The self-styled parliament of the self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh Republic on Saturday (9 September) elected Samvel Shahramanian as de facto president of the political entity that represents the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh. 22 members voted in favour and one against. Earlier the parliament had decided not to accept the candidacy of Samvel Babayan, citing problems with his citizenship and residency papers.
The election comes at a moment of deep crisis for the Armenian community of Karabakh, as was reflected in the speech of the new president when presenting his programme. In his inaugural speech Shahramanian hinted that he was ready to enter into direct negotiations with Baku but emphasised that the final objective was "to keep Artsakh [Name used by Karabakh Armenians for Nagorno-Karabakh] Armenian and to thus pass it on to future generations".
The following is an extract from the speech of Samvel Sharamanian:
"Dear members of parliament, I would not be saying a secret if I say that the partial and then complete blockade of the Republic of Artsakh by Azerbaijan since December 12, 2022 has caused a number of problems for the Republic.
There is no doubt that the current situation is influenced by the Russian-Western geopolitical conflict and the Russian-Ukraine war. This conflict is also reflected in our region, considering the settlement of the Artsakh issue as a part of the steps taken against each other within the framework of the said conflict.
Rethinking its security concept in light of post-war realities, the Republic of Armenia actually backed away from its long-time mission as the guarantor of Artsakh's security, and adopted an approach called the peace agenda, the core of which is the recognition of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, including Artsakh, provided that the basic rights and freedoms of Artsakh Armenians are ensured.
In its turn, Azerbaijan, taking advantage of the fact that international actors did not take objective steps, gradually violates the provisions of the tripartite declaration of November 9, 2020 and increases the pressure on Artsakh in order to implement its own "integration" agenda. At the same time, Azerbaijan continues to trumpet on all international platforms that the Artsakh conflict has already been resolved, that there is no such thing as Nagorno-Karabakh, and the issue of ensuring the rights and freedoms of local Armenians is an internal issue of its country.
On their part, the geopolitical centers are satisfied with only issuing expressions of concerns, exhortations and appeals, that come out daily in increasing numbers. The implementation of the decisions of international and European human rights courts also remain incomplete. It is obvious that any international actor is not interested in using harsh measures of influence on Azerbaijan at the moment. Moreover, the possibilities of involving Stepanakert in the negotiations on the integration agenda are even considered realistic.
In other words, we can record that the rights and legal interests of Artsakh Armenians are not protected within the framework of international law. Accordingly, I consider our ideas and expectations regarding international law to be unrealistic and disconnected from reality, because it is obvious that international politics, geopolitics, even wars do not take place within the framework of international law.
That leaves no other option for Artsakh than to try to find intermediate solutions based on the situation.
Despite the opposing positions of the sides of the conflict between Russia and the collective West, it should be noted that a consensus has been formed in the world regarding the Artsakh conflict on the following issues:
1) The Artsakh conflict is not settled, as Azerbaijan claims, therefore Nagorno-Karabakh is a disputed territory that should receive a certain status.
2) Artsakh and Armenia should have a direct transport connection, the Lachin Corridor. Contrary to Baku's claims, the latter has been closed for a long time and should be opened. Other regional roads should also be launched, but they cannot replace the Lachine Corridor, or be seen as an alternative to it.
3) Stepanakert should negotiate with Baku. Moreover, in this matter, both the Russian Federation and the collective West are ready to provide a platform and act as a mediator, which Azerbaijan is categorically against.
These points provide a basis for building Artsakh's foreign policy within those frameworks. Therefore, it should be a priority for the future President to turn Stepanakert from an object of settlement of the Artsakh conflict into a subject of negotiations. Moreover, depending on the scope of the issues being discussed at the moment, the format of the negotiations can be both multilateral and bilateral. The only mandatory condition should be the organization of negotiations by the third country, with its guarantee for the fulfillment of the agreements to be reached.
I am sure that many of you are wondering whether it is possible to negotiate with a party that is ready to use political and also military force against Artsakh at any moment, and what should be built around that negotiation?
The answer itself is included in the question. It is necessary to take steps to remove the firearms placed at the shrine of the state and to create an atmosphere of mutual trust. Only after that it will be possible to conduct substantive negotiations. Therefore, one of our priorities is to achieve safe traffic through the Lachine Corridor, the restoration of regular gas and electricity supplies, ensuring the safe implementation of agricultural operations and solving other vital issues. We are ready to cooperate with all interested parties to implement the mentioned.
As for the humanitarian aid provided by Azerbaijan, it is more than obvious that in the case of unblocking the Lachin Corridor, there will be no need to provide any humanitarian aid to Artsakh at all.
On its part, Artsakh has always been in favor of the full operation of Stepanakert Akna, Stepanakert Hadrut, Stepanakert Sotk and all the roads in the region, but it is another question how the safety of those traveling on those roads should be ensured. It is obvious that under the conditions of the current realities, when even in the Lachin Corridor under the control of the Russian peacekeeping troops, Azerbaijan is abducting the civilians of Artsakh, including a medical patient of retirement age who is being transported to RA for treatment accompanied by the Red Cross, the launch of any other way is problematic in itself.
As we can see, the mentioned issues are quite comprehensive and can and should become the subject of discussion in future negotiations.
It is necessary to mention that direct negotiations between Artsakh and Azerbaijan are not a new word in the conflict settlement process.
I am sure you are aware of the meeting between the delegation led by me and the officials of Azerbaijan, organized by the Russian peacekeeping force, which had exclusively the scope of humanitarian issues.
Under the current realities, before becoming a participant in the negotiation process, it is absolutely necessary for Artsakh to have its own vision of the final outcome of the negotiations. It has already been presented to you during the meetings with the NA factions and can generally be presented as an imperative to keep Artsakh Armenian and thus pass it on to the next generations."