A senior official from Nagorno-Karabakh said on Friday that it is still too early to speak of territorial concessions to Azerbaijan that would be part of a broader Armenian-Azerbaijani peace deal.
“I believe that now, especially after April 2016 [fighting in Karabakh,] we have a much better idea of all components of our security system,” Ashot Ghulian, the Karabakh parliament speaker, told reporters in Yerevan.
“That system includes both territories and our economic viability. I am deeply convinced that we cannot weaken that reserve with anything or give up anything in return for some unknown things,” he said.
“I don’t think that we should engage in such talk prematurely because that would only undermine our internal strength as we would start looking for those who said concessions can be made and who said they cannot,” added Ghulian.
In that regard, Ghulian declined to comment on President Serzh Sarkisian’s recent remark that a peaceful resolution of the Karabakh dispute could only be “painful” to both conflicting sides.
Sarkisian spoke two weeks after his October 16 meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev that was held in Geneva. The two leaders pledged to intensify the peace process and bolster the ceasefire regime in the conflict zone.
The U.S., Russian and French mediators announced in the Swiss city that they will soon hold follow-up “working sessions” with Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov. The talks could be held as early as next week.
Ghulian said that the Armenian side has toughened its position on Karabakh peace since the April 2016 hostilities. “I think that for the moment there are no grounds for softening that position,” he said.
Ghulian spoke after a delegation of Karabakh lawmakers headed by him held a regular meeting with members of Armenia’s parliament. The delegation was received by Sarkisian later in the day. A statement on the meeting released by the presidential press service did not say whether they discussed the upcoming Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations.
Over the past decade the international mediators have advanced a framework peace accord calling for a phased settlement that would start with the liberation of Armenian-controlled districts around Karabakh. In return, Karabakh’s predominantly Armenian population would be able determine the territory’s internationally recognized status in a future referendum.
Armenia’s leadership has repeatedly said that this peace formula is largely acceptable to it. Karabakh Armenian leaders have been far more skeptical about it.