NKR Foreign Minister Discusses Karabakh

MOSCOW (Snark)–The foreign minister of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic–Naira Melkumyan–has praised Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev for the maintenance of the Karabakh cease-fire. Interviewed in Moscow by the Armenian news agency Snark–Melkumyan said that Aliyev was one of the few Azeri politicians who understood that a resumption of war would be fatal.

She said that there could soon be a change in the Azeri political landscape and for that reason Karabakh was keen to settle the conflict as soon as possible. Melkumyan rejected the idea of joint rule of Karabakh by Armenia and Azerbaijan but said that elemen’s from a concept of free association could be part of the settlement. She also rejected the possibility of a territorial exchange as a resolution. The following is the text of the report by Snark

Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Foreign Minister Naira Melkumyan thinks it pointless to implement a joint rule by Armenia and Azerbaijan–in Nagorno-Karabakh. “The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is formed as a state to a certain degree–that is why there is no need to establish any rule over it–including a dual one,” Melkumyan told a correspondent.

When asked to express the attitude of Stepanakert towards the variant of free association–Melkumyan noted that “there are interesting elemen’s in this concept which–of course–can be used”. At the same time–she does not think that the idea of free association might be grounds for new proposals by the mediators on a Karabakh settlement. “I have no grounds for these assumptions,” Melkumyan said.

Melkumyan spoke about the need to examine all international experience in resolving similar problems and to create a new model for the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic conflict settlement. She believes that there is serious progress in understanding Nagorno-Karabakh’s position. Melkumyan said that attention must be paid to the fact that despite the prevailing political confrontation–there is no fighting between Azerbaijan and Karabakh at a time when the situation in Kosovo is unstable and a war is under way in Chechnya.

“I believe that this is to the credit of Nagorno-Karabakh as well as to Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev. I emphasize that this is just due to President Aliyev because he is one of few Azerbaijani politicians who understands the fatal end of the resumption of the war and also–understands that–with the exception of Russia–today Karabakh has the most efficient and strong army in the Caucasus. However–in our work we certainly take into consideration the fact that in the near future there is a possibility of change in Azerbaijan’s political situation. We do not know how this transformation will affect the process of the Karabakh conflict settlement and also for this reason we are–in fact–interested in an urgent settlement to the problem,” Melkumyan said. At the same time–she said that Nagorno-Karabakh could not give up its national interests.

“Yes–our position–in fact–becomes more understandable. We are perceived–in fact–as a semi-recognized state,” Melkumyan said. She noted that during a conference on the Karabakh settlement recently held in the USA–a number of reports by US specialists had been dedicated to the legal basis of declaring the independence of Nagorno Karabakh and its right to self-determination. The idea of settling the conflict in two stages–reaching an intermediate sovereignty and then the independence of Nagorno Karabakh was also presented there.

“My meetings in Moscow also show that the people who are involved in the Karabakh issue in some way are today attempting to offer ways to solve the problem which will prevent the possible resumption of military confrontation. Certainly–recognition of independence is the best international guarantee for the non-resumption of fighting. But as we understand very well and take into account the fact that for a long period Azerbaijan will not be able to become so democratic that it will be able to recognize the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s independence–today we are ready to discuss and look for other variants which will be enough for Nagorno-Karabakh from the point of view of the non-resumption of fighting,” Melkumyan said.

Commenting on rumors disseminated recently among the Armenian public about the possibility of a territorial swap between Armenia and Azerbaijan (with Nagorno-Karabakh going to Armenia and Armenia’s Megri District (bordering on Iran) to Azerbaijan)–Melkumyan said “nobody is planning to swap anything. I think that this is an excellently performed political intrigue with a planned end.” Melkumyan believes that this is an internal political intrigue under way in Yerevan. She thinks that the variant of a territorial swap is not correct–not least because the Karabakh conflict is not a territorial dispute. “An attempt to turn the problem into a territorial dispute is an attempt to pervert the conflict’s essence. Moreover–it is obvious that it is inadmissible and impossible to swap one Armenian territory for another Armenian territory,” Melkumyan emphasized.

As far as Lachin is concerned (district occupied by Armenia linking Karabakh with Armenia)–Melkumyan said that this problem has already been solved. “This is a road connecting Karabakh with the external world. It is understandable that we must reach certain agreemen’s with Azerbaijan–however–it is necessary to emphasize that there are certain realities which cannot be rejected or ignored,” Melkumyan said.

Melkumyan said that Lachin is a lifeline which is already living its own life and where thousands of people are living today. She said that Lachin was Armenian land which was artificially cut from Karabakh by Soviet Azerbaijan. “Let us digress for a second and pay attention to the well-known decision of the Russian president to form seven federal districts. Personally–I understand this decision as an attempt to solve ethnic problems in Russia. In their time the borders of all ethnic and territorial formations in the USSR were drawn in an absolutely libertarian way and we got what we got. The world today rejects the borders.

We are now in this critical situation because the peoples were divided by state borders. One can understand what Lachin is just from this point of view,” Melkumyan said.

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