The National Assembly refused on Monday to debate at a plenary session an opposition bill that would require Armenia to formally recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state.
Only 12 of its 131 deputies voted for the bill’s inclusion on the parliament agenda. Most of them represent the opposition Zharangutyun party and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), President Serzh Sarkisian’s junior coalition partner.
Deputies from Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) and three opposition parties -- the Armenian National Congress, Prosperous Armenia and Orinats Yerkir -- blocked the motion by not taking part in the vote.
Earlier in the day, the Armenian parliament’s committee on foreign relations discussed the bill and overwhelmingly recommended that it does not reach the parliament floor.
The Armenian government did not object to such a debate when it evaluated the proposed recognition of Karabakh on May 5. It said that Armenia should consider recognizing the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) only if Azerbaijan again attempts to reconquer the disputed territory by force.
Armenian opposition forces, notably the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, have for years pressed for such recognition. Successive governments in Yerevan have avoided doing that, citing the need not to undermine peace talks with Azerbaijan mediated by the United States, Russia and France.
Sarkisian threatened to recognize Karabakh following the April 2 outbreak of heavy fighting along the Karabakh “line of contact” which left at least 170 soldiers from both sides dead. Azerbaijan warned Armenia against taking such a “provocative” step.
A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed hope on May 5 that Yerevan will not press ahead with the recognition. “We certainly continue to expect the parties will avoid any steps that could undermine the shaky ceasefire and lead to an escalation of tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh,” he said.
The Armenian parliament majority blocked a debate on the issue just hours before Sarkisian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev were due to meet in Vienna for talks co-hosted by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault.