Officials in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh on Monday again denied any connection between the upcoming international fact-finding mission to Armenian-controlled territories around Karabakh and the withdrawal of a pro-Azerbaijani draft resolution from the UN General Assembly.
Baku asked the assembly to postpone a vote on the resolution shortly before its anticipated passage on September 9. Azerbaijani officials attributed the move to international mediators’ intention to inspect the seven districts in Azerbaijan proper that were fully or partly occupied by Karabakh Armenian forces in 1992-1994.
The U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group said earlier in September that they plan to tour those areas together with experts from the UN and other international bodies in order to “observe the humanitarian situation” there.
Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian insisted that the draft resolution’s last-minute withdrawal was not the result of a compromise deal with Baku. Speaking at a news conference, he argued that the conflicting parties reached agreement on the OSCE mission last spring, months before the document was circulated at the UN assembly.
A spokesman for Karabakh President Bako Sahakian likewise denied such a link. “Azerbaijan is simply exploiting the issue for political purposes,” Davit Babayan told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Babayan also dismissed concerns about the mission, due to start on Thursday, that have been expressed by opposition groups in Yerevan. He claimed that the mediators will see that the Karabakh Armenians regard those territories as “an integral part of Nagorno-Karabakh” and could adjust their peace proposals accordingly.
Armenia’s leading opposition forces believe, however, that the Armenian side should have made sure that the mediators also inspect a small part of Karabakh which is currently controlled by Azerbaijan. Levon Zurabian, a leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress, predicted that the OSCE mission will be “very one-sided and pro-Azerbaijani” in its current format.