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Poll Finds Majority in Karabakh Oppose New Referendum

A new referendum to determine the legal status of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is unnecessary, according to recent public opinion poll conducted in the country, news agencies reported this week.

The survey, conducted from December 3-9 on a random sample of 300 citizens in Karabakh, asked if it was necessary to hold another referendum to determine the status of the country. Of the respondents, 83% (249) said no, while 8% (24) said yes, with 9% (27) saying they were unsure, according to Armenpress.

The poll came exactly two years after Karabakh held a referendum in which about 83% of voters (75,000 people) approved the country's first constitution, reiterating that Nagorno-Karabakh was a "sovereign democratic state.” The document was approved fifteen years to the day after Karabakh's indigenous Armenian population voted overwhelmingly for independence from Soviet Azerbaijan.

“The 10th of December is one of the most memorable days for our people. On that very day in 1991 our people officially sealed their will to form a free, independent and sovereign state,” Nagorno-Karabakh President Bako Sahakyan was quoted by Armenpress as saying in a written address on the occasion.

Sahakyan delivered his address during welcoming remarks at a conference on human rights and constitutional justice held in the Karabakh National Assembly Tuesday, according to the his press office.

The conference was dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which falls on the same day as both referendums.

He described the referendums as expressing the will of Karabakh's population to “further strengthen and develop independent statehood,” for Nagorno-Karabakh. He added that the plebiscites demonstrated the country's commitment to building a democratic country, founded on international norms, and integrated with the international community.

But a draft peace proposal by international mediators currently working for a settlement of the Karabakh conflict threatens to derail Karabakh's democratic development by requiring the fledgling democracy to allow an influx of refugees from Azerbaijan to settle in the country before a new referendum to determine the republic's status.

Under the yet undisclosed plan, Nagorno-Karabakh may be afforded an interim status before the referendum is held at some indefinite future date to decide its final status.

The temporary status, however, is to be granted after seven liberated Armenian territories surrounding Karabakh proper are relinquished to Azerbaijan.

Armenia and Azerbaijani are understood to have agreed to most of the key points of the proposed settlement, which was formally submitted to the conflicting parties in Madrid last November.

Karabakh, which opposes some of the proposals, is not a party to the current peace talks, having been removed from the peace process in the early 90s, following demands by Azerbaijan and Turkey that it should not be recognized as a party to the talks.

Friday, December 12, 2008