International mediators on Friday appeared to have justified the holding of a controversial presidential election in Nagorno-Karabakh, while saying that it cannot influence the outcome of long-running Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks.
The U.S., Russia and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group said they “acknowledge the need for the de facto authorities in [Nagorno-Karabakh] to try to organize democratically the public life of their population with such a procedure.”
“However, the Co-Chairs note that none of their three countries, nor any other country, recognizes Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent and sovereign state,” they said in a joint statement on Thursday’s vote.
“The Co-Chairs stress that the procedures of July 19 in no way prejudge the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh or the outcome of the ongoing negotiations to bring a lasting and peaceful settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” added the statement.
The mediators did not stress the need for a democratic process in the Armenian-controlled disputed territory in their joint statements on previous Karabakh elections. In July 2007, for example, they said that “the upcoming so-called presidential elections in Nagorno-Karabakh have already caused an increase in tensions” between the conflicting parties.
The current Minsk Group co-chairs and their predecessors representing the three major powers have frequently travelled to Karabakh and met with its ethnic Armenian leadership during their tours of the conflict zone.
The latest Karabakh election has been condemned as illegal by Azerbaijan. The European Union and some countries, including Georgia and Turkey, have also criticized it.
A spokesman for the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spoke on Friday of growing international support for Baku’s position on the Karabakh dispute. “All efforts by the Armenians are doomed to fail,” Elman Abdullayev said, according to the Trend news agency. “The world community recognizes Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and sees the conflict’s resolution within the framework of territorial integrity.”
Armenia, meanwhile, again welcomed the election. “With these elections the people of Artsakh (Karabakh) once again proved their determination to decide their fate by democratic means,” Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said in written remarks to the official Armenpress news agency.
“I don’t think that any democratic country can dispute the need for and importance of forming governments by means of democratic elections,” Nalbandian said. “Naturally, the international community should be interested in dealing with authorities elected by the Nagorno-Karabakh people.”