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Artsakh's Foreign Policy of 2017: Innovative Approaches Should Be Developed

Jon Michael Anzalone

About two-dozen visits from foreign delegations to Artsakh, Artsakh Days in France, constitutional referendum meeting international standards, with 104 international observers, successful international conferences:  in 2017 Artsakh continued to develop its foreign policy.

Let's try to summarize the steps taken in the NKR foreign policy in 2017 by classifying them as follows:


  • Foreign delegations visiting NKR;
  • NKR officials' visits abroad and abroad events;
  • Political units that recognized NKR independence.


Before referring to the main topic, it should be noted that Masis Mayilyan, who has 25 years of state work experience, in 2017, replaced Artsakh Foreign Minister Karen Mirzoyan. Starting from 1993, Mayilyan was involved in the NKR delegation participating in the negotiations on the Karabakh conflict settlement. Prior to that, from 1992 to 1993, he was prominent and leading specialist at the Department of Information and Press at the State Committee for Defense of the NKR. In 1993, when the NKR Ministry of Foreign Affairs was set up, he moved to the ministry, where he held positions of Head of Department of International Organizations, Advisor to the Minister, Head of Political Department, and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in July 2001. Masis Mayilyan has a diplomatic rank of Ambassador.

In 2017, about two dozen delegations visited Artsakh. Delegations included representatives from international organizations (the EU, the International Union of Socialist Youth), parliaments of different countries (Belgium, Portugal, United Kingdom, Canada), parties (such as the Cypriot Solidarity Movement political party, the Social Democratic Party of Portugal), self-governing bodies from different countries (California, Basque Country). In addition to political figures, representatives of scientific and educational institutions of different countries, including the Berkeley University of California, intellectuals from Turkey, Yerevan State University professors, students and others also visited Artsakh. In addition to working with politicians, the activation of ties with the representatives of the scientific community is also important, because it is an essential way to expand the dialogue with the outside world.

The number of visits by delegations was noticeable in February, which was conditioned by the referendum held in Artsakh in that month. About 104 international observers from around 30 countries (including Russia, the United States, Pakistan, Germany, Bolivia, etc.), 103 local observers and more than 80 media representatives took part in the referendum. For comparison, it is interesting to note that, for example, around 90 international observers and journalists from 15 countries of the world participated in the referendum on the adoption of the NKR Constitution on December 10, 2006. It is also important to state that the observers participating in the elections in 2017 positively assessed both the course of voting and the counting process, emphasizing the commitment of state structures in Artsakh. For example, Frank Engel of the European Parliament from Luxemburg noted: "Despite the fact that the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is not recognized, I think it can already be called the Republic of Artsakh." Recall that through the constitutional referendum and with the constitutional amendments, Artsakh fully passed to the presidential system from the semi-presidential system.

The second international youth conference "Problems and perspectives of the international recognition of the Artsakh Republic" was also held in Artsakh in 2017 with the participation of prominent scientists from the US, Germany, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Armenia and Artsakh. The number of participants from two countries, the United States and Ukraine, have increased compared to the previous conference. 63 scholars, experts and analysts have submitted applications for the conference.

In addition to the visits of foreign delegations to Artsakh, high-ranking officials of Artsakh also visited abroad, events dedicated to Artsakh were organized in different countries as well. For example, in November Artsakh Republic President Bako Sahakyan had a meeting with a group of France-Artsakh friendship circles in the French National Assembly. Artsakh State Minister Arayik Harutyunyan, in his turn, held meetings with California's political and business circles in California. Activation of contacts with businessmen from different countries is also an effective way of dialogue and cooperation with the outside world.

Newly-appointed Foreign Minister of Artsakh Masis Mayilyan made a speech at a round-table discussion on EU-Artsakh cooperation prospects organized by European Friends of Armenia. In his speech, Artsakh Foreign Minister attached importance to the necessity of activating the Artsakh-EU ties, noting that "the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms should not become a hostage to the unsettled Azerbaijani-Karabakh conflict, and the unrecognized status of Artsakh should not be an obstacle for cooperation between Artsakh and the EU."

Among the events dedicated to Artsakh abroad, was the "Days of Artsakh in France" festival that took place in November, in the framework of which French photographer Ivan Trafor's "Artsakh'' exhibition was presented, "Artsakh in 180 Seconds" animated film was screened, a ten-day exhibition of French famous illustrator Silvan Savoy's "Traveling Artsakh" was held etc. 

It was also noteworthy that the United Nations (UN) published and disseminated a document prepared by the Artsakh Republic Foreign Ministry on its official website representing the Artsakh Republic's position on the Azerbaijani policy of isolating Artsakh.

On September 28, 2017, the Senate of the US State of Michigan recognized the independence of Artsakh, thus becoming the 8th US state recognizing Artsakh's independence. The 99 Resolution on recognizing Artsakh calls on the United States President and the Congress to recognize the free and independent Republic of Artsakh, to establish economic and cultural ties with the people of Artsakh and to promote peace and stability in the South Caucasus.

In 2017, Declarations of Friendship were signed between the Martyrs of Artsakh and the Dessie-Sharpio of France, as well as between Alfortville of France and Berdzor, Artsakh. It should be noted that, in general, 16 cooperation agreements were signed between the cities of Artsakh and the cities of the USA, France, Basque Country and Brazil, and one agreement between Artsakh and the Drome region of France.


In summary, we can state that in 2017 Artsakh continued to pursue an active foreign policy. This fact, of course, is positive, but in the future, the foreign policy of Artsakh can become more effective and targeted if it includes new directions of activity with clearly defined ambitious goals. For example, in the work with international organizations, it is necessary not only to get the theses that reflect the views of Artsakh, voiced, but it is also important for Artsakh to engage in discussions about Karabakh conflict in the framework of different organizations.

The work with MPs should not only be limited to personal relationships. Different parties in Artsakh can establish institutional partnerships with political parties in different countries, targeting especially those represented in various international structures.

In the work with the political units that recognize Artsakh, there is need to move forward with elaborating long-term and short-term cooperation agendas. Artsakh officials, experts, scientists need to make their work more regular with international research companies, regularly reporting on Artsakh's position on different platforms.

The obstacles arising out of not being recognized can undoubtedly be overcome and managed effectively, if Artsakh develops innovative approaches in its foreign policy by developing relations with the outside world at all possible levels.

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