Nagorno-Karabakh must gain international recognition of its de facto secession from Azerbaijan as a result of the long-running Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks, Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian insisted on Wednesday.
“It is important for us that Artsakh (Karabakh) be independent, that the people of Artsakh be able to hold a referendum and decide their fate by themselves. This must be the most important thing in those negotiations,” Abrahamian told reporters after inspecting Armenian army positions on the border with Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave.
The conduct of such a referendum is thought to be one of the elements of a framework peace agreement put forward by U.S., Russian and French mediators trying to broker a solution to the Karabakh conflict. The conflicting parties continue to disagree on some crucial details of these Basic Principles repeatedly modified over the past decade.
The difficult search for a mutually acceptable peace formula has been further complicated by growing ceasefire violations along the “line of contact” around Karabakh and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. Armed incidents there again intensified ahead of the December 19 meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents held in Bern, Switzerland. Neither side reported any progress in those talks.
Abrahamian said Yerevan still hopes that the negotiation process will eventually yield an agreement. “I think that we need to continue these diplomatic contacts, try to convince [Azerbaijan,] try to have a peaceful situation as a result of discussions,” he said.
Abrahamian at the same time warned Baku against heightening tensions on the frontlines. “If they shoot once, we will shoot back more,” he said.