President Serzh Sarkisian is said to have discussed with Nagorno-Karabakh’s veteran political activists the possibility of a compromise peace accord with Azerbaijan when he visited Stepanakert over the weekend.
Sarkisian travelled to Karabakh for a second time since his most recent face-to-face talks with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev held in Saint Petersburg, Russia on June 20.
The trips came intensifying efforts by Russia, the United States and France to end the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed last week that the conflicting parties are inching closer to a peace deal.
It emerged on Tuesday Sarkisian met in Stepanakert on Saturday with local activists who played a major role in the 1988 popular movement for Karabakh’s secession from Soviet Azerbaijan.
Two of them told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that Sarkisian solicited their views on the idea of returning to Azerbaijan districts around Karabakh that were occupied by Karabakh Armenian forces during the 1991-1994.
“He asked each of us what we think,” said one of the participants, Razmik Petrosian. “Ninety percent of us spoke out against such concessions. Why should we make them?”
According to Petrosian, Sarkisian insisted that Armenia and Karabakh are not facing strong pressure from the Russian, U.S. and French mediators to make such concessions. “But I think the fact that they [Russia] give weapons to Azerbaijan amounts to pressure,” he said.
“We have no intention to give up lands,” another Karabakh activist, Hamlet Grigorian. “Neither the Armenian president nor the Karabakh president claimed the opposite.”
The liberation of virtually all seven districts fully or partly controlled by the Karabakh Armenians is a key element of a framework peace accord advanced by the three mediating powers over the past decade. Armenian withdrawal from those lands would be followed by a referendum in Karabakh on the disputed territory’s status.
Armenia’s government has repeatedly said that this peace formula is largely acceptable to it. Many Karabakh Armenians are opposed to it, however.