YEREVAN -- Armenia has praised the highest United Nations court for upholding the legality of Kosovo's secession from Serbia but gave no indication it would recognize its independence, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.
Armenian leaders said the nonbinding ruling by the International Court off Justice (ICJ) on July 22 will help foster a resolution sought by Yerevan for the breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Hague-based court ruled that Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia did not violate international law. The verdict has been welcomed by the United States, which called on other countries to recognize Kosovo's independence.
A total of 69 UN-member countries have recognized Kosovo's independence.
Eduard Sharmazanov, spokesman for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), told RFE/RL that "this is an unprecedented decision that can positively impact international recognition of Karabakh.... Because for the first [time] ever an international court ruled that when it comes to independence, the people's right to self-determination is more important [than the] territorial integrity of states."
Self-determination and territorial integrity are among the basic principles of settling the Karabakh conflict that have been jointly proposed by the U.S., Russia, and France. Armenia and Azerbaijan say they accept, in principle, a settlement based on a combination of the two principles.
Azerbaijani leaders have, at the same time, repeatedly stated that Karabakh's predominantly Armenian population should only be able to determine the extent of the territory's autonomy within Azerbaijan. They argue, among other things, that there already exists an independent Armenian state.
The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry insisted on July 23, however, that the ICJ ruling applies only to Kosovo and Serbia and cannot have any ramifications for the Karabakh conflict. Ministry spokesman Elkhan Polukhov was also quoted by the Trend news agency as saying that Baku will continue to regard Kosovo as a part of Serbia.
Armenia is also in no rush to recognize Kosovo's independence, not least because Russia, its closest ally, is strongly opposed to such recognition.
When asked about the possibility of Armenian recognition after the ICJ decision, Foreign Ministry spokesman Tigran Balayan cited a statement on the issue that was made by Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian in September 2008.
Sarkisian said then that Yerevan cannot recognize Kosovo as well as the Russian-backed breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia "as long as it has not recognized the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic." The realization of a nation's right to self-determination "takes time" and requires the understanding of "all interested parties," he said.