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Armenian Parliament Delays Karabakh Vote

Armenia Engl Map
Armenia Engl Map
YEREVAN -- An opposition faction in the Armenian parliament has postponed a vote on controversial legislation obliging Yerevan to formally recognize the independence of Azerbaijan's breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Armenia's ruling Republican Party and its junior coalition partners, Prosperous Armenia and Orinats Yerkir, had earlier voiced their concerns that passing the bill advocated by the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party could be harmful to internationally mediated talks over Karabakh.

In response, Zharangutyun leader Raffi Hovannisian announced the faction's decision to postpone the vote until December.

The latest round of talks between the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents on the future of Karabakh was mediated by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on October 27.

The meeting in the southern Russian city of Astrakhan resulted in a declaration by which the sides agreed to swap prisoners of war and the bodies of soldiers and civilians killed in recent skirmishes near Karabakh.

The sides also reportedly agreed to work towards resolving their differences regarding the basic principles around which a peace agreement should be negotiated.

News agencies quoted Medvedev as saying at a press conference after the talks that Armenia and Azerbaijan could reach agreement on those basic principles by early December when a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is held in Kazakhstan.

Hovannisian said on October 28 that his discussion on October 27 with other parliamentary leaders led the party to postpone the vote until December 9 "to see the results" from the OSCE summit in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana, on December 1-2.

"This is the final decision," Hovannisian said.

The political parties of Armenia's ruling coalition issued a statement on October 28 explaining their decision to opt out of the vote if it was held.

"Supporting the efforts and initiatives aimed at achieving the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic's international recognition, we are convinced that Nagorno-Karabakh's unilateral recognition by the Republic of Armenia at this moment does not proceed from the constructive position assumed by Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian in the negotiations continuing within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group," it said.

Armenia has been reluctant to formally recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent entity despite having close political and economic ties with the de facto leadership in the disputed region that has been under ethnic Armenian control since a 1994 cease-fire ended three years of war between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Armenia also largely represents Karabakh at talks with Azerbaijan as official Baku refuses to recognize Stepanakert's de facto self-rule.

Officials in Baku have also repeatedly warned that Armenian recognition of Karabakh as independent from Azerbaijan would increase the likelihood of renewed hostilities in the conflict zone.