Armenia to Weigh Breakaway Region's Recognition, Raising Tension

  • Recognizing Nagorno-Karabakh would end peace talks, Azeris say
  • Four-day fighting over region killed at least 140 last month

Armenia’s government will discuss a bill that would recognize the independence of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, a move that risks adding to tensions in the aftermath of a four-day war between Armenians and Azerbaijan over the breakaway territory.

Ministers in Yerevan will meet Thursday to debate the draft law, proposed by two opposition lawmakers including a former prime minister, according to the agenda posted on the government’s website. Nagorno-Karabakh’s recognition by Armenia would end the peace process, Hikmat Haciyev, a spokesman for Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry, said in an e-mailed statement.

The fighting in early April left more than 140 people dead in the bloodiest episode of the conflict since a truce signed in 1994. The cease-fire halted a war that claimed 30,000 lives and created 1 million refugees as Armenians took over the region and seven surrounding districts of Azerbaijan after the collapse of the Soviet Union. International mediators have failed to negotiate a lasting peace since then in a conflict that threatens to disrupt a new energy corridor between central Asia and Europe. Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan said April 23 that it’s “unreasonable” to resume negotiations for now.

“It would be a mistake to recognize the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh at this stage,” Richard Giragosian, director of the Regional Studies Center in Yerevan, said by phone. Such a move is ultimately unlikely, as the threat of recognition provides the government with more leverage, he said.

The recognition would scuttle the peace talks and could pave the way for an Azeri offensive to regain control over the region, Elxan Shahinoglu, the head of the Atlas research group in Baku, said on Facebook.

Armenia says that Nagorno-Karabakh’s Christian Armenians, who declared independence from largely-Muslim Azerbaijan in 1991, have the right to self-determination. Azerbaijan demands respect for its territorial integrity.

Azerbaijan, the former Soviet Union’s third largest-oil producer, has attracted more than $50 billion from BP Plc and its partners in recent years. BP’s oil pipeline which carried 720,000 barrels per day from Baku to the Mediterranean last year, runs fewer than 30 miles from the conflict zone at one point.

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