Defense Chief Says Karabakh Crisis Over

STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL)–The new defense minister of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic said on Wednesday his appointment to the post last week marked the end of a serious government crisis in Stepanakert.

General Seyran Ohanian told RFE/RL in an interview that his candidacy for the crucial job was acceptable to both rival factions in the Karabakh government–including that of his powerful predecessor–General Samvel Babayan. He said the political situation in Karabakh is "quiet" at the moment and will remain so.

The crisis erupted in June after Karabakh President Arkady Ghoukassian sacked his then prime minister Jirayr Poghosian–who is an ally of Babayan. Backed by Armenia’s leadership–Ghoukassian is believed to have increased his hitherto limited power as a result of the standoff. Babayan–on the other hand–has seen his official role confined to military matters only.

He is currently the commander-in-chief of the Karabakh Defense Army–which according to Defense Minister Ohanian is subordinate to his agency.

Ohanian denied speculation that Yerevan was behind the perceived weakening of Babayan’s influence in a bid to neutralize his hard line on how to settle the conflict with Azerbaijan. He shared Armenian officials’ optimism that last month’s meeting between Presidents Haydar Aliyev of Azerbaijan and Robert Kocharian of Armenia might soon result in a long-awaited breakthrough in the peace process.

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