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PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS IN NAGORNO KARABAGH AND REACTIONS

Oya EREN
23 July 2007 - ERAREN
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ellspacing="0" ceÿâ 8PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS IN NAGORNO KARABAGH AND REACTIONS˜

Armenians living in Nagorno Karabagh, an autonomous region dependent on Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic during Soviet era, began to declare their demands of incorporating with Armenia during mid-1980s when Soviet power began to crumble. When they understood that this option was not possible, they began to demand independence later on.

»egan to demand independence later on. These demands led to inter-communal clashes between Azeri and Armenian communities of Nagorno Karabagh in 1988 and later on spread to other cities of Azerbaijan. Soviet Union intervened and provided relative stability for a short time; however, after its disintegration Russian troops evacuated the region and clashes increased. Starting from 1992 onwards, Karabagh Armenians supported by Armenia began to occupy Nagorno Karabagh and a year later they began directly to occupy Azeri rayons (an administrative unit larger than a district and smaller than a province) surrounding Karabagh region. Despite four Security Council resolutions condemning this occupation as contrary to international law, Armenia has not retreated from occupied territories. Although with an armistice in 1994 clashes has come to an end, still, one fifth of Armenian territories are under Armenian occupation.

In order to resolve this conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia a summit meeting was held in Minsk within the framework of Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and Minsk Group was established as a mediating entity. However, the negotiations organized through Minsk Group have not produced a tangible result. In 2006, three summits held in Paris, Bucharest and Minsk ended without any viable solution as well. Meanwhile on December 10, 2007, Karabagh Assembly made a constitutional referendum as a result of which they proclaimed independence of Karabagh; however, this referendum has never been recognized by international community. This referendum hampered peace initiatives between two countries. Both Armenian and Azeri Presidents began to pronounce military measures for the solution of this conflict since then. The meetings held between two presidents this year also remained fruitless.

Karabagh seemed to have all organizations of a state. Its first president is Robert Kocharian, while the second president is Arkady Gukasian, who cannot be reelected according to the constitution. The presidential election on July 19, 2007, was ended with the victory of former chief of intelligence, Bako Sahakian who obtained 85% of the total votes. His closest rival, former Deputy Foreign Minister, Masis Maylian, obtained only 12% of the votes.

Being contrary to the international law, these elections are reacted by many countries, particularly by Turkey and Azerbaijan. Before the elections, Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement stipulating that this election was a challenge to the attempts for a permanent solution of the Karabagh conflict in a period when attempts for finding such a solution has continued. What is more, it is said that the results of this election would not be recognized by Turkey and they would have no legal effect as well.

American Ambassador to Baku, Anne Derse, also stated that the US government recognized neither the independence nor the elections of Karabagh. Among other states and international organizations which refused to recognize the election results were Russia, European states, European Union and NATO.

Organization of Islamic Conference, which has effectively been supporting Azerbaijan on Karabagh question also made a statement through its secretary-general, Ekmeleddin ?hsano?lu. He stated that the so-called elections were in conflict with all valid norms and rules of international law and it will impede negotiations to reach a permanent solution. He also added “We demand Armenia to withdraw from Azeri territories as son as possible.”

In sum, the elections disturbed the peace process and decreased the effect of confidence building measures. The timing of elections is also meaningful since it was made while negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan were continuing. However, non-recognition of independence of Karabagh as well as election results makes the elections completely meaningless.

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