Interviewed in an Azerbaijani newspaper, Armenian prime minister Robert Kocharian took issue with President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s recent theses on settling the Karabakh conflict. According to Kocharian, a "stage-by-stage settlement would simply be too dangerous" because it would require Karabakh to vacate occupied Azerbaijani territories in the first stage, giving up its security buffer and trump card before Karabakh’s political status is determined in the second stage. Kocharian also rejected Ter-Petrosian’s argument that Armenia cannot attain prosperity until the Karabakh conflict is settled. As former president of Karabakh, Kocharian stressed that he "helped open up a future for Karabakh and will not watch the violation of its rights… No decision adopted in Armenia will be implemented without Karabakh’s consent, irrespective of who is in power in Yerevan."
In the same Azerbaijani newspaper, Karabakh’s recently elected president, Arkady Gukasian, states that "Armenia will not be able to settle the conflict on Karabakh’s behalf. We have never given it this authority." He commented that "if those who want independence for Karabakh are Dashnaks, then everybody in Karabakh and 95 percent of the people in Armenia are Dashnaks" — an obvious jab at Ter-Petrosian, who has banned the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaksutiun in Armenia, whereas Karabakh cooperates with that party.
Gukasian and Kocharian confirmed Karabakh’s recent concession of postponing the goal of unification with Armenia, because "the world is not yet ready to understand it" and "in order to be helpful to the Azerbaijani leadership." They offered to accept de facto independence for Karabakh in a horizontal relationship with Azerbaijan, excluding any "vertical" subordination. (Yeddi Gun (Baku), October 25-27, carried by Armenpress, October 27)
In a separate statement, Armenian defense minister Vazgen Sargsian also challenged Ter-Petrosian’s position. Arguing that the people of Armenia value Karabakh more highly than prosperity and are prepared for a protracted conflict, Sargsian called for permanent annexation of some Azerbaijani areas by Karabakh for security reasons. At the same time he questioned the credibility of Ter-Petrosian’s recent proposals: "politics means saying one thing, thinking another, and doing the third." (Aravot (Yerevan) carried by Noyan-Tapan, October 27) Sargsian’s Karabakh counterpart, Defense Minister Samvel Babanian, similarly called recently for permanent annexation of some Azerbaijani areas as security buffers. Sargsian, whose political support is crucial to Ter-Petrosian, enjoys or arrogates considerable latitude from the president.
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