Melkoumian Hopeful for a Bright Future for Karabakh

GLENDALE–"The Karabakh settlement is not only a problem for Karabakh–but for the entire Armenian nation–because today the durability of our people is being put to the test," said Karabakh Foreign Minister Naira Melkoumian at a press conference on Monday.

Melkoumian is in Glendale–California–at the invitation of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Western US Central Committee–to attend celebrations marking the tenth anniversary of the national liberation struggle of Karabakh. She was joined by the First Secretary of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s Permanent Representation in Armeina–Shaghik Maroukhian.

Melkoumian stated that over the past decade Armenia’s have proven themselves a resilient and powerful people capable of defending their own interests.

According to her–a solution to the Karabakh conflict requires an increase in economic power–in addition to diplomatic and political strength. "Karabakh is no longer solely dependant on humanitarian aid. Its economy will get ready for development programs soon. Karabakh needs investment and technology to establish industry," the foreign minister said.

Refugees will return to their homes if there are good living conditions and employment opportunities–she maintained. When that happens Karabakh will not need economic support and guidance from outside. "Azerbaijan’s economy is about to start growing rapidly–so we must be ready to keep up with it in order to achieve the best conflict resolution. Similarly–should Karabakh not yield to Armenia’s," Melkoumian stressed.

Another major hurdle–according to the Karabakh official–is the need for a well-developed education system: "Our youth should not have to seek education outside of Karabakh. With its vast possibilities in the educational sphere–Karabakh can very soon become a center for educational institutions."

Addressing the Karabakh peace process–the foreign minister said that Karabakh’s leadership will never agree to a phased settlement–but only to a comprehensive package solution. "We can’t agree to any settlement scheme leaving the conflict half-decided after having so many victims in the past seven years of war," she said. "We find that Azerbaijan will be able to afford a large army of mercenaries as its economy grows stronger. We have to foresee the consequences. Therefore–we hold that the status of Nagorno-Karabakh has to be ultimately determined and confirmed by international guarantees."

"We are never going to give up our independence and will defend it to the end," Melkoumian stressed. She argued that if Azerbaijan agrees to hold direct talks with Karabakh–Karabakh will be able to convince it that only an independent Karabakh can guarantee the prospects for the development of Azerbaijan’s oil and gas pipelines. If Karabakh can’t control its own territories–she said–it won’t be able to provide guarantees of stability in the neighboring territories.

"Today–Azerbaijan is adhering to an unrealistic position–relying on the international community to pressure us. I assure you that once Karabakh authorities renounce independence–they will be turned down by the people–as each Armenian in Karabakh is ready to fight for his country’s independence to the end. People in Karabakh were not panicked by the six-month political dispute in Armenia–they just expressed their discontent and disagreement with the Armenian authorities," the foreign minister suggested.

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