Armenia Must Respond Cautiously to Abkhazia, South Ossetia Independence, Says Rustamian

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Armenia’should not hastily react to Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia with its own recognition of the break away republics’ independence, ARF Supreme Council of Armenia Representative Armen Rustamian said during a press conference on Monday.

"In these conditions, the ARF believes that the Republic of Armenia’should not act hastily as it did in the case of Kosovo,” Rustamian stated. “Armenia has not even recognized the independence of Karabakh, because it doesn’t consider that the international community’s ability to resolve the issue peacefully has been exhausted.”

According to Rustamian, who also chairs the Armenian National Assembly’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, the possibilities to peacefully resolve the Russia-Georgia conflict have similarly not been exhausted.

Rustamian’s commen’s came in response to a reporter’s question regarding Armenia’s position on Russia’s recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev signed on Tuesday two decrees granting formal recognition to the Georgian breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia after both houses of the Russian Parliament on Monday unanimously voted to back their independence.

The move is a response to the West’s approval of Kosovo’s independence earlier in 2008 and effectively shatters Georgia’s territorial integrity, escalating tension in the volatile Caucasus and putting Moscow on a collision course with the West.

Russia’s military defeat of Georgia has made the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict more complicated, according to Rustamian.

“The Republic of Armenia cannot discuss the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia outside the context of the Karabakh issue," he said.

"It is a complicated situation for us,” he said. “We respect the right to self-determination; we have and will continue to defend the right of the people of Karabakh to determine their own destiny.

“The independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia has been recognized by the Russian Federation, one of the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group and our strategic partner, while the other two co-chairs [The United States and France] have recognized the independence of Kosovo,” Rustamian said.

But the issue ultimately concerns Georgia, with whom normal relations are of vital interest for Armenia, he noted.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday echoed Rustamian’s sentimen’s regarding Armenia’s position in the Russian Georgian conflict. According to Foreign Ministry Spokesman Tigran Balayan, Armenia has and will continue to support a peaceful resolution to the conflicts in the South Caucasus. Such conflicts “should be solved through the free expression of will,” he said during a press conference.

Meanwhle, the conflict in Georgia has also put Azerbaijan in a predicament. With its export routes to the West having been blocked by the Russian presence in Georgia, Baku has been carefully considering its options.

“Initially, Baku was excited by the conflict in Georgia’s South Ossetia region because it provided a possible blueprint for dealing with Azerbaijan’s own restive separatist enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh–and for potentially imposing a new military reality on Baku’s regional rival, Armenia,” according to Stratfor, a leading online publisher of geopolitical intelligence.

Following the Georgian military’s Aug. 8 invasion of South Ossetia, Azerbaijan’s leadership convened an emergency meeting at which they reportedly gave serious consideration to invading Nagorno-Karabakh, contingent on the eventual success of the Georgian operation, Stratfor reported, citing anonymous sources in Azerbaijan’s government.

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