Sargisian Shrugs Off New UN Resolution on Karabagh

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STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL) — President Serge Sargisian downplayed the significance of a new United Nations (UN) resolution on the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict pushed by Azerbaijan as he visited Stepanakert on Sunday.

Sargisian assured local residents that the passage of the resolution by the UN General Assembly, which is expected to be introduced there on September 9, would not weaken the Armenian side or have a major impact on the conflict’s resolution. The document, drafted by Baku, upholds the right of Azerbaijanis “expelled” from Karabagh and Armenian-controlled territories surrounding it to return to their homes. It also urges the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to send a fact-finding mission to the conflict zone that would investigate the conflicting parties’ compliance with “international humanitarian law.”

The General Assembly passed a similar resolution in March 2008. It was backed by 39 countries, most affiliated with the Organization of Islamic Conference. The United States, Russia and France — the three nations spearheading the Karabagh peace process — voted against it.

Speaking with teachers at a public school in the Karabagh capital, Sargisian predicted that “several dozen” mostly Islamic nations will likely again side with Muslim Azerbaijan at the assembly. “But I’m sure that all those countries that want the problem to be solved peacefully and through negotiations will vote against this resolution,” he said. “Or they will at least abstain, because they are well aware that the adoption of such resolutions can not have any positive impact on the negotiating process.”

The Armenian Foreign Ministry warned last week that the pro-Azerbaijani measure would cause “serious damage” to international efforts to end the Karabagh dispute. It said Yerevan continues to believe that no international bodies except the OSCE Minsk Group, co-chaired by the US, Russia and France, should get involved in the conflict’s resolution.

Sargisian seemed more dismissive of the resolution, saying that he is “surprised” by concerns expressed by Karabagh Armenians. “Its adoption or non-adoption can not have a major impact on Armenia’s and Artsakh’s political and economic life or the security sphere,” he said, again insisting that the disputed territory will never return under Azerbaijani rule.

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The Armenian leader at the same time called the resolution a “serious blunder” by Azerbaijan and vowed to take retaliatory actions. “Clearly, there will also be steps on our part, and those steps will get us closer to our aim,” he said without elaborating.

Armenia’s leading opposition groups, meanwhile, are far more alarmed by the Azerbaijani initiative. Hovannes Igitian, a senior member of the Armenian National Congress (HAK), called it “dangerous” and criticized the Armenian government’s “passive” stance on Monday. “We are forgetting that the UN is a body that can impose sanctions on countries,” he told journalists.

Igitian’s concerns were shared by Giro Manoyan, the foreign policy spokesman for the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun).

“Azerbaijan could get carried away with such resolutions and think that the international community agrees with its politics and try to act on its threats of military action,” Manoyan said.

“Azerbaijan may be trying to legitimize a war which it has been threatening to unleash,” agreed Stepan Safarian, a leader of another major opposition party, Zharangutyun (Heritage). Like Manoyan, he contended that the new UN resolution will further complicate a Karabagh settlement.