Nagorno-Karabakh President Arayik Harutyunyan is pictured during an interview, August 6, 2023

By Astghik Bedevian

STEPANAKERT ( — Ending months of speculation, Arayik Harutyunyan, Nagorno-Karabakh’s president, announced on Thursday, August 31 his decision to resign amid a deepening humanitarian crisis in Karabakh caused by Azerbaijan’s eight-month blockade of the Lachin corridor.

In a written statement, Harutyunyan said the Armenian-populated region needs a new leadership in order to better cope with grave challenges facing it almost three years after the disastrous war with Azerbaijan.

“My background and Azerbaijan’s attitude towards it are artificially creating a number of conditions generating significant problems with regard to our further steps and flexible policy,” he said. “Besides, the defeat in the war and the resulting difficulties that emerged in the country reduced trust in the authorities and especially the president, which represents a very serious obstacle to further good governance.”

Harutyunyan said that he made a final decision to step down two days ago after analyzing his “contacts with all internal and external actors and the public.” He added that he will formally submit his resignation to the Karabakh parliament on Friday.

Harutyunyan has periodically fueled speculation about his impending resignation since Azerbaijan blocked last December traffic through the sole road connecting Karabakh to Armenia. In March, he helped to enact a constitutional amendment that empowered the local parliament to elect an interim president in case of his resignation. The latter would serve for the rest of Harutyunyan’s five-year term in office which was due to expire in May 2025.

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The Karabakh leader did not reveal the name of his preferred successor. Some Armenian media outlets reported that the secretary of his security council, Samvel Shahramanyan, is the favorite for the job.

Shahramanyan was appointed by Harutyunyan as state minister on Thursday. He was among Karabakh representatives who negotiated with Azerbaijani officials at the headquarters of the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Karabakh early this year.

Harutyunyan’s party controls the largest number of parliament seats but does not have an overall majority in the legislature. It helped to install an opposition figure, Davit Ishkhanian, as parliament speaker earlier in August. Ishkhanian will perform the presidential duties pending the election of Harutyunyan’s successor.

Harutyunyan’s resignation appears to have been precipitated by the tightening in mid-June of the Azerbaijani blockade of the Lachin corridor which further aggravated the shortages of food, medicine and other essential times in Karabakh.

The authorities in Stepanakert admitted on Tuesday, August 29 that the region is running out of flour. They said that from now on each family in Karabakh’s capital and other towns will be allowed to buy only one loaf of bread a day.

Despite the severe crisis, the Karabakh Armenian continue to resist Baku’s attempts to put in place an alternative, Azerbaijani-controlled supply route for Karabakh in place of the Lachin corridor. They remain strongly opposed to the restoration of Azerbaijani rule in Karabakh.

Karabakh’s main political factions, including Harutyunyan’s party, have repeatedly denounced Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s readiness to recognize Azerbaijani sovereignty over the region.

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