Karabakh Marks 17th Anniversary of Independence

STEPANAKERT (Armenpress)–The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic marked the 17th anniversary of its independence from Azerbaijan on Tuesday with celebrations throughout the republic that began with an official service at the Stepanakert memorial complex in honor of the freedom fighters who died defending the republic against Azerbaijani aggression in the early 1990s.

The memorial service was presided over by Karabakh President Bako Sahakian. An official delegation from Armenia, headed by Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan, was also in Karabakh for the celebrations. During his visit, Sargsyan met with his Karabakh counterpart Ara Harutyunian for discussions on bilateral relations.

According to the Karabakh President’s press office, Sahakian also held a meeting with Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian, who was in Karabakh for the Independence Day celebrations.

Sahakian and Ohanian discussed bilateral relations during the meeting, which was also attended by Karabakh Defense Minister Movses Hakobian.

The Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh, a historic Armenian enclave forced into Azerbaijan in the early 1920s, first declared its independence on September 2, 1991. The move came after Azerbaijan began ethnically cleansed its Christian Armenian minority in a series of pogroms and massacres that began in 1988.

On December 10, 1991 in a referendum in Nagorno-Karabakh approved the creation of an independent state. Karabakh’s democracy movement, legal by the statutes of the Soviet Constitution, however, triggered a brutal military attack on the enclave by Azerbaijan, sparking a conflict that ended with a Russian brokered ceasefire in 1994 and de facto independence for Karabakh.

Although the tense status quo in Karabakh has by and large held, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has been threatening “reclaim” Karabakh with an all out war. Windfall profits from the western backed Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline have allowed Azerbaijan to raise its defense spending from $175 million in 2004 to $2 billion in 2008.

Below is Karabakh President Bako Sahakian’s address to the nation on the occasion of the 17th anniversary of Karabakh’s independence.

"Dear compatriots,

On September the 2nd we celebrate the day of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic, a holiday which has a special significance for our nation. On this very day a new chapter in the history of Artsakh was opened. It became the commencement of restoration of independent Armenian statehood.

17 years ago the people of Artsakh set about to realize their century-long dream of building a free and independent, democratic and social state. We have been able to overcome this extremely difficult path due to an unbreakable will, unity and cohesion. Artsakh has become the symbol of rebirth for the triumphant spirit of the Armenian people.

In recent years, we have succeeded in reconstructing the economy, ruined by war, and also in laying a solid foundation for further development of the state. By deepening and strengthening Artsakh-Armenia-Diaspora relations and combining the efforts and potential of Armenia’s around the world, we have begun to find effective solutions for the various problems our republic faces. We are improving the living standards of our population and developing an infrastructure.

Today we can proudly speak about a strong and efficient army, a harmoniously developing country that meets international norms and standards and is considered to be one of the key factors of stability in the region.

We should always remember what price has been paid for the present free and peaceful life, what losses and hardship our nation did suffere on its way to independence. The best sons of the nation gave their lives to the defense of the Motherland. Everlasting glory and honor to them!

We are obliged to fulfill the cherished dream of our martyrs and gain international recognition of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic and leave for the generations to come strong and independent, peaceful and prosperous Motherland. Be confident, it is a matter of time.

The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic authorities are committed to the idea that conflicts should be settled exclusively by peaceful means, through a direct and frank dialogue. Everybody should realize once and forever that the independence of Artsakh has no alternative and is not subject to speculations.

Dear people of Artsakh, I cordially congratulate all of us on this symbolic holiday and wish good health, happiness and further success to the glory of the bright and serene future of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic.

Below are excerpts from Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian’s address on the occasion of Karabakh’s 17th anniversary of independence.

Dear compatriots,

I congratulate you on this day of independence. The past 17 years have proven that the choice of Artsakh’s people in the created situation was the only right way. That choice is historic for us. Today is a holiday for all of us: for those who became immortal by their bravery and heroism for the sake of a liberated and dignified homeland.

Dear people of Artsakh, you took with dignity both the trial of war and peace and today you are devoted to the construction of your free country and its defense. You are devoted to reform your state, public and economic activity, to improve your life. I am sure that with the support of Armenia and all Armenia’s you will solve your current issues and confront the future challenges.

I once again congratulate you on this bright holiday and wish you peaceful sky and firm progress.”

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