Elections in Nagorno-Karabakh deteriorate Turkish-Armenian ties

July 19, 2012, Thursday/ 17:59:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Armenia has lambasted an official statement from Turkey criticizing Thursday’s so-called presidential elections in Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed territory between Azerbaijan and Armenia whose status has not been determined in terms of international law, in a move further deteriorating already soured relations between the two neighboring countries.

Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharyan responded harshly to a statement by the Turkish Foreign Ministry on Thursday, election day in the de facto independent region which is only recognized by Armenia, saying that Turkey has no right to declare any opinion over the region, the status of which is still undetermined under the mandate of international initiatives, including the UN Security Council and the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

“If Turkey really cares about Azerbaijan’s interests, it should teach Azerbaijan how democratic elections are held and how a democracy should be constituted in Nagorno-Karabakh,” Kocharyan stated in an official statement released on Thursday. He further deplored Turkey for its policy on the Cyprus issue, stating, “Instead of giving us lessons [on international law], Turkey should withdraw its military mission from North Cyprus under Turkish occupation.”

In an official statement on Wednesday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry maintained that such elections would be a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions and OSCE principles, asserting that these are “just another new example of efforts to unilaterally legitimize the status quo going against international law” in the disputed region.

“Being undeterred in continuing its efforts for a … normalization in the region in parallel to the maintenance of initiatives to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute on different platforms, Turkey deplores this action [the elections], which means a new sort of violation of Azerbaijan’s political independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the statement further emphasized.

Meanwhile, the EU also has not hesitated in repudiating the so-called “presidential elections” in the disputed region.

“These ‘elections’ should not prejudice the determination of the future status of Nagorno-Karabakh in the negotiated general framework of the peaceful settlement of the conflict. I recall the EU’s firm support for the OSCE Minsk Group … aimed at a peaceful resolution of the conflict,” Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said in an official statement released on Thursday.

Although there have been efforts to resolve the dispute through the Minsk Group, an OSCE initiative that was established in 1992 to help resolve the dispute, no progress from the group’s efforts has been reported so far. The territory is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but it is under the control of a de facto independent, but unrecognized, Armenia-backed government. The Nagorno-Karabakh dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan turned into a war after the Armenian invasion in 1991. A cease-fire that persists to this day was declared in 1994. Supporting its strategic ally Azerbaijan, Turkey closed its borders with Armenia in an effort to pressure Armenia to respect the borders of its neighbors.

Turkey also has its own long-standing bilateral problems with Armenia over its claims that the 1915 killings of Armenians during World War I at the hands of the Ottoman Empire amounted to genocide. The issue resurfaced after the administration of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy issued a bill to make it a crime to deny the Armenian claims of genocide, which was later deemed unconstitutional by the French Constitutional Council.

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