by Marianna Mkrtchyan
A key member of Nagorno-Karabakh's Armenian-backed leadership has publicly spoken out against an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace formula that has been advanced by the United States, Russia and France for almost a decade.
As Azatutyun (Radio Liberty) reported, Ara Harutiunian, the prime minister of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), said the Basic Principles of resolving the Karabakh conflict, also known as Madrid Principles, are unacceptable because they call for significant Armenian territorial concessions to Azerbaijan.
The draft framework peace accord was first formally put forward to the conflicting parties in Madrid in 2006. U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group have repeatedly modified the document since then. Its key elements, repeatedly articulated by the three mediating powers, are believed to have remained unchanged.
The Basic Principles envisage Armenian withdrawal from virtually all of the seven Azerbaijani districts around Karabakh that are fully or partly controlled by Karabakh Armenian forces. That would be followed by a referendum in which Karabakh's predominantly Armenian population would determine the territory's internationally recognized status.
The administrations of President Serzh Sarkisian and his predecessor Robert Kocharian have repeatedly stated that this formula is largely acceptable to Armenia. Karabakh Armenian reaction to it has been far more lukewarm. Still, the NKR leadership has refrained from publicly rejecting the proposed principles until now.
"The Madrid Principles are certainly unacceptable to us," Harutiunian stated in a question-and-answer session on Facebook. He said that "if such a document is eventually presented to the population and government of Artsakh (Karabakh) I don't think it can receive a positive response."
Harutiunian argued that "the liberated territories" that used to be populated by Azerbaijanis are vital for Karabakh's security and economic development. The Karabakh government intends to continue investing in the local infrastructure, he said.
Contrary to President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan's statements that "Karabakh is not a part of Armenia" and "Armenia will not join the Customs union together with Karabakh" made two months ago in Tsakhadzor, Ara Harutiunian emphasized once again that "Artsakh and Armenia reunited long ago" and added that there will never be a customs border between Nagornyy Karabakh and Armenia.
'I think that we have already reunited, but Artsakh has opportunities for independence. I can just say that there will be no customs border and simply a border between Artsakh and Armenia. We said that we have already reunited",- the NKR premier emphasized.