Karabakh Has Same Rights as Azerbaijan, Says ARF Leader

YEREVAN (Yerkir)–Expressing that Karabakh has the same rights as Azerbaijan, the ccchairman of Parliamentary Standing Commission on Foreign Relations Armen Rustamian told a news conference Thursday that security guarantees currently in place must be strengthened following the resolution of the Karabakh conflict. "We have already met with Robert Kocharian after his return from Minsk. He wasn’t a bit upset. He was very active and full of enthusiasm," said Rustamian, who is member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation parliamentary bloc. Rustamian explained that the official Azeri position of alleging that Armenia’s have seized 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s territory can be easily countered by Nagorno-Karabakh, since in actuality Azerbaijan has seized 20 percent of Karabakh by occupying Shahumian and portions of Martakert. This means, he explained, that Karabakh has the same rights as Azerbaijan, reiterating his party’s position that Karabakh must be included in the conflict resolution process. "Unless Karabakh is involved in the negotiation procedure, it is no use speaking about its efficiency. There are certain issues–the status of Karabakh, the return of refugees and territories–that cannot be solved without Karabakh’s direct participation," explained Rustamian. "There are no international precedents, whereby an interested party to the conflict does not take part in the talks. As for statemen’s that Karabakh participated in the talks before 1998, I should remind that at that time Karabakh President and Shushi Administration Head Nizami Bakhmanov took part in the talks, but his participation cannot be deemed on the same level as the current leadership becoming an official party to the conflict," stressed Rustamian, who expressed hope that the OSCE Minsk Group would encourage direct dialogue between official Stepanakert and Baku. Rustamian explained that the ARF’s position on the Karabakh issue had not changed and was guided by basic principle of a people’s right to self-determination without limitations. "Armenia’s goal is to do everything possible for Azerbaijan and the international community to recognize that right. We need to focus all our energy on international organizations and communities, as we do in the pursuit of the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide," he remarked.

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