Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 237

Karabakh’s politically powerful defense minister, Lieutenant-General Samvel Babaian, made a few interesting revelations in a December 21 speech to faculty and students of Yerevan University. He demanded that Karabakh annex from Azerbaijan not only the Lachin district (a longstanding demand) but also the Kelbajar district–as an indispensable enlargement of the land corridor between Armenia and Karabakh. Babaian expressed some dissatisfaction with the Armenian government’s vague position regarding the extent of annexations to Karabakh for security guarantees. Yerevan officially supports the establishment of Armenian-Karabakh de facto control of Lachin, apparently short of de jure annexation, and does not claim Kelbajar. Lachin and Kelbajar are among the six districts in Azerbaijan proper which were seized by Armenian-Karabakh troops in 1992-1994.

Babaian described Karabakh as a de facto district of the Armenian state, being the same as any Armenian marz (administrative unit). While there are “two Armenian states for [the sake of] the outside world,” Armenia and Karabakh, he observed, form a unified legal, military and political area. At the same time, he obliquely reproached the government in Yerevan for insufficient financing of Karabakh’s economy and for failing to support resettlement of Armenians from Armenia proper to Karabakh and Lachin-Kelbajar. Babaian described the Russian proposal for an Azerbaijan-Karabakh “common state” as irrelevant, given the de facto unity of Karabakh and Armenia. Yet he found the proposal acceptable and useful as a “face-saver” for Azerbaijan.

Babaian, who is only 33, disclaimed any ambitions to become president of Armenia, the post currently held by Karabakh’s former president Robert Kocharian (Noyan-Tapan, December 21; Respublika Armeniya, Golos Armenii, December 22).