President Robert Kocharyan’s speech in Strasbourg to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has caused wide public and political resonance in Armenia .
The President used his address last week to underline two key factors characterizing the Karabakh conflict: that Nagorno Karabakh had never been part of independent Azerbaijan and that therefore the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan has nothing to do with the independent Republic of Nagorno Karabakh.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe .
Kocharyan reminded PACE members that two states were formed at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union: the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Nagorno Karabakh Republic and that the establishment of both had similar legal grounds.
He said that the war of I992-1994 had been launched through the aggression of the Azerbaijani authorities, which had attempted to implement ethnic cleansing of the territory of Nagorno Karabakh with the intention of annexing it. He described the situation today as the result of a selfless fight for survival on their own land by the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh.
“The solution shall emerge from the substance of the conflict and not from the perception of the possible strengthening of Azerbaijan through future ‘oil money’,” the President said, attaching his remark to the recent claim by Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliev that he was in no hurry to settle the conflict and would use Caspian oil profits to strengthen his country's military forces.
Kocharyan described the ‘oil money’ approach as a formula for confrontation, not compromise. Armenia stood ready to continue and advance the ceasefire regime.
“We are ready for serious negotiations on a full scale solution to the conflict. That is exactly why we have accepted the last formula for resolution offered by the international mediators (in Key-West) which, unfortunately, were rejected by Azerbaijan,” said Kocharyan.
Aram Sargsyan, the leader of the oppositional Armenian Democratic Party, commenting on the speech, said the President had clarified the Karabakh issue for the first time in an international arena.
“Eventually, Kocharyan has stated the status of Karabakh from such a tribune,” he said, adding however that the Democratic Party was puzzled by the president’s positive opinion of the Key West agreement in 2001.
“There are some provisions in the agreement such as automatic return of all liberated territories that can be accepted neither by Armenia nor by Karabakh,” Sargsyan said.
The social organization, “Protection of Liberated Territories”, was also unhappy at the President’s remark on Armenia’s approval of the proposals made in Florida. It released a statement criticizing Kocharyan’s speech, saying the President had announced for the first time in an international arena the disgraceful willingness of Armenia to hand over some territories.
“We declare that neither the President nor other figures making similar statements have any right to speak on behalf of the Armenian nation neglecting its point of view. A de facto handover even of a small part of the liberated territories or abetting it by statements is just treason,” the statement said.
“All the liberated territories are the inseparable part of our homeland and will be recognized as the territory of a joint Armenian state sooner or later. Any attempt to impose other solutions on the Armenian people is doomed.”
In an interview with Yerevan’s Hayots Ashkarh newspaper, Armenia’s Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian described the President’s speech as unprecedentedly good, adding: “The greatest point was that Kocharyan really called things by their names, it was quite a bold speech.”
“Golos Armenii” daily wrote that there was “not a single person in the current Armenian political establishment is able even to get close to the content of the President’s speech at the PACE session.”
The newspaper claimed that the negative opinions of the Armenian opposition are very close to the reaction of Azeri politicians.
Kocharyan’s speech certainly caused anger in Azerbaijan, with some Azeri political analysts qualifying it as a defeat for Azerbaijani diplomacy. The head of the foreign relations department of President Ilham Aliev’s office accused Kocharyan of attempting to “lie to the entire world”.