Thousands Attend ARF Rally Marking Anniversary of Karabakh Independence

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Thousands gathered at the Madentaran museum of ancient man’scripts Tuesday for a rally, organized by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, to mark the 17th anniversary of establishment of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and independence from Azerbaijan.

All speakers highlighted the importance of the right to self-determination of the people of Karabakh, commenting that recent events in the South Caucasus had set the stage for the further development of the peace process.

The speakers also called for Azerbaijan to sign a legal document pledging that it would not resort to military force in the resolution of the conflict. The motto for the rally was the international recognition of Karabakh as a guarantee for national security.

ARF Supreme Council of Armenia chairman and the chairman of the parliamentary commission of foreign relations Armen Rustamian said there was no alternative to a peaceful resolution "as recent conflicts in the region have proven."

"There is no alternative because use of force is doomed to failure and causes large-scale humanitarian crisis," explained Rustamian, adding that peace in the region was contingent on the parity of forces in the region. This balance of power, he suggested, could also foreshadow a new structure for Georgia, within which the Armenian-populated region of Javakhk will have its proper place.

Also addressing the issue of Javakhk and its Armenian residents was ARF Bureau member Vahan Hovannesian who spent much of his speech making a case for Georgia’s transformation into a "confederation" where the Javakh would have a high degree of autonomy. "In this case, the rights of Javakhk [Armenia’s] would be protected," he said.

Hovannesian claimed that giving Javakhk the status of an autonomous region would discourage other ethnic minorities from seeking to secede from Georgia. It was an apparent reference to the populations of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

ARF Supreme Council member and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Hrair Karapetian discusses the upcoming Turkey-Armenian soccer match and reports from Turkey that President Abdullah Gul has accepted his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian’s invitation to attend the match, scheduled for Saturday in Yerevan.

Karapetian reaffirmed plans to organize street protests against Gul’s likely arrival in Yerevan. He said the protests will start at Zvartnots international airport where the Turkish president is expected to arrive on Saturday morning.

"We will properly greet Abdullah Gul," Karapetian told the demonstrators, many of them school students and other young people bused from outside Yerevan.

"We are preparing to hold a serious, solid and disciplined demonstration in order to show the mood of our people," ARF Bureau chairman Hrant Markarian, told RFE/RL. "After all, a counter-propaganda is underway and we must react to it correctly."

"When the Turkish president visits France, French Armenia’s demonstrate. When he visits Greece, Greek Armenia’s demonstrate. So if it would be shameful if we did not make our voice heard in our own country," he said.

Markarian was careful not to openly criticize Sarkisian for the invitation extended to Gul, citing the need for Armenia to maintain inter-state relations with Turkey. "But the existence of those relations cannot cause us to abandon our causes," he added.

The ARF believes that the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations is contingent on Ankara recognizing the 1915 genocide of Armenia’s in the Ottoman Empire.

At the conclusion of the rally, the participants unanimously approved an announcement the translation of which is presented below:

DECLARATION

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Artsakh movement and on the 17th anniversary of the establishment of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, we, the participants of the public rally organized by the ARF and held in Yerevan on September 2, 2008 declare:

The recent war and developmen’s in the South Caucasus have created a new situation in our region;

It is evident that if from now on the international community is not able to prevent the use of force, then the resulting unexpected developmen’s could have tragic consequences. What happened also demonstrated that how dangerous it is to apply double standards.

The OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries by recognizing–together or separately–the independence of Kosovo, Abkhazia and South Ossetia have underscored the prevalence of the principle of peoples’ right to self-determination in international law;

There is no alternative to the international community’s respect for the right of the people of Artsakh to self-determination and freedom. The people of Artsakh have repeatedly expressed their will to live independently from Azerbaijan. The people of Artsakh have exercised their right to self-determination based on the principles of international law and the Constitution of the Soviet Union. Nagorno-Karabakh has never been part of an independent Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani domination over Nagorno-Karabakh ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In the Karabakh-Azerbaijan war, Azerbaijan was the aggressor. Artsakh defended its right to live securely and was successful; Azerbaijan is responsible for launching the war and for its consequences;

For seventeen years, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic has been in existence as a democratic state, with its relevant state structures and local self-government bodies;

Azerbaijani ambitions to re-conquer Artsakh by force are doomed to fail and will lead the region to more conflicts;

Having de facto recognized the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and having signed with it economic and other cooperation agreemen’s, Armenia has refrained from de jure recognition of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, solely because of its position to remain true to the spirit of resolving the conflict peacefully through negotiations;

The Escalation of EU-Russia-US relations to a confrontational level cannot be beneficial for the region; it is imperative to find ways to resolve all outstanding problems through dialogue. Armenia can and should contribute to these efforts.

Furthermore, we declare that:

1. The negotiations to resolve the Karabakh conflict can bear results and promote peace only when Azerbaijan signs a legal document with the Republics of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh not to use force or the threat of force;

2. The Republic of Armenia’should sign a treaty with the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic to act as the guarantor of the independence and security of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic;

3. The authorities of the Republic of Armenia’should be prepared for the official recognition of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic if Azerbaijan continues to consider the military option as an acceptable means to resolve the conflict, or if through its actions endangers the negotiation process.

We declare:

a. Armenia and Artsakh shall not relinquish their security guarantees;

b. Regarding the security of Armenia and Artsakh, the Armenian people are unified and united; no internal political issue should threaten the existence and security of our statehood;

c. The best guarantee to consolidate the Armenia’s and to be defended from external dangers is the imperative for internal reforms, the advancement of democracy and the establishment of justice.

Participants of the Rally of September 2, 2008
Yerevan, Armenia

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