Nagorno-Karabakh Separatist Leader Says Dissolution Decree Not Valid

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(RFE/RL) — The leader of Nagorno-Karabakh separatists ousted from the breakaway Azerbaijani region in September said on December 22 that a decree he signed on the dissolution of separatist institutions was no longer valid.

The separatist leader, Samvel Shahramanian, signed the decree ordering the dissolution of Nagorno-Karabakh’s institutions by January 1, 2024. The breakaway republic “will cease to exist,” by the year’s end, the decree said.

But Shahramanian on December 22 rolled back the announcement in comments he made in Yerevan.

“There is no document…of the Republic of Artsakh [Karabakh] stipulating the dissolution of government institutions,” he said.

Vladimir Grigorian, an adviser to Shahramanian, told RFE/RL in an interview that the basis for this was a subsequent decree signed on October 19 under which top officials of Nagorno-Karabakh’s de facto government, including the president, government ministers, judges, members of parliament, the secretary of the Security Council, law enforcement agencies, the mayor of Stepanakert, and the heads of administrative districts, “continue to hold office on a public basis, that is, without pay.”

He added that in the view of the separatists, the October 19 decree canceled the decree Shahramanian signed on September 28.

“In other words, the Republic of Artsakh, the government and all other bodies in 2024, they will continue their activities after January 1,” Grigorian said.

Asked whether this interpretation could be problematic from a legal standpoint, Grigorian said the decision was illegal from the beginning, and since then the decree signed on October 19 has been continued and a number of legal normative acts had also been adopted.

He said this “implies that the Republic of Artsakh in 2024-25 will happen, because the Republic of Artsakh is dissolved only by the people’s referendum, and no person, not even the president, has such powers and rights to dissolve the republic.”

He added that there was no need to wait for a new decree from Shahramanian.

Neither Baku nor Yerevan have commented on the statement.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two wars in the last three decades over the region, which had been a majority-ethnic-Armenian enclave within the internationally recognized border of Azerbaijan since the Soviet collapse.

When Shahramanian signed the decree on September 28, he said the move was prompted by the situation created after Azerbaijan took complete control of the region.

Azerbaijan sent troops to Nagorno-Karabakh on September 19, and after just one day of fighting, Armenian separatist forces who had controlled the region for three decades surrendered.

Azerbaijan’s victory marked the end of the territorial dispute, and since then the two sides have made steps toward normalizing relations and reaching a peace agreement based on mutual recognition of territorial integrity.

Earlier this month they agreed to a prisoner exchange and other goodwill steps.

European Council President Charles Michel hailed the agreement as a “major breakthrough” in Armenian-Azerbaijani relations.

The developments raised hopes for reviving face-to-face talks between Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.

The pair have met several times for normalization talks mediated by Michel, but the process has been on hold since October.

RFE RL

RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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