YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — A “free expression of the will” of Nagorno-Karabagh’s population must be critical in determining the future internationally recognized status of the disputed territory, a senior U.S. negotiator said on Monday.
James Warlick thus reaffirmed one of the key elements of the Basic Principles of resolving Karabagh conflict that have been put forward and repeatedly modified by the United States, Russia and France over the past decade.
“There cannot be a comprehensive settlement without it including a status for Nagorno-Karabagh,” Warlick said just hours before he and fellow diplomats from Russia and France co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group met with Armenian leaders in Yerevan.
“A part of a comprehensive settlement could include status and there will need to be a free expression of the will of the population of Nagorno-Karabagh as part of that comprehensive settlement,” he told reporters.
The Basic Principles envisage a phased solution to the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute which would end in a referendum in Karabagh. Its mostly ethnic Armenian residents would presumably be able to vote for secession from Azerbaijani or return under Baku’s rule.
While claiming to largely accept this peace formula, Armenia and Azerbaijan have yet to agree on dates and other practical modalities of the would-be referendum. They have also disagreed on other significant elements of the proposed peace deal, notably a timetable for Armenian withdrawal from virtually all seven districts in Azerbaijan proper surrounding Karabagh.