Thaw praised in enclave: Armenians in Karabakh welcome move

Institute for War and Peace Reporting IWPR, UK
Sept 3 2009

THAW PRAISED IN ENCLAVE

Armenians in Karabakh welcome move on Turkey-Armenia ties.

By Karine Ohanian in Stepanakert

Politicians in Nagorny-Karabakh have given a cautious welcome to the
thaw in Armenian-Turkish relations, especially since the status of
their own self-declared state was not included in the published
`protocols’.

Ankara and Yerevan announced on the last day of August that, with two
protocols, they had agreed the terms under which diplomatic relations
between them could be restored, and the border opened, although the
precise details of the agreement have not been released.

`We are closely following Armenian-Turkish relations, or more
accurately, the true desire of Armenia to create these relations,’
said Bako Sahakian, president of Nagorny-Karabakh.

Turkish politicians had previously linked a restoration of ties to a
resolution of the status of Nagorny-Karabakh, which has declared
independence but is internationally considered a part of Azerbaijan, a
close ally of Turkey. Karabakh’s Armenian inhabitants have governed
themselves independently since Baku’s troops were driven out in the
early 1990s, and Sahakian said he was still concerned by Turkey’s
position.

`This cannot inspire much hope for the creation of honest and true
relations,’ he said.

Other figures believed the thaw could mean Ankara had abandoned its
insistence on Karabakh being handed back to Baku’s control.

`An important positive element of the protocol is the lack of a direct
connection between the normalisation of Armenian-Turkish relations and
the regulation of the Nagorny-Karabakh conflict, and the clear
separation of these two conflicts,’ Masis Mailian, a former candidate
for the presidency and the current chairman of the Civic Council for
Foreign Policy and Security, told IWPR.

`Azerbaijan, as a result of the Armenian-Turkish process, will become
more compliant in the Karabakh talks process, which will allow a peace
deal to be reached more quickly.’

Karabakh’s leaders will be closely watching the next six weeks, when
the protocols will be discussed in the two countries, then submitted
to the parliaments for approval. The removal of Karabakh from the
discussions, as well as the lack of a mention of the Armenian genocide
question has made the documents more likely to be accepted. At least
half a million Armenians died when they were driven out of their homes
in Ottoman Turkey in 1915 but Turkey denies it was genocide.

`It is currently too early to say what this possible Armenia-Turkey
agreement could give to the Karabakh regulation process; it all
depends on geopolitical developments. I welcome this thaw, but stress
that attempts to connect Armenian-Turkish relations with regulating
Karabakh-Azerbaijan are unacceptable. This cannot be done at the cost
of Karabakh or the genocide,’ said David Babaian, head of the
president’s information service.

Karine Ohanian is a freelance journalist and a member of IWPR’s
EU-funded Cross Caucasus Journalism Network.
The terminology used in this report was chosen by the editors.

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