Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian leader Bako Sahakian is paying a visit to the United States that has elicited a strong reaction from Azerbaijani authorities.
Ahead of the trip last week U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Robert Cekuta was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Baku and handed a note of protest addressed to the U.S. Department of State over Sahakian’s planned visit.
In the note the Azerbaijani authorities urged the United States “to adhere to the norms of international law and not to allow on its territory activities aimed at violating the sovereignty of Azerbaijan.”
Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hikmet Hajiyev claimed that such a visit would “seriously harm the negotiating process [over Nagorno-Karabakh] and increase tensions in the region.”
Meanwhile, authorities in Stepanakert reported that the delegation led by Sahakian arrived in Washington on Monday and on March 13 the Karabakh leader visited the embassy of the Republic of Armenia where he met with Ambassador Grigor Hovannisian and the diplomatic staff.
“A range of issues related to cooperation between the United States and the two Armenian states were on the agenda of the meeting,” said the Karabakh leader’s press office, adding that Sahakian stressed the importance of close cooperation between Karabakh, Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora as “a crucial factor for successful implementation of the scheduled programs.”
It is also reported that while in Washington Sahakian also visited the Permanent Representation of Nagorno-Karabakh to the U.S. and held a meeting with its staff. A range of issues related to the activities of the structure were on the agenda of the meeting, the source said.
“The president [Sahakian] noted the importance of expanding and deepening cooperation with the United States, underlining that the representation should continue implementing daily professional work. He gave specific instructions in that direction,” the report said.
No other details of the visit, including possible meetings of the Karabakh delegation with representatives of the American side, have been reported yet.
Richard Giragosian, the director of the Yerevan-based Regional Studies Center, attached particular importance to the visit of the Karabakh delegation in view of the fact that it follows the visit of the Armenian parliamentary delegation to the United States. “Nagorno-Karabakh is now taking the initiative in foreign policy, which should be welcomed,” said Giragosian. “But on the other hand, because of its maximalist policies and aggressive stance, Azerbaijan is actively showing why Karabakh should not return to Azerbaijani control.”
The state-run Armenpress news agency quoted the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region as saying that during the visit of the Karabakh leader to the United States one of the streets in Glendale, a town in California that is home to a large Armenian community, may be renamed after Artsakh, which is the alternative name for Nagorno-Karabakh used by Armenians. The report says the Glendale City Council has unanimously voted to start the street renaming process.
Nagorno-Karabakh, populated mainly by ethnic Armenians, declared independence from Azerbaijan during 1988-94 ethnic tensions and a war that claimed an estimated 30,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
Three decades of internationally-mediated diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the conflict have brought little progress.