A senior official in Nagorno-Karabakh considers it impossible that the Armenian side could have agreed in Moscow to territorial concessions to Azerbaijan after claims to that effect made by a former defense minister.
In an interview with the 7or.am news website late last week, Samvel Babayan, a former commander of Karabakh’s defense army, asserted that “the Armenian side recently confirmed in Moscow that it was ready to cede territories.”
Moreover, in Babayan’s words, Armenia is no longer able to resist outside pressures, “be they from mediators or from Azerbaijan.”
Babayan, 51, drew a crowd of supporters when he returned to Stepanakert in early June after spending several years in Moscow. He pledged to help boost Karabakh’s security, while claiming that he is not pursuing any “political objectives.”
From 2000 to 2004, the former Karabakh strongman was in prison on controversial charges of plotting to assassinate the then president of the unrecognized republic, Arkady Ghukasian. He then lived in Armenia until emigrating to Russia in 2011 for still unclear reasons.
David Babayan (no relation to Samvel Babayan), deputy head of the Karabakh president’s administration, has dismissed Samvel Babayan’s statements, saying: “Of course, I do not think it is possible [that the Armenian side could have agreed to territorial concessions]. What information does he have? If negotiations are conducted behind closed doors, who can know what they talked about? Let’s take a logical approach: Yerevan has repeatedly said that for it any option acceptable to official Stepanakert is also acceptable. It has said this a thousand times, under all presidents. Now, if official Stepanakert is not participating in the negotiations, how can official Yerevan say such a thing?”
David Babayan said that even the mediators cannot impose anything on the sides and referred to a recent statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said that Moscow won’t be foisting solutions in the Karabakh settlement.
“If we speak about the need to maintain our boundaries, isn’t it better to urge people to come to Karabakh?.. It is wrong to keep talking about something that simply does not exist,” the senior Karabakh official told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am).
Meanwhile, in his latest interview, Karabakh’s former defense minister also referred to other purported concessions that the Armenian side has made in the negotiating process since 2008 when Serzh Sarkisian was first elected president. In particular, he claimed that in the so-called Madrid principles of settlement that are being negotiated around as a possible basis for a framework Armenian-Azerbaijani agreement, the Armenian side agreed to the wording “Lachin corridor” instead of “Lachin district” that would be remain under Karabakh control in case of Armenian withdrawal from some territories. He claimed that other concessions concerned agreement to the return of Azerbaijani displaced persons to Shushi and Lachin and agreement to an interim status for Karabakh, leaving the issue of a referendum or a plebiscite on the final status of the region to an uncertain future date.
“These are very serious concessions and if applied in practice, their consequences can be very grave,” said Samvel Babayan, noting at the same time that Azerbaijan has not even shown readiness to agree to compromises, let alone unilateral concessions.
Samvel Babayan argued that the return of Azerbaijani IDPs to Shushi and Lachin would mean the return to the situation of 1988 when the conflict began. The former Karabakh defense minister also claimed that at present the only hope for the failure of a solution “undesirable” for Armenians is Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev. “The thing is that the president of Azerbaijan wants 12 and not seven districts back. Besides, Azerbaijan, unlike Armenia, is against the deployment of peacekeepers, be they from Russia or some other country. Our government hopes for Aliyev’s ‘no’. Yerevan gave its ‘yes’ in the issue of territories a long time ago,” Samvel Babayan alleged, adding that concessions would entail an Armenian exodus from Karabakh and a threat to Armenia’s southern Syunik province.
David Babayan, meanwhile, insisted that it was impossible to return to the boundaries that existed in 1988 or 1991. He illustrated the impossibility of ceding territories on the example of just one Karabakh-controlled district, Kelbajar. “It is there that Karabakh’s water resources originate. The sources of two major rivers for Armenia – Arpa and Vorotan – that feed Lake Sevan also originate there. What if they [Azerbaijan] poison them as they did it before, poisoning our water resources during the war?” he said.