Armenia’s top army general on Thursday effectively spoke out against making territorial concessions to Azerbaijan as part of a compromise solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict proposed by international mediators.
“We actually need more territory to better guarantee our republic’s security,” said Lieutenant-General Movses Hakobian, the chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff.
Over the past decade, the United States, Russia and France have jointly advanced a framework accord envisaging a phased resolution of the Karabakh dispute. It would start with a gradual liberation of virtually all seven districts around Karabakh that were occupied by Armenian forces in 1992-1994. In return, Karabakh’s predominantly ethnic Armenian population would be able to determine the disputed region’s internationally recognized status in a future vote.
Armenia’s current and previous leaders that have said that this peace formula is on the whole acceptable to Yerevan.
Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said on Monday that “return of territories” remains among key issues on the agenda of Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks. “We are talking about territories whose return would not damage the conflict’s comprehensive resolution and our entire security system,” he said in a speech.
“I don’t know of such territories,” Hakobian told reporters when asked to comment on Nalbandian’s remarks.
Hakobian, who commanded Karabakh’s Armenian-backed army from 2007-2015, said the Armenian-controlled districts surrounding Karabakh proper are essential for the unrecognized republic’s security. “A disruption of the defense system in any territory would create a serious security threat for the Republic of Artsakh (Karabakh),” he added.
The Karabakh-born general spoke at the Yerablur military cemetery in Yerevan where he attended a wreath-laying ceremony led by President Serzh Sarkisian as part of official ceremonies to mark the 26th anniversary of Armenia’s independence. Defense Minister Vigen Sargsian also took part in the ceremony. He declined to speak to reporters, saying that he will comment on possible Armenian concessions to Baku at a news conference next week.
Karabakh’s leadership has made no secret of its misgivings about the repeatedly modified peace deal drafted by the U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Mins Group.
“Any change that could jeopardize the security of Artsakh and its population is certainly unacceptable,” Karen Mirzoyan, the Karabakh foreign minister, said at Yerablur. “We base our programs for our defense and security on the entire territory of Artsakh.”