their decision to opt out of the vote if it was held.
“Supporting the efforts and initiatives aimed at achieving the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s international recognition, we are convinced that Nagorno-Karabakh’s unilateral recognition by the Republic of Armenia at this moment does not proceed from the constructive position assumed by Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian in the negotiations continuing within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group,” the parties said.
Armenia has been reluctant to formally recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent entity despite having close political and economic ties with the de-facto leadership in the disputed region that has been under ethnic Armenian control since the 1994 ceasefire.
Armenia also largely represents Karabakh at talks with Azerbaijan as official Baku refuses to recognize Stepanakert’s de facto self-rule.
Officials in Baku have also repeatedly warned that Armenia’s recognizing Karabakh as independent from Azerbaijan will increase the likelihood of renewed hostilities in the conflict zone.