A day filled with celebrations and solemn commemorations marking the 31st anniversary of Artsakh’s Declaration of Independence culminated in a march and gathering in Stepanakert, attended by Artsakh President Arayik Haruyunyan and almost all of Artsakh’s high-ranking officials.
Noticeably absent, for a second year, were any representatives from Armenia’s government. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Armenia’s Foreign Ministry and other officials simply issued statements with an identical message of not preserving Artsakh’s independence, but rather guaranteeing the security of Artsakh’s population through the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs.
Calling Artsakh’s Declaration of Independence “a logical consequence of the policy of ethnic cleansing against Armenians by the Azerbaijani SSR,” Armenia’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Azerbaijan continues such a policy today.
“In contrast to the constant statements by the authorities of Azerbaijan that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the Nagorno-Karabakh territorial unit no longer exist, it is a fact that around 120,000 Armenians continue to live in Nagorno-Karabakh, and as a member of the international community, they have equal and inalienable rights, and the conflict cannot be considered as resolved until the core needs of the Armenians of Artsakh are not addressed,” said Armenia’s foreign ministry.
“Ensuring the security and rights of the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh as well as a comprehensive and lasting resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by using the experience and potential of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmanship, continue to be a milestone for achieving stability and peace in the South Caucasus,” added the official Yerevan.
“The Republic of Armenia continues to be committed to providing all the necessary conditions for the secure life of the people of Artsakh in their homeland,” Armenia’s foreign ministry said.
Earlier in the day President Harutyunyan was joined by his predecessor, Bako Sahakian, and other officials at the Stepanakert Memorial and Military Pantheon to pay tribute to the memory of the fallen troops.
Harutyunyan and Sahakian laid flowers and wreaths at the graves of the men and women who sacrificed their lives for Artsakh’s independence and freedom.
The Primate of the Artsakh Diocese Bishop Vrtanes Abrahamyan, Artsakh government officials, Defense Army leadership and guests from Armenia participated in the official ceremony, the Artsakh presidential office said in a statement.
“The 44-Day War of 2020 became a new disaster for the Armenian people, claiming the lives of thousands of our brave sons, destroying many destinies. We are grateful to all martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the independence of the Fatherland and the dignified existence of the Armenian people, we bow before their bright memory and before their proud relatives,” the Artsakh president said in an address to the nation.
President Harutyunyan also thanked Armenians in Armenia and Diaspora for their support, as well as the Russian Federation for their mission in Artsakh, and all countries, political officials who have supported Artsakh by remaining committed to justice and universal values of democracy and humanitarianism.
“After 31 years, the people of Artsakh are again decisively and resolutely announcing that despite all trials of time, they are committed to their adopted decision, to their path, which is irreversible and unshakable. Artsakh must always stand, must always be Armenian, and must always continue its course on the path to independence,” the Artsakh president said.
Artsakh’s Foreign Minister David Babayan said that Artsakh’s declaration of independence was the most ambitious geopolitical step 31 years ago.
“Today, we should evaluate this day much more because now is a crucial moment for Artsakh. Now Artsakh is facing existential challenges. We should do everything for Artsakh to be saved because the future of Armenian statehood and Armenian people depends on the salvation of Artsakh,” Babayan told Armenpress.
“Yes, the situation is complex, but in addition to serious challenges there are also opportunities. The current geopolitical developments show that there are power centers that are interested in the existence of Artsakh. Nevertheless, the existence of Artsakh depends mostly on us, we must take respective steps,” Babayan added.
“We should jointly do everything so that the course and history of Artsakh continue,” he stated, expressing confidence that after the third heavy Artsakh war, the meaning of the September 2 holiday has become more important.
“The Republic of Artsakh is the son of all Armenians. Therefore, we should take joint steps to overcome the current situation and resist the existing challenges. Artsakh, Armenia and the Diaspora must work jointly, we must be able to save what we have,” Babayan added.
Babayan will be in Los Angeles to headline the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region’s Grassroots Conference, and a day late be honored by the organization with its “Freedom Awards” at its banquet.