Armenia Threatens to Recognize Nagorno-Karabagh after Blistering Attack from Azeri President at OSCE Summit


President Serge Sargisian, right, at the OSCE summit, along with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, left

ASTANA, Kazakhstan (RFE/RL) — Armenia threatened on Thursday to formally recognize Nagorno- Karabagh as an independent state if Azerbaijan tries to win back the disputed enclave and other Armenian-controlled territories surrounding it by force.

President Serge Sargisian issued the warning as he hit back at his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, during the summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Addressing the summit on Wednesday, Aliyev said Armenia is dragging out the Karabagh negotiating process mediated by the United States, Russia and France. He also accused the Armenians of committing “war crimes and a genocide” against Karabagh’s Azerbaijani minority during the 1991- 1994 war.

In his speech, Sargisian insisted that it is Azerbaijan that unleashed a “policy of ethnic cleansing and full-fledged military aggression” against the Karabagh Armenians in 1992. He said Baku has “no interest in the resolution of the Karabagh problem” and again denounced Aliyev’s regular threats of a military solution to the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute.

“In case Azerbaijan resorts to military aggression, Armenia would not have any other choice but to recognize the Nagorno- Karabagh Republic de jure and to invest all its capabilities into ensuring the security of the people of Artsakh,” warned Sargisian.

“Nagorno-Karabagh has no future within Azerbaijan and, whatever the solution, it should emanate from the will of the people of Karabagh,” he said.

The bitter exchange between the two presidents underscored the apparent failure of the latest Russian- led international push for a Karabagh settlement. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev hoped that the conflicting parties will reach a framework peace agreement during the summit.

Contrary to expectations, Aliyev and Sargisian did not even meet at Astana. They only signed a joint statement with Medvedev, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The statement said the parties will make “more decisive efforts” to achieve a peaceful settlement of the dispute.

President Sargisian’s Remarks In Astana

This meeting of the heads of states participating in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is, in a way, unique: This is the first summit of the OSCE in the 21st century and the first to be held in the post-Soviet area. I would like to congratulate the Kazakhstani colleagues and personally President Nursultan Nazarbayev for active chairmanship and excellent organization of the Summit.

Nations living in the realm of the OSCE have been closely following and waiting with hope and anticipation for the holistic implementation of the principles enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act. The people of Nagorno Karabagh are one of them, eligible to expect the implementation of these principles and commitments, which are universal regardless of the size of a country, its population or natural resources.

Nagorno Karabagh proclaimed its independence in September 1991, followed by the referendum on independence conducted in December in full compliance with the norms of international law and Soviet legislation, which was in effect at the time. With the subsequent disintegration of the USSR, two legally equal state entities emerged: the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Nagorno Karabagh Republic. In response to the policy of ethnic cleansing and full-fledged military aggression unleashed by Azerbaijan against Karabagh in 1992, the unrecognized, yet legitimate state of Nagorno Karabagh, in the face of imminent extinction of its people, was forced to resort to its right to self-defense in full compliance with the norms of international law.

Failing to purge Nagorno Karabagh of its Armenian population by military action, in May of 1994 Azerbaijan had to conclude a tripartite ceasefire agreement with Nagorno Karabagh and Armenia. The ceasefire could have transformed into a foundation for the establishment of durable peace in the interests of the peoples of the region.

Under the guise of negotiations and contrary to the efforts of the Minsk Group, Azerbaijan has used the subsequent 16 years to make preparations for a new reckless military scheme. Baku assumes that the cause-andeffect relationship behind the Karabagh conflict has been forgotten. By evoking today the need to reclaim territories currently under the control of the Nagorno Karabagh Self-Defense Army, Azerbaijan fails to acknowledge that it is impossible to eliminate the consequences of aggression without addressing the root cause of the conflict.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As far as I know, Azerbaijan is the only country on the European continent that boasts the manifold increase in its military spending. However, no necessary actions have been taken with regard to Azerbaijan’s flagrant violation of the permissible levels of the armaments stipulated by the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe; moreover, offensive weapons are being sold to Azerbaijan, including by some OSCE member states. All this is accompanied by blatant Armenophobic statements of the Azerbaijani leaders, and by calls, which incite animosity, aggression and violence. It has reached the point where Azerbaijani officials miss no opportunity to claim that the capital of Armenia, Yerevan, is located “on historical Azeri lands.” Recently in UNESCO they challenged the intellectual rights to the khachkar, cross-stone masterpiece of the Armenian Christian art, alleging that the khachkar is nothing else but an example of Azeri art. Should that be the case, one can only wonder what was the rationale behind the barbaric destruction just five years ago of one of the greatest-ever monuments of that art, the medieval Armenian cemetery in Jugha with thousands of khachkars, and the construction in its place of a military firing-range. Incidentally, this became the present day epitome of a long-standing and persistent policy of total eradication of the Armenian cultural heritage in Nakhijevan, a region that enjoys the highest degree of autonomy within Azerbaijan.

Distinguished Colleagues,

Azerbaijan’s attempts to extort unilateral concessions through the threat to use force are doomed to failure; what’s more, these attempts continue to remain the greatest impediment for the compromise- based settlement of the conflict. Last week, it once again became clear to me that at this stage, Azerbaijan has no interest in settling the Karabagh issue: Its sole purpose is to inflict as much damage on Armenia as possible. Armenia categorically rejects the resumption of military hostilities in Nagorno Karabagh as an option. In case Azerbaijan resorts to military aggression, Armenia will have no other choice but to recognize the Nagorno Karabagh Republic de jure and to employ all its capabilities to ensure the security of the people of Artsakh.

Nagorno Karabagh has no future within Azerbaijan and, whatever the solution, it must emanate from the will of the people of Karabagh. This is the axis of the right of people to self-determination. Azerbaijan has neither legal, nor political, nor moral grounds for its claims over Nagorno Karabagh.

Distinguished Colleagues,

This OSCE Summit is of paramount importance for the future activities of the organization. I would like to emphasize the great contribution of Kazakhstan — the country, which holds the OSCE chairmanship, to the organization of this long-expected meeting, and thank the hosts for their warm hospitality.