Karabakh Armenians Hail Kurdish Independence Vote

(Azatutyun). Nagorno-Karabakh’s leadership on Wednesday welcomed the holding of a controversial referendum on independence in Iraq’s Kurdistan region.

By contrast, Armenia’s government reacted cautiously to Monday’s vote condemned by the Iraqi government as well as Turkey and Iran. A spokesman for the Armenian Foreign Ministry said only that Yerevan is “monitoring developments.”

The results of the referendum have not yet been announced. However, an overwhelming “yes” vote is widely expected.

“We welcome the conduct of the referendum on independence in Iraqi Kurdistan an act of exercising peoples’ right to self-determination … upheld by the UN Charter and other fundamental international documents,” read a statement released by the Karabakh foreign ministry.

“We hope that the situation that has emerged as a result of the referendum will be settled peacefully, based on the need for stability and security in the region,” it added.

Karabakh’s predominantly ethnic Armenian population similarly voted to secede from Azerbaijan in a referendum held in 1991. The vote, which was followed by a bloody war, was not formally recognized by any country. Still, the United States, Russia and France seem to have recognized the Karabakh Armenians’ right to self-determination in their peace proposals jointly made over the past decade.

The referendum in Kurdistan was also hailed on Wednesday by Knyaz Hasanov, the leader of Armenia’s small Kurdish community. Hasanov, who was elected to the Armenian parliament in April, made clear at the same time that he will not press the authorities in Yerevan to recognize the vote and its outcome.

“Every state has its own interests and Armenia too has its own interests,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Armenia has a good rapport with Iran, which opposes Kurdistan’s independence.”

“I’m not going to raise the issue of recognizing Kurdistan,” Hasanov said. “It’s up to the Armenian authorities, not me, to decide.”

Yerevan also maintains cordial relations with both the Iraqi central government and the Kurdish regional administration in northern Iraq. It formally decided in March to open an Armenian consulate general in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. In February, Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian held fresh talks with Massoud Barzani, the Iraqi Kurdish leader, on the sidelines of an international security conference in Germany.

Armenia’s trade with the Kurdish region and other parts of Iraq has grown considerably in recent years. Armenian exports to the Middle Eastern nation account for the bulk of bilateral trade which stood at $138 million last year.

Incidentally, Iraq’s Agriculture Minister Falah Hassan Zeidan Al-Lahibi visited Armenia this week to explore ways of deepening commercial ties between the two countries. He reportedly told Prime Minister Karen Karapetian on Wednesday that Bagdad would like to increase imports from Armenia. He singled out Armenian agricultural products and electricity.