Karabagh Leader Urges Armenian Pullout from Peace Talks

YEREVAN (RFE/RL/Armenpress)–Mountainous Karabagh Republic (MKR) President Arkady Ghukasian has called on Armenia to refrain from further negotiations with Azerbaijan unless they involve representatives of his government.

Ghukasian said that Azerbaijan’s refusal to directly negotiate with the leadership of Karabagh is the main obstacle to a resolution of the dispute. He said that Baku is dealing with Yerevan only for "propaganda" purposes–to accuse Armenia of being an aggressor.

"I will see an indication that Azerbaijan is looking for a solution to the problem only if Azerbaijan starts talking to Karabagh," he said. "There is only one way Karabagh can enter the negotiating process: Armenia’s refusal to negotiate with Azerbaijan. There is no other way out of this situation."

"They have to make a choice," Ghukasian added–referring to Armenia’s leadership. "Either to continue negotiations in the hope of finding a formula more or less acceptable to all sides–or to refuse to talk to Azerbaijan until the latter understands that it is impossible to resolve the conflict without Karabagh."

Representatives of MKR regularly held face-to-face negotiations with Azeri officials in the presence of international mediators until the late 1990s. Although the American–French–and Russian co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group continue to visit Stepanakert on their periodical tours of the conflict zone–MKR has since been largely excluded from the peace process.

Officials in Yerevan insist that the authorities in Stepanakert will eventually be brought into the picture. Some of them have also argued that the format of negotiations is less important than the content of peace proposals made by the mediators in recent years.

"We have been assured that Azerbaijan may give up more by negotiating with Armenia only," Ghukasian said. "But we see that that is not the case. Azerbaijan’s rhetoric doesn’t change regardless of whether it talks to Armenia only or Armenia and Karabagh."

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