President Serzh Sarkisian described Nagorno-Karabakh’s de facto secession from Azerbaijan as “irreversible” as he marked the 23rd anniversary of the establishment of the self-proclaimed republic in Stepanakert on Tuesday.
Sarkisian joined Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian leaders and hundreds of ordinary residents in marching through the town on the occasion. The government-organized procession ended with a wreath-laying ceremony at a memorial to thousands of Karabakh Armenians killed during the successful 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan.
“The historic choice of the people of Artsakh is an irreversible reality now,” Sarkisian said in a written address to the territory’s population issued earlier in the day.
“You managed to found and build up statehood through the support of the entire nation and, first of all, owing to your inflexible will, your superhuman efforts and enormous sacrifices. The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic stands proudly in the lineup of those nations that boast better organization of public institutions and a powerful army,” added the Karabakh-born president.
The still unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic formally declared itself an independent state in December 1991 following a referendum held amid intensifying clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces. The authorities in both Yerevan and Stepanakert have since ruled out any settlement that would place Karabakh back under Azerbaijani control. The Karabakh Armenians have also been reluctant to withdraw from seven districts in Azerbaijan proper that were fully or partly occupied by them during the war.
“Our aim is to get Azerbaijan to recognize the Karabakh people’s right to determine their own future,” Sarkisian said on August 23, two weeks after holding talks in Russia with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev.
Aliyev and other Azerbaijani officials have repeatedly said that Baku will eventually regain control over Karabakh and the surrounding territories.