In an interview with TV 5 Channel on June 24, second president Robert Kocharyan made a number of statements on the liberation of lands, the handing-over of the lands, and the negotiation process during his tenure in Artsakh.
Fip.am has gone on the tracks of these statements.
His role in Artsakh War
“When I became leader of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast [NKAO] – then Karabakh had that status – half of the territory was occupied by Azerbaijani troops. When the war ended, not only the entire Karabakh but also the seven regions were liberated” Kocharyan stated.
In fact, Robert Kocharyan assumed the position of the Artsakh leader in August 1992, when almost half of the former NKAO territory was under the control of the Azerbaijani troops. Then he was Chairman of the NKR State Committee for Defense and NKR Prime Minister. However, Kocharyan’s claim that Karabakh had an autonomous status at that time in August 1992 does not correspond to the reality. NKAՕ declared independence together with the Shahumyan region on September 2, 1991, and the Independence referendum took place on December 10. In other words, about a year before Kocharyan assumed the leadership post, the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh already existed.
The territory of the NKAO was not fully liberated during the war, as Kocharyan says. Several villages in the Martakert region are still under Azerbaijani control or in a “neutral zone”. Among them is Maragha, which was occupied by Azerbaijani armed forces in April 1992, and dozens of civilians were killed.
As a result of the war, Shahumyan region remained under the control of Azerbaijan, from where the Armenian armed forces retreated in June 1992 as a result of large-scale Azeri attacks.
As for the seven regions outside the NKAO, they were taken under the control of the Armenian Armed Forces in the following order: Lachin in May 1992, Kelbajar in April 1993, and Aghdam, Fizuli, Jabrayil, Zangelan and Kubatlu in the summer of 1993. In other words, except for Lachin, the other six regions went under the control of the Armenian Armed Forces during Kocharyan occupying the position of the actual leader of Artsakh.
On handing over lands
“During my leadership in Karabakh, we liberated seven regions and united them with Karabakh, and created a security zone. And today these territories are an extremely important component part of Karabakh’s security. I’m not one who hands over lands. I’m one who occupies them” Kocharyan stated.
In his book Life and Freedom, Robert Kocharyan tells about the negotiation process in Karabakh and the discussed options for conflict resolution. In the book, Kocharyan not only accepts that he agreed to concede the six regions controlled by the Armenian Armed Forces as Armenian president, but also to provide a road to Azerbaijan through Meghri.
He writes: “In general, we had quite approached the option according to which Azerbaijan would recognize Karabakh together with Lachin corridor as part of Armenia, in return for lands occupied by us and special status for the road to Nakhichevan through Meghri, which was supposed to be guarded by international peacekeepers. But there were many details that needed to be clarified to reach an agreement. (page 382)” According to Kocharyan, President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliev refused from this option during the Key West meeting in April 2001 (page 385).
In addition, Kocharyan said in an interview with Al Jazeera TV on September 28, 2006: “Out of the administrative borders of Karabakh, there are lands occupied by Armenian forces. We have repeatedly stated that except for the narrow Lachin land between Armenia and Karabakh, we are ready to discuss the conditions for returning territories to Azerbaijan.” Vartan Oskanian, who worked as Foreign Minister during Kocharyan’s presidency, also spoke about the readiness to hand over the liberated territories. In 2001, he announced: “If we get the desired status for Karabakh, all the occupied territories, except for Lachin, must be returned.”
Addressing the accusations against him for leaving Nagorno-Karabakh out of the negotiation table, Kocharyan said that these are “fairy tales.”
“I became president in 1998. Artsakh at the negotiating table … There were no negotiations after the Lisbon summit in 1996. It’s just absurd” Kocharyan said.
In fact, the last trilateral (Armenia-Karabakh-Azerbaijan) meeting on the Nagorno Karabakh conflict settlement was held in April 1997 in Moscow. There were no trilateral meetings and negotiations after Kocharyan’s election as president in 1998.
During his visit to Stepanakert on October 2, French Co-Chair of the OSCE Minsk Group Bernard Fassier said: “Participation of Karabakh representatives was stopped by the decision of the Armenian side.”
Answering questions from readers of the Golos Armenii newspaper on April 3, 2004, Kocharyan touched upon Karabakh’s withdrawal from the negotiating table: “There was an impression that Armenia is ready for any kind of settlement, but the problem is Karabakh, or rather the Karabakh leadership. A question arose: Is Armenia unable to put pressure on Karabakh and force it to agree with this or that position under the circumstances of its apparent dependence from Armenia? I have suggested changing this viewpoint and trying to use Armenia’s resources to develop its own position and approach to the conflict settlement. In other words, we do not agree with any form of settlement that Karabakh will agree to, but we have our own position and we are ready to insist on it. I did that after my election.”
Thus, the RA second president indirectly accepted the expediency of Karabakh’s withdrawal from the negotiating table and his responsibility for that.