Armenia has again threatened to formally recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state if Azerbaijan attempts to reconquer the territory by force.
The Armenian government is scheduled to discuss on Thursday an opposition bill that would commit it to such recognition. Under Armenian law, the government has to pass judgment on any draft legislation before it is debated by parliament.
“There is no negotiation process and we can only pin our hopes on ourselves,” Zaruhi Postanjian, one of the two opposition lawmakers who drafted the bill, said on Wednesday. “The Republic of Armenia must recognize Artsakh’s independence.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian made clear, however, that the government intends to make a different recommendation to the National Assembly at this point.
“According to the [government] assessment, recognition [of Karabakh’s independence] is conditional on further developments,” Kocharian told Panorama.am. “If Azerbaijan launches a new military aggression, the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh’s recognition will enter the agenda.”
President Serzh Sarkisian issued a similar warning when he met with foreign diplomats in Yerevan on April 4, two days after the outbreak of heaviest fighting around Karabakh since 1994.“If hostilities continue and become large-scale, the Republic of Armenia will recognize Karabakh’s independence,” he said.
Armenia has provided large-scale military, political and economic assistance to Karabakh ever since the region broke away from Azerbaijani rule in 1991. But successive governments in Yerevan have declined to formally recognize the Armenian-populated territory’s de facto secession, citing the need not to undermine peace talks with Azerbaijan mediated by the United States, Russia and France.
A senior aide to Bako Sahakian, the Karabakh president, backed the Sarkisian administration’s current position on the issue on Wednesday. “We stand for international recognition of the independence of Artsakh (Karabakh),” Davit Babayan told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “But we think that the Republic of Armenia should not be the first state to recognize Artsakh.”
“That should happen only if Azerbaijan provokes war,” said Babayan.” “In that case, there will simply be no other alternative.”
The Azerbaijani government, meanwhile, condemned Yerevan’s latest threats, with the Foreign Ministry in Baku issuing a special statement on Wednesday. “If this provocation is realized, responsibility for its consequences will fall upon Armenia and its leadership,” it said.
The statement also reiterated Baku’s claims that Yerevan is trying to maintain the status quo in the Karabakh conflict at any cost.
Sarkisian’s press secretary, Vladimir Hakobian, laughed off the Azerbaijani reaction. “They have lived in Azerbaijan under a dictatorship for so long that even the highest echelons of government there have forgotten that in other countries there are opposition figures who are not in prison … and who have the right to come up with legislative initiatives which the government is obliged to include on the agenda of cabinet meetings and discuss,” he said in written comments to News.am.