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Armenian President Skips NATO Summit In Protest

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian speaks during a visit to Moscow on November 16.

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian speaks during a visit to Moscow on November 16.

YEREVAN -- President Serzh Sarkisian has announced that he will boycott the NATO summit in Lisbon because of the alliance's plans to uphold the principle of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Sarkisian's spokesman, Armen Arzumanian, said in a statement that a draft resolution due to be adopted at the weekend summit in Portugal calls for solutions to the ethnic disputes in the South Caucasus reflecting only on the principle of territorial integrity.

The statement warned that this "unacceptable" wording would complicate the Karabakh peace process "especially against the backdrop of the recent unprecedented rise in Azerbaijan's military spending and its leaders' Armenophobic rhetoric."

"Given this concern, the president of the Republic of Armenia has decided not to depart to Lisbon," he said, adding that Armenia will be represented at the summit by its defense and foreign ministers.

NATO did not immediately react to the move. The draft resolution that Arzumanain cited and strongly opposed has not been made publicly available.

The United States and another key NATO member, France, advocate a Karabakh settlement based on territorial integrity and two other internationally recognized principles: peoples' right to self-determination and the nonuse of force.

A combination of these principles is at the heart of a framework peace accord put forward by the U.S., Russian, and French co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group.

Earlier this year, the mediators urged the conflicting parties to refrain from a selective interpretation of the elements of the proposed settlement.

Sarkisian was invited to the NATO summit along with the presidents of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia, and other partner states.

Speaking in Yerevan in September, NATO Special Representative to the South Caucasus Robert Simmons portrayed that invitation as a further sign of Armenia's growing ties with the Western alliance. Simmons singled out Armenian participation in the NATO-led multinational force in Afghanistan.

Arzumanian said in the statement that Yerevan remains committed to stepping up cooperation with NATO and considers that one of the "components" of its national security strategy.

"We highly appreciate NATO's contribution to the process of reforming the Armenian armed forces," he said.

But he added that Armenia cannot accept "generalized formulations" relating to different regional conflicts.