Defense minister says Armenia would consider ceding territory inexch

Defense minister says Armenia would consider ceding territory in exchange for security of Nagorno-Karabakh

The Associated Press
02/15/05 16:43 EST

MOSCOW (AP) – Armenia would consider ceding Azerbaijani territory it
controls outside Nagorno-Karabakh in exchange for greater security
for the disputed, Armenian-held enclave itself, Defense Minister
Serge Sarkisian said Tuesday.

In an on-line news conference, Sarkisian called Armenian-controlled
territory a “security zone” and said that the aim in taking it
during a six-year war over Nagorno-Karabakh had not been to expand
the territory of Armenia or of Nagorno-Karabakh.

If, giving up this security zone, we can achieve more secure conditions
for the people of Karabakh, then this question can be discussed,”
Sarkisian, who is also head of Armenia’s presidential Security Council.

“But if we’re taking about the voluntary surrender of these territories
without increasing security guarantees for Karabakh, then I think
that nobody intends to do that,” he said.

Nagorno-Karabakh has been de facto independent since the war, which
killed 30,000 people and drove a million from their homes. Armenian
forces also control a large amount of surrounding territory, including
land that links the enclave with Armenia.

A cease-fire ended the war in 1994, but tension remains high and
disputes over the additional territory have been among the factors
that have prevented Armenia and Azerbaijan from settling the conflict
and kept the threat of a new war alive.

Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian government is not recognized
internationally, and Baku insists it must remain part of
Azerbaijan. The continuing dispute has hurt the economies of both
ex-Soviet republics.