Sarkisian Visits Stepanakert For School Opening

STEPANAKERT (Combined Sources)—Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian was in Stepanakert Sunday where he visited a newly built school in Stepanakert with Karabakh Republic President Bako Sahakian and the Executive Director of the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund, the President’s press office reported.

School N. 11, which was built through the efforts of Armenia Fund, has a capacity for 560 students, contains a library, gym, playground, military center, computer lab, and medical office.

Sarkisian also visited the Central Park of Stepankert which is in its final stage of renovations. The inauguration of the Central Park is to take place on September 1, a day before Nagorno-Karabakh celebrates the 18th anniversary of its declaration of Independence. The Armenian leader also visited the Stepanakert Creative Center for Youth, an arts and music establishment capable of serving more than 1,000 local youth.

While speaking with teachers at the new public school, Sarkisian was asked to comment on a recent resolution on Karabakh submitted to the United Nations General Assembly by Azerbaijan.

According to RFE/RL’s Armenia service, the document, drafted by Baku, seeks to “uphold” the right of Azerbaijanis “expelled” from Karabakh and Armenian-liberated territories surrounding it to return to their homes. It also urges the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to send a fact-finding mission to the conflict zone that would investigate the conflicting parties’ compliance with “international humanitarian law.”

Sarkisian downplayed the resolution and predicted that “several dozen” mostly Islamic nations will likely again side with Azerbaijan at the assembly, RFE/RL reported. “But I’m sure that all those countries that want the problem to be solved peacefully and through negotiations will vote against this resolution,” he was quoted as saying. “Or they will at least abstain, because they are well aware that the adoption of such resolutions cannot have any positive impact on the negotiating process.”

In March 2008, the UN General Assembly passed a similar resolution submitted by Baku. The document was supported by 39 countries, most of them affiliated with Organization of Islamic Conference, of which Azerbaijan is a member. The United States, Russia and France, the three nations spearheading the Karabakh peace process, voted against it and criticized Baku for its submission.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry last week warned that the pro-Azerbaijani measure would cause “serious damage” to international efforts to resolve the Karabakh conflict, adding that Yerevan continues to believe that the OSCE Minsk Group, co-chaired by the U.S, Russia and France, is the only international body that should get involved in the conflict’s resolution.

According to RFE/RL, Sarkisian seemed more dismissive of the resolution. He was quoted as saying that he is “surprised” by the concerns expressed by the Karabakh Armenians. “Its adoption or non-adoption cannot have a major impact on Armenia’s and Artsakh’s political and economic life or the security sphere,” he said, again insisting that Karabakh will never return under Azerbaijani rule.

The Armenian President also called the resolution a “serious blunder” by Baku and pledged to take retaliatory actions. “Clearly, there will also be steps on our part, and those steps will get us closer to our aim,” he said without elaborating.

According to RFE/RL, Armenia’s leading opposition groups, meanwhile, are far more alarmed by the Azerbaijani initiative. “Azerbaijan could get carried away with such resolutions and think that the international community agrees with its politics and try to act on its threats of military action,” Giro Manoyan, the foreign policy spokesman for the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, was quoted by RFE/RL’s Armenia service as saying.

“Azerbaijan may be trying to legitimize a war which it has been threatening to unleash,” Stepan Safarian, a leader of the Heritage Party was quoted by RFE/RL as saying. Like Manoyan, he contended that the new UN resolution will further complicate a Karabakh settlement.

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