Playing Partisan Politics with Artsakh Damages Armenian Interests

Harut Sassounian


Since every Armenian around the world passionately upholds the interests of Artsakh (Karabagh), many wonder why the Government of Armenia has not officially recognized its independence from Azerbaijan.

Armenia’s leaders are concerned that recognizing Artsakh’s independence prematurely would undermine the peace process with Azerbaijan and possibly subject Armenia to international pressure and sanctions. Moreover, Pres. Serzh Sargsyan has announced that Armenia would recognize Artsakh in case Azerbaijan resorts to war.

Opposition political figures assert that Artsakh’s recognition is long overdue and blame Armenian officials for not formally recognizing its independence. They also wonder how Armenians can expect other countries to recognize the Republic of Artsakh without Armenia taking the lead. Based on these arguments, opposition Heritage party members periodically bring up a resolution to the Armenian Parliament for the recognition of the Republic of Artsakh. Undoubtedly, such proposals are prompted out of a sincere conviction that Armenia has an obligation to recognize this liberated territory. However, there are those who are convinced that the opposition’s true intent is to embarrass the government’s majority by daring its members to cast a vote against Artsakh’s recognition.

Such resolutions create awkward situations not only for pro-government parliamentarians, but also other opposition members who are compelled to support the resolution in order not to give the false impression that they oppose Artsakh’s independence.

On Nov. 13, when Zaruhi Postanjian, leader of the Heritage Parliamentary block, proposed such a resolution, the final vote was 10 in favor and 0 against. The resolution was not adopted even though no one voted against it, as the overwhelming majority of the 131 parliamentarians decided to boycott the session rather than vote against Artsakh’s recognition.

Surprisingly, officials of Armenia, Artsakh and Azerbaijan have had a similar reaction to the resolution. Vahram Atanessian, Chairman of Artsakh’s Foreign Relations Committee, expressed his agreement with the position of Armenia’s parliamentary majority: “At this moment, recognition of the Artsakh Republic does not serve a useful purpose, as it would cause a number of significant problems.” Shavarsh Kocharyan, Deputy Foreign Minister of Armenia, concurred: “Recognizing Artsakh at this time would be contrary to Armenia’s interests, because it would make it the only country to do so, thus creating an unfavorable situation for Armenia at the present time.”

Elman Abdullayev, spokesman for Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry, agreed with Armenian officials: “The discussion of the bill on the recognition of Nagorno Karabagh as an independent state by the Armenian Parliament would negatively affect the peaceful settlement of the conflict and aims at undermining this process.” Azeri political scientist Fikrat Sadikhov reacted with harsher words: “Such recognition would be a blunt challenge to Azerbaijan, which, of course, would not remain unanswered. Yerevan is very well aware that such a move by Armenia would be crossing the red line, which still detains Azerbaijan from more forceful and radical steps in respect of the release of its lands.” Sadikhov further stated: “The Armenian leadership understands that by recognizing the independence of the separatist regime, it will radicalize and exacerbate the situation, and enrage international organizations and regional powers.”

Despite the potentially complicating consequences of Artsakh’s recognition, Armenians worldwide enthusiastically support the independence of the Republic of Artsakh. However, it would be preferable that such resolutions be brought to the parliament’s consideration only after securing the approval of all factions. Otherwise, when a handful of opposition parliamentarians place this issue on the agenda against the majority’s wishes, it appears that their whole purpose is partisan political gain, and sends the wrong signal to Azerbaijan and countries around the world that Armenia is against Artsakh’s independence.

Furthermore, the opponents of such resolutions are typically accused of siding with Azerbaijan on this critical issue, thereby undermining Armenian efforts to secure international recognition for the Republic of Artsakh.

A more preferable strategy for supporting Artsakh’s independence would be to strengthen the Republic of Armenia politically, economically, and militarily so that its leaders would not have to be too concerned about international condemnation and sanctions, whenever they decide it is the opportune time to recognize the Republic of Artsakh.

