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Nagorno Karabakh Continues to Seek Independence

(Washington, DC--June 13, 2002) Nagorno Karabakh chief diplomat Naira Melkoumian said in a RFE/RL briefing today that the separatist region of Nagorno Karabakh continues to seek independence both from Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Melkoumian stressed the on-going need for US involvement in efforts to resolve the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, which would also lead to the establishment of economic relations in the region and thus strengthen economic development. She said that the region is a" crossroads of clashing interests" where Nagorno Karabakh has been treated as a "plaything". Melkoumian noted that the US, Russia and France have been cooperating successfully as co-chairs of the OSCE's Minsk Group to resolve the conflict.

Nagorno Karabakh's goal in these negotiations is to be recognized as independent from Azerbaijan and Armenia, making both of these states "victorious in the conflict," Melkoumian said. Over the past ten years, she pointed out Nagorno Karabakh has created "all necessary state structures" and built a military of roughly 15,000 soldiers. Most importantly, its residents have developed a sense of statehood, which would be difficult for them to give up, according to Melkoumian.

Melkoumian sees Nagorno Karabakh as a multi-ethnic state, with refugees returning both from Armenia and Azerbaijan. According to Melkoumian, Nagorno Karabakh is the "guarantor" of peace and stability in the region and could serve as "the bridge between Armenia and Azerbaijan", which will secure "normal relations between the countries and their peoples."