Armenian territorial concessions to Azerbaijan are contingent on an agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh’s final status stemming from its population’s right to self-determination, President Serzh Sarkisian said through a spokesman on Wednesday.
The presidential press secretary, Vladimir Hakobian, defended Sarkisian’s stated readiness to reach a compromise peace deal with Baku that would be based on key principles proposed by the U.S., Russian and French mediators.
The mediators’ Basic Principles of a Karabakh peace were first put forward in 2007 and have been repeatedly modified since then. They call for Armenian withdrawal from virtually all seven districts in Azerbaijan proper fully or partly occupied by Karabakh Armenian forces. In return, Karabakh’s predominantly Armenian population would determine the disputed territory’s internationally recognized status in a future referendum.
In a recent interview with Russian state television, Sarkisian said Yerevan remains committed to this peace formula. He said that he and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev nearly signed a corresponding peace accord at a 2011 summit in Kazan, Russia. Aliyev scuttled the breakthrough with last-minute demands for more Armenian concessions, he claimed.
In written comments to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), Hakobian said that Sarkisian’s conditional readiness for territorial concessions to Baku should not be taken out of context. “The president emphasized that the number one point in [the mediators’] proposals upholds Nagorno-Karabakh’s right to self-determination,” he said.
According to Hakobian, the current Armenian leadership also believes that Karabakh must not become an enclave again as a result of the would-be Armenian withdrawal from the surrounding districts. He said the Basic Principles call for an “overland link” between Karabakh and Armenia.
“We are talking about not just a road connecting Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh but the kind of wide, secure and unfettered link that will be fully protected against any encroachment by Azerbaijan,” added the spokesman.
Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian leadership has shown less enthusiasm for such a peace deal in its public statements.
“The liberated lands are a matter of life or death for Artsakh (Karabakh),” said Davit Babayan, a senior official in Stepanakert. “This has to do with our security, rather than personal ambitions. There will be no return to the past in terms of [Karabakh’s] borders, let alone status.”