Rybkin Advocates for Karabakh Self Determination

YEREVAN (Armenpress/Noyan Tapan)–"The national consciousness is undergoing serious changes and any serious politician both in the country and out of it must take that into account," said Acting Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Ivan Rybkin who was in attendance at Kocharian’s inauguration.

"The people of Nagorno-Karabakh must find its self-determination–and everybody should pay due regard to that choice," Rybkin said. According to him–Kocharian begins peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict from an already set basis. "Significant steps were taken by the OSCE Minsk Group and that certainly may serve as a starting point."

"Within six years of its independence–Armenia has chosen its second president in a democratic way–which was acknowledged by the world community–and all international observers who attended the polls. That is a very pleasant thing for us," Rybkin concluded.

"After Robert Kocharian’s election to the post of Armenian president–Nagorno-Karabakh will continue its independent policy. I am sure that Karabakh and Armenia will have more precise relations–and the latter will defend Karabakh’s position at international junctures," said Nagorno-Karabakh President Arkady Ghoukassian following Kocharian’s inauguration ceremony. "I feel proud of Kocharian’s election. I am realistic and I think that we have the potential to achieve our political as well as economic goals," he said.

Ghoukassian stated that the international community’s attitude toward Karabakh will not change immediately and "we need to persuade them that we are right and that we are fair." Karabakh will negotiate with Azerbaijan–only if there are no pre-conditions he said. "If the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmanship creates such an opportunity for the conflicting parties–I believe there will be such issues," said the Karabakh President. Even though Ghoukassian maintained that their position will be difficult to alter–he considered significant the group’s upcoming visit to Karabakh.

According to Acting Foreign Minister of Armenia Vardan Oskanian–certain corrections may be made in Armenia’s foreign policy during Robert Kocharian’s presidency. Oskanian said changes are not expected in relations with principal neighbors Russia–Georgia and Iran–however "a possible change of issues over Karabakh may impact the Armenia-Turkey relationship."

Oskanian said that Armenia will show certain firmness in the resolution process of the Karabakh conflict. He cited as cornerstones in the negotiating process "international recognition of Karabakh’s right to self-determination–guarantee of its security and a permanent geographical connection with Armenia." Oskanian hoped that these issues would be considered by the OSCE Minsk Group visitors at the end of April.

"Peace will be maintained in Karabakh–and I state that no war operations will ever be resumed if we are guided by the today’s realities," said Karabakh Defense Minister Samvel Babayan. Assessing his relationship with President Kocharian as "normal" and "practical," Babayan stressed that he has never had problems or misunderstandings with the former Karabakh president.

Regarding the OSCE-sponsored negotiations over the status of Nagorno-Karabakh–Babayan pointed out the effectiveness of direct talks between the high authorities of Baku and Stepanakert.

"We hope that in the years of Robert Kocharian’s presidency Armenia will adopt a more precise position on Karabakh," he said.

He also noted that "we expect two steps on the part of Armenia: to ensure that negotiations of the Karabakh settlement are conducted mainly with Karabakh and to ensure the freedom of Karabakh Armenia’s. " Babayan voiced confidence that the newly elected president of Armenia will do serious work in that direction.


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