The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is the most stable among the unrecognized countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, according to the republic’s president Bako Sahakian who, in an interview with Russian RBK Daily Newspaper reporter Victor Yadukh, discussed the ongoing negotiations for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and reiterated his country’s insistence for direct talks with Azerbaijan.
Below is the translated text of the interview:
Victor Yadukh: Are Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh ready to discuss the issue of certain liberated territories, which are outside the former Soviet administrative borders of Nagorno-Karabakh?
Bako Sahakian: Armenia is an independent country. It negotiates with Azerbaijan based on its independence and interests. However, the independent Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh is one of the main actors in this conflict.
Karabakh and Armenia are integrated. We have a common economic sphere, and a common currency but that does not affect our independence. We respect the opinion of our people who declared independence in 1991 and adopted a constitution last year. We also honor the attributes of our government. Before expressing our positions on this or that issue, we must be allowed to participate in the talks.
V.Y.: Are you for three-party talks or for two separate talks between Karabakh and Azerbaijan and Armenia and Azerbaijan?
B.S.: Our focus is not on the number of participants in the talks. But as long as Azerbaijan does not negotiate with us, all the other formats will be ineffective.
V.Y.: What is your attitude toward Azerbaijan’s military preparations and their statemen’s of the inevitability of a new war?
B.S.: Azerbaijan’s ongoing militarization and their war rhetoric have no psychological influence on us. The use of force will result in a situation where both sides suffer countless losses.Meanwhile the conflict will still not be resolved.
First of all, the balance of forces in the region is effective. Second, the armed forces of our country are able to counter the aggression of Azerbaijan. In case of renewed aggression, the Karabakh military will have no choice but to enlarge the area of the security zone in order to guarantee peace for our people. The military will push deep into Azeri territory in case this happens.
Statemen’s were made by Official Yerevan on the possibility of a territorial compromise.
But with the current behavior of Azerbaijan, the notion of a compromise becomes impossible. We are convinced of one thing–the issue cannot be solved unilaterally. The question, however, is whether Azerbaijan honors the right of Nagorno-Karabakh for self-determination. For the time being, Azerbaijan regularly makes threats against our country. They threaten to destroy us; to annihilate Karabakh and the people of Karabakh. In such conditions, the notion of a compromise itself is unacceptable.
V.Y.: Azerbaijan has signaled that it would consider the possibility of allowing Karabakh and Armenia to use the Lachin corridor (Kashatagh Region), on the condition that it will be an indivisible part of Azerbaijan. What is your attitude to such proposals?
B.S.: Azerbaijan has not offered such requests or proposals to the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. I would like to note that without the strategic Kashatagh region, it would be impossible to guarantee the security and development of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic as an independent state.
V.Y.: Do you think the return of Azerbaijani refugees to Nagorno-Karabakh is possible?
B.S.: The government of our country does not rule out the return of the Azerbaijani refugees to Karabakh. However, we are convinced that it is impossible to consider this until the political issue is resolved. Rash actions may lead to other tragic consequences. It is also necessary to coordinate the issue of Azerbaijani refugees with the issue of Armenian refugees. Today, however, it is viewed unilaterally. Naturally, this does not satisfy us.
V.Y.: In Azerbaijan, they say that 30 percent of the 25,000 people settled in Lachin and Kelbadjar by the Karabakh Government have allegedly left those regions. What is happening there in reality? What is Karabakh’s demographic policy in the liberated territories?
B.S.: The majority of the population of these regions is refugees from the region of Shahumyan in northern Karabakh, as well as different parts of former Soviet Azerbaijan. They lost everything and settled down here, and have returned to normal life. Refugees and internally displaced persons are one of the most vulnerable layers of society, and the attitude toward them is special, independent from where they live.
V.Y.: Is the Kosovo model for the recognition of independence acceptable for you?
B.S.: From the legal point of view, the international recognition of Kosovo is a precedent. We do not link directly the recognition of independence of Kosovo and the recognition of independence of Karabakh. However, if the recognition of Kosovo may help the recognition of Karabakh, we will certainly welcome it.
V.Y.: When looking at Karabakh, it is clear that the country is a social state, which is not typical of the post-Soviet space. The government affords benefits to mothers and newlyweds, provides subsidies for mortgage loans, and makes available considerable aid for education and healthcare. How does the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s government manage to make such expenditures in such a complicated political and economic situation?
B.S.: Article 1.1 of our Constitution notes that Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is a sovereign, democratic, legal and social state. And one of the best indices of a social state is a socially secure citizenry. So we are implementing what the basic law of our country requires.
V.Y.: What is your attitude to the market where Karabakh’s economy and its main partners are developing?
B.S.: Quite normal. History shows that market economies and social states are interdependent. The existence and continuous development of the social sphere has a positive affect on the rate of growth of the economy. The more socially secure people are, the more optimistic about the future they are.
V.Y.: The people of Karabakh often speak about their mental and psychological differences from most compatriots in Armenia. According to you, Karabakh owes to the "genetic component of people" for stability and security. What do you mean?
Our people are normally law-abiding, hard working and optimistic. These qualities have considerable influence on the stability and security of our state.
B.S.: What is your expectation from Russia? Are you satisfied with the role, which it has in the OSCE Minsk Group?
Russia has a great contribution to make, in this fragile world, especially in the first stage where an actually agreement will be signed. Naturally, we want Russia to have a great influence on the settlement of our conflict and other similar conflicts. Because Russia also bears historical responsibility for what is happening in the region. However, it is also a global problem, and countries such as the United States, France, and England are also responsible for what is happening in the South Caucasus. In addition, they naturally pursue their own interests here, which I think is also normal.
V.Y.: In your opinion, are the degrees of responsibility of Russia, the United States and France for the fate of the region comparable?
B.S.: Today they can be comparable but the degree of historical responsibility of Russia is more than that of the United States of America. Because when we had relations with Russia, the United States did not exist yet.