Karabakh representatives were involved, along with their counterparts from Armenia, in face-to-face negotiations with Azerbaijani officials in the early and mid-1990s. Although international mediators continue to visit Stepanakert during their regular tours of the conflict zone, the negotiating process has been mainly driven by numerous meetings of Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s presidents held over these past decade. Critics say the NKR’s “exclusion” from the process has hurt the Armenian side.
In a written statement, the head of the ex-president’s office, Victor Soghomonian, claimed that the Karabakh Armenians’ involvement in the talks ended one year before Kocharian became president of Armenia in 1998. He said Kocharian always made clear that no Armenian-Azerbaijani agreement could take effect without being accepted by the NKR.
Soghomonian also argued that Kocharian’s predecessor and currently opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian too had frequently met with his Azerbaijani counterparts while in power.
“These are well-known historical facts,” said Soghomonian. “Before ranting about Kocharian’s mistakes in the negotiating process and brilliantly rectifying them, one must look into the issue thoroughly.”
Aleksandr Arzumanian, a senior member of Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress who served as foreign minister in 1996-1998, rejected Kocharian’s claims as a “blatant lie.” “Right after coming to power Robert Kocharian drove Nagorno-Karabakh out of the negotiating process,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Arzumanian argued that senior U.S. and French diplomats have also publicly stated that the Armenian-Azerbaijani talks were no longer held in a trilateral format after 1997 at Kocharian’s initiative.
Soghomonian’s statement marked Kocharian’s second public intervention in just over a week. The Karabakh-born ex-president had spoken out far less frequently since leaving office in April 2008.
In a March 23 interview with the Mediamax news agency, Kocharian criticized the current Armenian government’s handling of the economic crisis. The criticism fuelled more speculation about his possible return to active politics.