In Protest, Sarkisian Snubs NATO Summit
YEREVAN (Combined Sources)—Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian announced late on Friday that he will not attend the upcoming NATO summit in Lisbon because of the alliance’s plans to uphold Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL’s Armenian service reported.
Sarkisian’s spokesman Armen Arzumanian said a draft resolution due to be adopted at the weekend summit calls for solutions to the ethnic disputes in the South Caucasus reflecting only the principle of territorial integrity.
In a written statement, Arzumanian warned that this “unacceptable” wording would complicate the Karabakh peace process “especially against the backdrop of the recent unprecedented rise in Azerbaijan’s military spending and its leaders’ Armenophobic rhetoric.”
“Given this concern, the president of the Republic of Armenia has decided not to depart to Lisbon,” he said, adding that Armenia will be represented at the summit by its defense and foreign ministers.
“We attach special importance to the content of documents dealing with vital issues for Armenia and the wording of those documents, which should be targeted at the reinforcement of security in the region,” Arzumanian was quoted by Armenian Public Radio as saying. He was referring to the draft’s reference to the principle of territorial integrity and its omission of self determination.
NATO did not immediately react to the dramatic move. Its draft resolution strongly opposed by Yerevan has not been officially publicized yet.
The United States and another key NATO member, France, advocate a Karabakh settlement based on territorial integrity and two other internationally recognized principles: peoples’ right to self-determination and non-use of force. A combination of these principles is at the heart of a framework peace accord put forward by the U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group.
Earlier this year, the mediators urged the conflicting parties to refrain from a selective interpretation of elements of the proposed settlement.
Sarkisian was invited to the NATO summit along with the presidents of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia and other partner states. Speaking in Yerevan in September, NATO’s special representative to the South Caucasus, Robert Simmons, portrayed that invitation as a further sign of Armenia’s growing ties with the Western alliance. Simmons singled out the Armenian participation in the NATO-led multinational force in Afghanistan.
Arzumanian was careful not to present the situation as a crisis in Armenia-NATO relations. According to Armenian Public Radio, he emphasized that Yerevan remains a partner country of NATO and continues to attach “importance to its cooperation” with the alliance and its “contribution to the “implementation of reforms in the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia.”
In Arzumanian’s words, Yerevan remains committed to stepping up cooperation with NATO and considers that one of the “components” of its national security strategy. “We highly appreciate NATO’s contribution to the process of reforming the Armenian armed forces,” said the presidential press secretary.
He pointed to Armenia’s participation in peacekeeping efforts in Kosovo and Afghanistan as “the best proof of [its] productive cooperation with NATO.”
But, he added, Armenia can not accept “generalized formulations” relating to different regional conflicts.