Azerbaijan Has Lost Karabakh Forever, Says Sarkisian

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Azerbaijan must accept that the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is an independent republic that will never be returned to Azeri control, Armenia’s president said on Wednesday.
"Azerbaijan must understand the simple reality that the existence of the republic of Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence is irreversible," Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan, who was sworn in this month, said in commen’s supplied by his press service.
"It is impossible to even imagine that the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh could be subordinate in any way to Azerbaijan," said Sarksyan, who is a native of the region.
"The people of Nagorno-Karabakh have won their right to a free and independent life. And through our efforts, that right must be recognised by the international community."
Despite the fact that Nagorno-Karabakh is de-facto an independent state with a democratically elected President and Parliament, it has not yet gained recognition by any state. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan has been stepping up its diplomatic efforts by trying to remove the Karabakh Conflict from international mediation by the OSCE Minsk Group, which has been working for a settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan since 1997.
Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov on Thursday called on GUAM, a regional organization consisting of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova, to mobilize their forces to solve the conflicts in their territories. Azimov’s statemen’s came during a conference held in Baku on Thursday entitled: "The Basic Principles of Settlement of the Conflicts in GUAM Countries."
Azimov also said during the conference that official Baku would like to see other members of the OSCE Minsk Group, such as Turkey, become more involved in the negotiation process. But Turkey, which is a political and military ally of Azerbaijan, maintains a total blockade of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh and conditions its lifting of the embargo on Armenia’s renunciation of support for Karabakh’s independence.
Since 1997, the peace talks over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict have been conducted by the American, French and Russian co-chairmen of the Minsk Group.
In a bid to remove the conflict settlement process from international mediation, Azerbaijan on March 14 introduced a resolution in the UN General Assembly reaffirming the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, and calling for withdrawal of Armenian forces from "occupied territories." The resolution
was adopted with 39 votes. America, Russia and France, the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group voted against the resolution, citing its one-sided and unconstructive nature. Most Council of Europe countries also abstained from the vote.
Two days earlier, official Baku applied to the OSCE’ secretariat for information on replacing or dissolving the Minsk Group co-chairs.
At the end of last year, the Minsk Group tried to persuade the two sides to accept a statement of basic principles, as a first step towards breaking the deadlock over Nagorno Karabakh’s future–but no agreement was reached.
With Nagorno-Karabakh a major election issue this year in Azerbaijan, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, who will be running for re-election in October, has been toughening his already bellicose position on the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, threatening to re-ignite war and take back the Armenian territory by force.
Azerbaijan has grown stronger and richer following the 2006 completion of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline, which Western companies developed to feed oil to Europe. The tremendous new wealth generated by the BTC Pipeline, which circumvents Armenia, has helped the country increase its defense spending from $175 million in 2004 to more than $2 billion this year.
The International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank, said in a report last year the fragile truce could be under threat, in part because Azerbaijan is using cash from energy exports to beef up its military.
Armenia, however, has repeatedly voiced its support for a compromise solution through peaceful negotiations in the Minsk Group format.
But with Azerbaijan threatening war and making diplomatic steps to remove the conflict from the watchful eye of international mediators, Armenian authorities are increasingly saying they will recognize the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and sign military agreemen’s with it if Azerbaijan continues to try and remove the conflict from the Minsk Group format.
On March 4, Azeri Armed Forces violated the Nagorno-Karabakh Ceasefire line and opened fire on Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Army positions northeast of the Martakert Region, temporarily capturing a Karabakh defense position.
The attack, which was followed by protracted skirmishes throughout the month, was considered by Armenian officials and international mediators as unprecedented in its scale.

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