STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL)—The political leaderships of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh have some differences on how to resolve the long-running conflict with Azerbaijan, a senior official in Stepanakert acknowledged on Wednesday.
“I find it natural that there are certain differences between the positions adopted by the Republic of Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR),” said Karen Mirzoyan, the NKR foreign minister.
“I can assure you that we have the same opinion on our aim. But naturally each side prefers a certain path to achieving that common aim,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Mirzoyan referred to the Karabakh Armenians’ and the Armenian government’s differing reactions to the latest statements by the U.S., Russian and French mediators reaffirming the key elements of the conflict’s resolution favored by them. Those call for Armenian withdrawal from Azerbaijani districts surrounding Karabakh which would be followed by a referendum on the Armenian-populated territory’s status.
Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian reiterated last week that this formula is largely acceptable to Armenia. In 2011, President Serzh Sarkisian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev came close to cutting a peace deal based on it.
The Karabakh Armenian leadership’s reaction to the mediators’ calls and, in particular, territorial concessions to Azerbaijan sought by them was less positive. Bako Sahakian, the NKR president, told the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group in Stepanakert last weekend that Karabakh’s “return to the past both in terms of status and borders is impossible.”
The mediators insisted on such a settlement in a joint statement issued on May 12. James Warlick, the chief U.S. negotiator, separately stated earlier this month that “the occupied territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh should be returned to Azerbaijani control.”
Mirzoyan dismissed suggestions that the Karabakh Armenians are facing growing pressure from the mediators. “I see no pressure on the Karabakh side,” he said. “We are only talking about developments in a normal negotiation process.”
“Obviously, both the parties and the co-chairs have to express their views, and I think that using the word pressure here is not appropriate,” added Mirzoyan.