By Artur Terian in Moscow
President Robert Kocharian cited an “ethnic incompatibility” between Armenians and Azerbaijanis as he made a case for international recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence at the start of an official visit to Russia on Thursday.
“The Armenian pogroms in Sumgait and Baku, and the attempts at mass military deportation of Armenians from Karabakh in 1991-92 indicate the impossibility for Armenians to live in Azerbaijan in general. We are talking about some sort of ethnic incompatibility,” Kocharian declared in a speech at a diplomatic academy in Moscow.
“It is not pleasant to talk about this, but it's a fact,” he went on. “Something like that has already been seen in the Balkans. This motivated out statement that Armenia is responsible for the security of the people of Nagorno Karabakh. A nation that has survived genocide cannot allow it to repeat.”
Kocharian reiterated the Armenian argument that the disputed region has never been a part of independent Azerbaijan. “In the past, when Karabakh had voluntarily entered the Russian Empire, it was not in order to find itself later within the Republic of Azerbaijan,” he said.
The remarks, which are bound to anger Azerbaijan, came on the first day of his trip to Russia, Armenia’s closest political and military ally. Kocharian is due to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on Friday.
Although no major agreements are slated for signing, the visit is considered important for Kocharian’s bid to win a second term in office in next month’s presidential elections. Russia is home to a large number of Armenians many of whom remain Armenian citizens and can vote in the February polls. Their largest community organization is led by wealthy businessman Ara Abrahamian who reportedly has close ties with the Kremlin.
Economic issues, including further supplies of Russian energy resources, are also expected to be high on the agenda of the talks. Kocharian visited an exhibition of Armenian goods in Moscow and was scheduled to meet with the head of the Russian natural gas exporter ITERA later on Thursday.
In his speech, the Armenian leader said the trade between the two countries increased slightly to $223 million in the first 11 months of last year. Kocharian complained that its further growth is seriously hampered by the lack of railway connection.
“We have discussed this problem often, but have not been able to find a solution,” he said. “This narrows significantly the areas where cooperation would be economically feasible.”