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  1. gaytzag palandjian said:

    Very well explained and satisfactory.It remains to be seen what the reaction will be from the third party-to which no reference is made-that of great Turkey.Latter, it appears is very much of the opinion that Armenia is thus kept at bay as rgds her or its huge Diaspora´s stance, being thus made aware that they (Diaspora)cannot push forward any further their quest for recognition of the Genocide perpetrated upon them by predecessor Govt.s of great Turkey.For it would meet similar resistance.Not so though. This , a sort of ¨advertencia¨spanish for short of serving notice—since she cannot openly attack the Armenian Diaspora, neither RA,for that would mean international conflict.
    Therefore what Harut´s post means boils down to, is that Armenians/Armenia should stay put and wait.
    This situation can best be described or compared to that of North Cyprus.
    None the less, Turkey is concerned and very much so, about the approach of the 100th Anniversary of the infamous Genocide and Armenians´ adamant decision to carry on to the end their quest for Justice and reparations.NK being the only button that they can press on now and then to divert attn.

  2. Armanen said:

    The last sentence is key! However, as the author alludes, the motivations of the opposition are petty and self serving, and it seems that Armenians are still too politically immature to realize the wisdom in pursuing a prudent foreign policy.

  3. Paul said:


  4. Sarkis said:

    I agree with Mr. Sassousian’s analysis, which is usually spot on. In this case I fear he is being a tad bit too lenient. There is no doubt that this was a selfish political ploy by the Heritage party, and is not surprising given the political immaturity of its leader zarhu postanjian. We Armenians need to better appreciate the rule of geopolitics and diplomacy: Armenia won in 1994 because of the dedication and sacrifice of our fighting men and women in the face of overwhelming odds; and because Russia explicitly used the threat of world war and nuclear destruction to keep turkey on its side of the Arax River. Official recognition of Artsakh’s independence is imprudent for the time being because Armenia can exploit a position of ambiguity in order to check azerbaijan’s allies around the world (turkey-nato, israel, pakistan, the organization of the islamic conference, etc.) and to keep pressure off of Armenia. Also, by withholding recognition Armenia in fact turns potential recognition of Artsakh into a sledgehammer over the heads of the azeris should they get any wild ideas about escalating the situation. Besides, President Sargsyan was in Artsakh a few days ago and greeted Artsakhi soldiers as “soldiers of the Armenian Armed Forces,” clearly for all intents and purposed Armenia recognizes Artsakh as a part of Armenia.

    As for zaruhi postanjian and her party, their actions are tantamount to treason because the executed a calculated political move which they knew had zero chance of passing given the unambiguous position of the ruling party. They knew or should have known that all this would do would be to encourage the barbaric azerbaijanis to tell their snipers to step up attacks against Armenian servicemen and civilians. I guess to Heritage playing political games is worth the minute political advantage it would create for them at the expense of the safety of Armenian servicemen. Given Heritage’s history this should not surprise any attentive Armenians.

    Armenians would do well to remember the excellent American political maxim “politics stops at the borders.”

    • Sarkis said:

      I wanted to write an addendum comment and express my gratitude to Haut Sassounian for being a exemplary source of journalism and leadership for our community. I have been following his weekly commentaries for the California Courier online for nearly a decade, I think his post important commentary was the one titled “Airing Armenia’s Dirty Laundry in Public” (it’s available on Asbarez). Harout Sassounian, Appo Jabbarian of US Armenian Life Magazine, and the blogger “Arevordi” who runs a blog on Armenian geopolitics are the most rational and sober-minded English-language sources for patriotic Armenian news analysis and commentaries of which I know.

  5. GeorgeMardig said:

    Armenia is in a hole where he can’t make any mistake, talk is cheap, unless Armenia gets Russia’s approval he can’t take any drastic action, we should remeber Russia’s declaration of protecting artsakh in case of Azerbaijan’s attack, that commitment should not be jeoperdised

    • bigmoustache said:

      please don’t be naïve, Russia isn’t going to commit its troops to fight against Azerbaijan. Russians cant defeat a muslim insurgency in their land, why would they attack a muslim nation with billions of petrodollars and arms that border russias troubled regions. if the international community still regards artsakh as part of Azerbaijan then Azerbaijan wouldn’t be illegally attacking Armenia.
      don’t get a false sense of security from Russia, they’ll just stand on the sidelines with America and make comments like “we regret… we urge the parties to…”

  6. Harutik said:

    Bravo Harout. You are always a voice of reason, objectivity and pan-nationalism.

  7. Haygazian Nevart said:

    The only way Karabakh can be secure is by having the atomic bomb, Artzakh is not subject of any convention has not been recognized by any state so who can say a word about what they decide to do now or never, Artzakh should have the nuclear weapons.

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