Pashinyan begins to face criticism for negotiations with Baku home and in Nagorno-Karabakh
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pasinjan is facing sharp criticism from the opposition and the separatist de facto government of Nagorno-Karabakh after acknowledging that his government may have to recognise the change in the status of this unrecognised region due to international pressure.
On April 13, Pashinyan delivered a report to the National Assembly on the implementation of the government’s program for 2021. In his speech, the PM stressed that Armenia has never had territorial claims against Azerbaijan, and the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh is not a matter of territory but of rights. Guarantees of the security of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, ensuring their rights and freedoms, as well as clarifying the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh are of fundamental importance for Armenia. At the same time, Pashinyan emphasised a significant nuance:
“If earlier we put the status of Karabakh as a basis and, based on this, guarantees of security and rights, now we are laying the basis for guarantees and rights of security, based on this status. In other words, we state that the status in this situation is not a goal, but a means of ensuring the security and rights of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh.”
This statement follows as signs of progress in peace talks between Pashinyan and Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev start to appear. Both leaders met in Brussels on April 6 and had a phone call several days later. Recent signals from Yerevan have pointed to significant concessions: Senior officials have said they are willing to recognise Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, which many interpret as the government’s willingness to cede control over Nagorno-Karabakh.
However, as diplomacy between Armenia and Azerbaijan has gained pace, resistance in Armenia has grown to what many fear will be unacceptable concessions on their side. The two opposition blocs of the Armenian parliament announced on April 12 that they would be boycotting the body’s sessions for the week and walked out en masse. They would instead be travelling to towns on Armenia’s border and to Nagorno-Karabakh, the territory at the heart of the conflict with Azerbaijan, they said. But when a group of MPs tried to enter Karabakh, they were stopped by Russian peacekeeping troops and not allowed to enter.
As Eurasianet reports also, authorities in self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh have spoken out against the Armenian government for signalling a willingness to make concessions that would allow Azerbaijan to regain control over the territory.
“Any attempt to incorporate Artsakh into Azerbaijan would lead to bloodshed and the destruction of Artsakh,” said Davit Babayan, the de facto foreign minister of Karabakh, using an alternate Armenian name for the region. “And after the destruction of Artsakh, there would be no Republic of Armenia,” he said on April 14 at an extraordinary session of the territory’s parliament.
At the end of the session, the de-facto parliament issued a statement declaring that: “Any change of Nagorno-Karabakh’s status is unacceptable.”
In the uncertain situation, some in Karabakh are advocating for an unlikely solution: for the territory to become part of Russia.
The prime minister, on April 14, again pushed back against claims that he was sacrificing the Armenians of Karabakh. “What I’ve been saying has been all about not surrendering Karabakh,” the prime minister said in a special session of parliament. “We are saying that the people of Karabakh must not leave Karabakh, the people of Karabakh must live in Karabakh, the people of Karabakh must have rights, freedoms, and a status,” though he did not elaborate on what that status might be.
In this respect, Armenian political analysts told Caucasian Knot that the autonomy of Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan will lead to the exodus of the Armenian population from this territory; while the signing of a peace treaty with transferring Nagorno-Karabakh under Azerbaijan’s control will spark mass protests in Armenia