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Nagorno-Karabakh Leader Calls For Participation In Talks

Bako Sahakian
YEREVAN -- The leader of the unrecognized republic of Nagorno-Karabakh has welcomed the latest efforts by the international community aimed at promoting dialogue and providing a better environment for negotiations on the deadlocked Karabakh conflict.

But in an interview with RFE/RL's Armenian Service, Bako Sahakian described the current format of the peace talks as flawed and called for restoring the region's status as a full-fledged participant, together with Armenia and Azerbaijan, in the peace process mediated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation's (OSCE) Minsk Group.

"We have always emphasized in our statements that a broad dialogue is needed," Sahakian said. "But at the same time we have repeatedly said that such a dialogue and efforts being made by the international community to find a solution to the problem will remain incomplete without Nagorno-Karabakh’s participation."

Although the French, U.S., and Russian Minsk Group co-chairmen always travel to Stepanakert to consult with the Karabakh leadership on their trips to the region, Karabakh does not formally participate in the OSCE-mediated talks.

Peaceful Resolution

Following talks in Moscow earlier this month, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev joined the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in signing a joint declaration pledging to step up the prolonged search for a peaceful political resolution of the conflict.

Nagorno-Karabakh has been under the control of ethnic-Armenian forces since a six-year conflict killed about 30,000 people and displaced another million before a truce was reached in 1994. Sporadic clashes have continued, and international efforts to settle the conflict have thus far failed.

The so-called Moscow Declaration is the first document simultaneously bearing the signatures of the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents since Levon Ter-Petrossian and Heydar Aliyev signed a declaration in April 1994 affirming their shared commitment to a political solution to the conflict.

Some observers have construed the document as formalizing the reality in which Armenia has acted in the negotiating process on behalf of Nagorno-Karabakh. Yerevan has repeatedly stressed that it will not agree to any formal peace deal that is not acceptable to the Karabakh leadership. But Sahakian made clear the current format for talks must be changed.

'Obstructed Format'

"During all meetings, especially those with the participation of the Minsk Group co-chairmen, we have asked and even demanded that they use their authority and powers and restore today's obstructed format and translate into action the decision of the OSCE Budapest summit of 1994 that recognized Nagorno-Karabakh as a full party to negotiations," Sahakian said.

"We take the same approach in our contacts with the authorities in Armenia urging Yerevan to make efforts to restore Nagorno-Karabakh’s participation in the negotiating process," he added.

Sahakian refused to comment on the principles of conflict resolution that the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan are said to be close to agreeing on. Those principles, drafted by the Minsk Group, were presented to the two countries' presidents at the OSCE summit in Madrid in November 2007.

Sahakian said that Nagorno-Karabakh has its own viewpoint, and he repeated that it can address "the whole package" only after returning to the negotiations as a full participant.

"When we speak about one principle or another, whether it is the so-called Madrid principles or any others, we realize that all principles must first of all be agreed with Nagorno-Karabakh’s authorities," Sahakian said. "Only in that case can we think about translating those principles into life."

RFE/RL Caucasus Report

RFE/RL Caucasus Report

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