NAGORNO-KARABAKH VOTES ON CHARTER
By Matthew Collin
BBC News, UK
Dec 10 2006
People in the former Soviet territory of Nagorno-Karabakh are voting
in a referendum on a proposed constitution.
Officials hope it will increase the disputed territory’s chances of
being recognised as an independent country.
Up to 30,000 people died in a war between Azerbaijan and Armenia in
the early 1990s which left the territory under ethnic Armenian control.
Although it has declared independence, it is still internationally
recognised as being part of Azerbaijan.
About 90,000 people are eligible to vote in this controversial
referendum, and a large Yes vote is expected.
The constitution would declare the small mountainous enclave of
Nagorno-Karabakh to be a sovereign, democratic republic.
Karen Ohanjanyan, who works for a civil rights campaign group in
Nagorno-Karabakh, told the BBC that many people voting there saw this
as a historic day which they thought would take the territory further
"People believe that through this referendum, through adopting the
constitution which will become the main law of our life, changes will
come soon," he said.
Key oil pipeline
Armenia supports the separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh, saying they
have the right to self-determination.
But the government of Azerbaijan says the referendum is being held
under an illegal military occupation of Azeri territory.
The war drove more than a million people from their homes, and there
has been no peace agreement since the ceasefire 12 years ago.
Azerbaijan says it is prepared to offer Nagorno-Karabakh significant
autonomy, but not independence. It also wants Azeris who fled during
the war to be allowed to return home.
Concerns have been raised that any renewed violence could affect
a major oil pipeline which passes close to the ceasefire line in
Nagorno-Karabakh, and supplies oil to Western markets.
One Armenian political analyst suggested that only lasting peace in
the region could ensure energy security for Europe.