The Chairman of Parliament of the self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh Republic was in the United Kingdom last week as a guest of the British Armenian Parliamentary Group. Ashot Ghoulian also visited Oxford University where he met a group of students and academics to discuss the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. Speaking at Manchester-Harris College at the invitation of the Oxford Armenia Society Ghoulian answered questions regarding the forthcoming Presidential elections in Nagorno-Karabakh due on 19 July.
Ghoulian said the people of Karabakh will have a choice of candidates in the elections. “We will conduct good elections. They will be the best elections held in the South Caucasus”, Ghoulian told his audience.
Asked about reports that some international organisations have reported that the level of freedom and democratisation in Karabakh had decreased, Ghoulian said that international organisations fail to visit Karabakh and so they do not get first-hand information. He admitted however that this perception could also be due to the fact that no opposition party was elected to the parliament during the last parliamentary elections. Ghoulian said that the fact that there are external dangers does not leave much space for diversity, and most parties had a similar position with regards to foreign relations.
Ghoulian said that for the people of Karabakh it was incomprehensible why international organisations issue statements condemning the elections. He was referring to the fact that many international organisations and western governments do not accept elections in Karabakh mainly because the displaced Azerbaijani population is not able to participate in them.
Ghoulian referred to recent statements by the European Union, and its policy to engage with the unrecognised entities. He said that he hoped that this was a sign that the ice was breaking, and that things will in the future be better.
The Azerbaijani Embassy in London lodged a protest with the Foreign Office regarding the visit of Ashot Ghoulian and his delegation to the UK. Azerbaijani media reported that in reply the British Foreign Office had re-iterated the position of the British Government in supporting the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.
In the meantime in Stepanakert on Friday, the territory’s Central Elections Commission agreed register the following persons as NKR presidential candidates:
Vitali Balasanyan – NKR National Assembly member; no party affiliation.
Valeri Khachatryan – pensioner; no party affiliation.
Bako Sahakyan – Incumbent NKR President; no party affiliation.
Arkadi Soghomonyan – Deputy Director of Academic Activities at the NKR capital Stepanakert Branch of State Agrarian University of Armenia; no party affiliation.
The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic was declared by the Armenian population of the territory after the conflict in the region in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the USSR. The territory is still internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, but the Azerbaijani population of the territory was displaced. There are often clashes on the line of contact separating Armenian and Azerbaijani forces and peace efforts in the framework of the OSCE Minsk process, on-going for the last two decades, have so far not yielded results. Azerbaijan has condemned the elections.