International mediators continue to believe that Nagorno-Karabakh’s final status should be determined by its predominantly Armenian population in a referendum, a senior Armenian official insisted on Wednesday.
“There is no document [proposed by the mediators] that negates or questions the Karabakh people’s right to self-determination through a plebiscite, referendum or whatever you may call it,” Armen Ashotian, a deputy chairman of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Ashotian said that the United States, Russia and France stand by a peace formula at the heart of their Basic Principles of the Karabakh conflict’s resolution that have been on the table for the past decade.
A future referendum on Karabakh’s status has been a key element of the proposed peace accord. It would be held after the restoration of Azerbaijani control over virtually seven districts around the disputed territory that were fully or partly occupied by Karabakh Armenian forces in 1992-1994.
Tatul Hakobian, an Armenian journalist who has written extensively on the conflict, has claimed that Russia has single-handedly amended the Basic Principles to make it far more favorable to Azerbaijan and is now trying to get the Armenians to accept them. Citing unnamed diplomatic sources, he said the idea of the Karabakh referendum is “relegated to the background” in the “Russian peace plan.”
Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian insisted at the weekend that Moscow, which organized the most recent meeting of Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s presidents, has not drawn up such a plan.
“Armenia’s current authorities will not make concessions on the Karabakh issue that would call into question the existence of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic,” stressed Ashotian.
For his part, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev reiterated on Sunday that Baku will never recognize Karabakh’s secession from Azerbaijan. “Karabakh will never gain independence,” he said.
Despite these diametrically opposite positions taken by the conflict parties, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov declared on Tuesday that Baku and Yerevan are now closer to cutting a peace deal than ever before.