Kocharian Vows Public Debate On KarabakhAzeri

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–In an exclusive interview on 11 February with Armenian National Television–President Robert Kocharian sought to dispel fears among hard-line factions within the leadership–saying that a possible peace deal with Azerbaijan to end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict would not be implemented unless it is approved by the government and people of Armenia.

Kocharian was quoted by his press office as saying that if he and his Azeri counterpart Haydar Aliyev reach an agreement on Karabakh it "will have to be discussed by all government branches and to win the people’s support." He told Armenian television later in the day that this might mean a referendum.

The commen’s came a week after the Yerkrapah Union of Karabakh war veterans–a key power base of Prime Minister Aram Sargsyan–warned against what it sees as disproportionate concessions to Azerbaijan. Yerkrapah demanded a final say in the peace process at a high-profile meeting of its board on February 5. Sargsyan said at the meeting that he shares the influential union’s views on the Karabakh settlement.

Kocharian and Aliyev have held a series of direct talks over the past year–raising hopes for a settlement. Both leaders have expressed readiness to make major mutual concessions.

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