STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL–Armenpress)–Official ceremonies were held in Stepanakert Saturday ahead of the May 9 anniversary of the liberation by Self-Defense forces of Nagorno-Karabakh of the strategic town of Shoushi in 1992. The event–a turning point in the Karabakh conflict–coincided with the anniversary of Nazi Germany’s defeat in World War II–which is also a holiday in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s parliament and government held a joint session on the occasion. In his address to the region’s population–Karabakh President Arkady Ghoukassian said the significance of the Shoushi victory was "invaluable." Bishop Parkev Martirosian–Karabakh Armenia’s’ spiritual leader–compared it with "David’s victory over Goliath."
Karabakh’s cultural and administrative center before the Bolshevik takeover in 1920–Shoushi was mostly populated by Azeris in the late 1980s. Overlooking Stepanakert from a 10 kilometer distance–the town became the main stronghold of the Azeri army in the early stage of the Karabakh war. Its capture seven years ago put an end to daily shelling of the capital and paved the way for the opening of a land corridor between Armenia and Karabakh.
"The reality is that the international community views Nagorno-Karabakh as an important military and political factor in the region," said Ghoukassian–who welcomed what he saw as a major shift in the international community’s attitude toward the conflict’s resolution–pointing to the most recent peace plan drafted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Yerevan and Stepanakert have overall approved the plan–while Baku rejected it.
Ghoukassian also said his administration is committed to a peaceful solution to the conflict–arguing that the Russian-mediated cease-fire agreement–concluded five years ago–has been beneficial for the disputed region.
Also speaking during the ceremony was Nagorno-Karabakh Republic parliament speaker Oleg Yessayan–reported the Armenpress news agency.
At the conclusion of the ceremony–several veterans of the Karabakh war were awarded "military cross" medals for heroism and their role in the liberation of Shoushi.
Celebrations continued Sunday with concerts and gatherings at Stepanakert stadium and Rebirth square.