Vartan Oskanian (photo: Aram Arkun)

Karabakh Factions Vow To Fight For ‘Collective Repatriation’

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By Shoghik Galstyan

YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Vartan Oskanian, a former Armenian foreign minister, has announced that he will lead a political committee set by Nagorno-Karabakh’s main political factions exiled in Armenia to campaign for the “collective repatriation” of the region’s displaced population.

In a statement posted on Facebook on Thursday, January 18, Oskanian said the committee will reveal its composition and details of its activities “in the coming days.”

“The primary mission of the Committee is to advocate for and pursue the right of the collective repatriation of the Artsakh people with international guarantees, ensuring their safe, secure and dignified resettlement in their homeland,” he said.

“Achieving enduring peace in the region remains unattainable when a segment of the Armenian people is forcefully uprooted from its homeland, and a coerced notion of ‘peace’ is imposed upon Armenia, with the looming threat of further losses,” added Oskanian, who has increasingly criticized Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s policy on the Karabakh conflict in recent years.

According to Davit Galstyan, a leader of Karabakh’s Justice party, the committee was set up by the exiled Karabakh parliament in early December.

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“Since no Armenian officials raise our cause in the international arena, this is an opportunity to prevent the Artsakh issue from being completely forgotten,” Galstyan told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Friday.

Galstyan said the committee led by Oskanian should engage international actors who have called for the Karabakh Armenians’ safe return to their depopulated homeland recaptured by Azerbaijan as a result of its September military offensive. He did not say whether he will be ready to negotiate with the Azerbaijani government.

Baku has denied targeting Karabakh civilians during the two-day military operation or forcing them to flee the region in the following days. It has pledged to protect the rights of local residents willing to live under Azerbaijani rule. Karabakh’s leaders and ordinary residents ruled out such an option even before their exodus.

Armenia’s ruling Civil Contract party indicated on Friday its disapproval of the initiative made public by Oskanian.

“I don’t believe that the repatriation is possible without a peace treaty [between Armenia and Azerbaijan,]” said Gevorg Papoyan, the party’s deputy chairman. “These are just going to be political speculations, attempts to draw political dividends.”

“I also won’t rule out provocations against Armenia by the fifth column,” Papoyan added without elaborating.

Pashinyan has repeatedly indicated that the Karabakh issue is closed for his administration. His political allies lashed out at Samvel Shahramanyan, the Karabakh president, late last month after he declared null and void his September 28 decree liquidating the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Shahramanyan said that he had to sign the decree in order to stop the Azerbaijani assault and enable the Karabakh Armenians to safely flee to Armenia.

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