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Armenia threatens to recognize rebel region

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Armenia has threatened to recognize the so-called "independence" of the self-proclaimed Upper (Nagorno) Garabagh republic, in a bid to blackmail Azerbaijan into making concessions in the ongoing talks on settling the two countries' long-standing conflict.

Parliament Vice-Speaker Samvel Nikonyan told Russia's slon.ru website that Yerevan has not recognized the rebel region so far "only due to its respect for the international community's stance and the negotiating process." "But for us, for any Armenian, there is no alternative to Upper Garabagh's independence and there can't be one," Nikonyan claimed.

The vice-speaker said further that if Armenia recognizes the self-proclaimed republic, the work of the OSCE Minsk Group brokering the conflict settlement will become unnecessary.

"In doing so, we will have terminated the internationally-brokered negotiating process. It is for this reason that we are not raising the issue of recognizing Garabagh. But, I repeat, there is no alternative to this. If we see that there are no advances in the conflict settlement process and Upper Garabagh's independence is under a threat, Armenia will recognize its independence," Nikonyan maintained.

The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia emerged in the late 1980s, during the last few years of the USSR, due to Armenia's territorial claims. Though the separatist regime in Upper Garabagh declared so-called independence in 1991, this "independence" has not been recognized by the world community. A lengthy war ended with the signing of a cease-fire in 1994, but Armenia continues to occupy Upper Garabagh and seven other Azerbaijani districts in defiance of international law.*