Liberated Territories Not up for Discussion

An interview with Lernik Hovhannisyan, the Representative of the ARF’s Youth Organization of Artsakh
From Hetq.am

Hetq: Mr. Hovhannisyan, recently, at the initiative of your organization, youth groups in Artsakh participated in “round table” discussion of the Karabakh issue. What resulted was a condemnation of those statemen’s that “call into question the justice and victory achieved by the blood of thousands of Armenia’s sons”. What was meant by this?

Lernik Hovhannisyan: The young people of Artsakh cannot remain indifferent to what is being said in the press and by certain political leaders on the issue. For us, those views, that call for the exchange of Armenian lands for other Armenian lands are unacceptable; for example Shahumyan for Aghdam. Especially when we are talking about returning the liberated territories.

These are historic Armenian lands as seen by the city of Tigranakert and the recent discovery of medieval Armenian stone crosses in the Aghdam region. There are other sources that confirm that the liberated territories are Armenian. For example, there are 17th century Persian sources that speak about the presence of the Armenian Meliks. As a result, we condemn all approaches that assume any change to the territories as set forth in the Constitution of the RMK (Republic of Mountainous Karabakh).

Thankfully, the government of Karabakh shares this opinion. We are certain, just as the Karabakh government is certain, that any attempt to settle the Artsakh conflict without the participation of Karabakh is doomed to failure. In other words, Artsakh must have an equal place at the negotiations table and the Karabakh Foreign Ministry is actively taking steps to achieve such an objective. Proof of this is the fact that the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairs, during their last visit, held closed meetings at the Karabakh National Assembly.

Hetq: Can we infer from your statement that the people of Artsakh will not accept any agreement that includes a return of various lands?

L.H.: As an ARF representative let me say that our party has made its position clear on many occasions. The Artsakh Central Committee, and the Supreme Council of Armenian and the ARF Bureau, have stated that there can be no discussion of the return of any lands. This view has also been expressed by the RMK authorities.

Hetq: But the Armenian side has always noted that the Artsakh conflict must be resolved via mutual concessions. If this is the case what concessions will we grant?

L.H.: We have already made concessions. First, we agreed to the 1994 ceasefire. Second, the Republic of Armenia has yet to recognize the independence of Artsakh. The liberated territories can never become the object of concessions. We have nothing to return. Furthermore, a portion of Karabakh, the regions of Getashen, Shahumyan and parts of Martuni and Martakert, remain occupied by Azerbaijan. The issue of their return must be put on the negotiations table as well.

It seems that on an official level we are not making such claims. All the while Azerbaijan comes forth with much stronger deman’s and our authorities counter this by stating that the conflict must be resolved through concessions on the two sides. In the context of what you stated, doesn’t it appear that the current negotiations that have been going on for years are redundant? Negotiations are always useful but they must continue without any reference to the return of any lands. All of us are aware that if such a thing happens the threat of warfare grows.

Hetq: What about the international security guarantees that are being discussed?

L.H.: In any event, the final guarantor of security is our army and this was proved back in March and just recently with the attempted Azeri military incursion. We can agree to the presence of any international force on Karabakh lands. Yes there will be such pressures brought to bear but we must resist them and build our statehood in unison.

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