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Nagorno-Karabakh marks Independence Day without Pashinyan

2 September 2021
Nagorno-Karabakh President Arayik Harutyunyan lays flowers at the Stepanakert Military Cemetery. Official photo.

Almost a year after the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, Nagorno-Karabakh marks Independence Day. While officials from the Republic of Armenia were present at the ceremonies, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan was a notable absence. 

՛The right to the determination of the people of Artsakh [Nagorno-Karabakh] is sacred. It cannot be stopped by the use of force’, reads a statement written by Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on the occasion of the 30 anniversary of the Independence Declaration of Nagorno-Karabakh.

This was the first time in the history of independent Armenia that the country’s executive leadership, did not visit Stepanakert (Khankandi), the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh on Independence Day — marked on 2 September, each year.  

In the statement, Pashinyan insisted that ‘the Nagorno Karabakh conflict is not settled’ and cited statements made by OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs France, Russia, and the United States.  

‘The conflict is awaiting its comprehensive settlement through a peace process based on the well-known principles proposed by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs’, the Prime Minister’s statement reads. 

Yerevan-based political analyst Eric Hacopian told OC Media that Pashinyan not visiting Nagorno-Karabakh does not ‘signify anything’ in the relationship between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. 

According to Hacopian, the move was like ‘an attempt’ not to give the Azerbaijani government ‘an excuse to ramp up tensions on the Armenian borders’.

‘As we know, Armenian government officials are in and out of Artsakh all the time’, he said. 

Pashinyan has not visited Nagorno-Karabakh since the end of the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War in November. The January visit of then-Armenian Foreign  Minister Ara Ayvazian to Stepanakert elicited loud condemnation in Baku, with Azerbaijani authorities describing the visit as a ‘provocation’ that contradicted the Trilateral Peace Declaration that ended the war. 

The Russia-brokered agreement brought an end to the war over Nagorno-Karabakh and led to the deployment of 2,000 Russian troops to the region. 

‘I bow my head in memory of the martyrs who fell for the sake of the homeland. Human losses are irreversible and binding at the same time’, the President of Nagorno-Karabakh, Arayik Harutyuan wrote in a statement on Thursday.

Harutyunyan, along with lower-level officials from Armenia, as well as the former Presidents of Nagorno-Karabakh also visited Stepanakert’s military cemetery to pay tribute to Armenian soldiers who died during both the second and first wars over Nagorno-Karabakh.

The parliamentary delegation sent from the Republic of Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh on September 1 was led by the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Ruben Rubinyan. 

The ethnic Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast proclaimed independence and the establishment of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (Republic of Artsakh) on September  2, 1991. At present, no country, including the Republic of Armenia, officially recognises the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh.

 For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.

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