Kosovo Precedent Watch

What does the Armenian separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh have to do with Kosovo? Quite a lot. 

One of the more novel arguments raised by those who maintain that no new United Nations resolution would be needed to replace 1244-which explicitly called for the maintenance of the territorial integrity of "Yugoslavia" and called only for substantial autonomy for Kosovo, is to maintain that the Serbia of 2007 is a "different" state and that the dissolution of the union between the two constituent republics of the 1999-era Yugoslavia-Serbia and Montenegro-invalidates the whole notion of preserving Serbia's territorial integrity.
 
Linked to this, one sometimes hears a second but related argument-that autonomous provinces within Serbia also have the right to leave Serbia.
 
Now, an interesting variant of these arguments has arisen in the context of the Minsk Group which is seeking to find a settlement between the separatist (and largely Armenian) republic of Nagorno-Karabakh while preserving the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. There are now reports that the Russian co-chair Yuri Merzlyakov offered this attempt to "square the circle" -between recognizing the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and permitting an independent Nagorno-Karabakh state to emerge-by drawing a distinction between "Soviet" Azerbaijan, within which Nagorno-Karabakh was an autonomous republic-and "independent" Azerbaijan which has never exercised sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh.
 
Merlyakov said, "From the legal viewpoint the Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Region (NKAR) was a part of the Azerbaijani SSR. Now Nagorno Karabakh is an unrecognized state and the issue of its borders and who belongs it to lies in the sphere of international law."

U.S. co-chair Matt Bryza has not apparently commented on Merlyakov's remarks.

(By the way, a news conference was held in Yerevan earlier today on this question: Why can Kosovo be independent but Karabakh cannot?)

Nikolas K. Gvosdev is editor of The National Interest