Did Pashinyan “surrender” Karabakh again? Armenian PM's statements spark criticism
Pashinyan’s statements on settlement of Karabakh conflict spark criticism
Armenia is discussing the latest statements by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on the settlement of the Karabakh conflict, in which he said that during the entire negotiation process the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region was never considered “as a purely Armenian subject”. According to him, the content of the negotiations on the referendum on the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh concerned the entire population, that is, not only Armenian, but also Azerbaijani.
In addition, the clarification of the intermediate status of Nagorno-Karabakh was transferred to the UN Security Council, which, in PM Pashinyan’s opinion, would mean the recognition of it as the territory of Azerbaijan.
The prime minister disclosed the details of the negotiation process during an online press conference at the end of last week, immediately sparking a wave of controversy. President and parliament of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, as well as ex-president of Armenia Robert Kocharian considered PM Pashinyan’s statements dangerous as they could infringe the protection of the rights of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The ombudsmen of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh issued a joint statement, which says that Pashinyan’s statements impede the fight against the genocidal policy of Azerbaijan and create the basis for new crimes.
As a result, Pashinyan had to react to these statements, and he once again repeated the theses on the content of the negotiations before his coming to power, announced by him during a press conference.
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Pashinyan: “Artsakh was never an exclusively Armenian formation”
During a press conference, Prime Minister Pashinyan said that there was a disaster in the negotiation process in 2016. This is not the first time he has accused his predecessors, in particular, President Serzh Sargsyan, of failures in the negotiation process and the ‘bad legacy’ left for him to deal with. In his words, the negotiations before him were not about “Artsakh never becoming a part of Azerbaijan, but about the fact that Artsakh should remain Armenian”.
“I do not agree with this either, because Artsakh could never be completely Armenian. What do we mean by Armenian? It was obvious from these negotiations that both Armenian and Azeri populations would be in Artsakh, in the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast. Will there be a legislative body in Nagorno-Karabakh? Yes, there would be, but it would not be completely Armenian, there would be an Azerbaijani quota and an Armenian quota”, Nikol Pashinyan emphasized.
According to him, a referendum on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh would concern its entire population, including the Azerbaijani part of it. Most importantly, the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, through whom the talks were held, submitted a package of proposals, according to which the clarification of the intermediate status of Nagorno-Karabakh was transferred to the UN Security Council:
“When this issue is resolved in the UN Security Council, its decision becomes very predictable, because in 1993 the UN Security Council adopted a resolution that says the Nagorno-Karabakh region is a part of Azerbaijan, and which recognizes the territorial integrity and inviolability of Azerbaijan’s borders. […] This is important because if the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh is being decided, then its clarification should take place in accordance with the constitution of Azerbaijan”.
In his opinion, “this referendum would never have taken place within a purely Armenian context”, but even if it did, then in this case the Azerbaijanis of NKAO should have also taken part in this potential referendum:
“Now, when the right to self-determination, for example, would be realized within the framework of the comments of the Armenian side, could the Azerbaijanis of Nagorno-Karabakh, in this context, in turn, raise the principle of their self-determination? In that case, what kind of relationship would have arisen?”
The prime minister stressed that these are not free comments on his part, he simply conveys the nuances of the negotiations, which have not yet been publicly discussed.
Response from Nagorno-Karabakh: “Harmful, dangerous formulations”
President of the unrecognized NKR Arayik Harutyunyan responded to Pashinyan’s statements by saying that “the recognition of the right of the Armenians of Artsakh to self-determination is not subject to reservations and concessions” and “only the authorities of the Artsakh Republic are authorized to speak on behalf of the people of Artsakh”.
“The international recognition of the independence of the Republic of Artsakh is our main reference point, and no government can afford to deviate from this line. Therefore, the people and authorities of Artsakh will never and in no way accept any status within Azerbaijan.
There can be no return to the past – not only in terms of status, but also in terms of demographics. What kind of cohabitation are we talking about if Azerbaijan continues to feed its society hatred of the Armenians, and prepares it not for peace, but for the expulsion of Armenians from Artsakh? Of course, we support a peaceful settlement of the conflict and are ready to make efforts in this direction, but the vital rights, interests and demands of our people are not subject to discussion”, the statement says.
The MPs also condemned the statements of the Armenian Prime Minister. Their response document is entitled “On the dangers and challenges that threaten the sovereignty and subjectivity of the Artsakh Republic”. It says that the fate of NK cannot be subject to the “monopoly of any political force”:
“We consider inadmissible any statements of various political forces and figures that question the subjectivity of Artsakh or belittle its Armenian future. It is perplexing that the last such statement was made by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia”.
The MPs argue that only the government elected by the residents of the NKR has the right to make decisions about its future. They regard thoughts expressed by Pashinyan as “harmful, dangerous formulations”.
The issue of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, as noted in the statement, has never been ignored by the mediators.
Pashinyan’s response: “I can’t hide the truth”
Responding to criticism, Nikol Pashinyan repeated the theses on the content of the negotiations, which he announced during a press conference.
According to him, in 2016, the mediators presented three negotiating packages, in which, unlike the Kazan document, the phrase “Nagorno-Karabakh receives an intermediate status” was missing. Moreover, the third package contains a provision that “the decision on the legal and practical mechanisms for organizing life in Nagorno-Karabakh will be made by the UN Security Council”.
“I considered this a disaster in the negotiation process, because it is obvious that the UN Security Council will make all decisions according to the logic of its own resolutions on the Karabakh conflict, where Nagorno-Karabakh was recognized as part of Azerbaijan”, Pashinyan stressed.
He assures that, having become prime minister, he did not accept this state of affairs, but fought against it, which is why the war began:
“Today, people who have criticized me since 2018 for arguing that I do not have a mandate to negotiate on behalf of Nagorno-Karabakh, say that I should not negotiate on behalf of Nagorno-Karabakh”.
Pashinyan assured that he did everything possible to neutralize the negative content of the negotiations, but “he cannot hide the truth”.
Political scientist Benjamin Poghosyan, commenting on Pashinyan’s statement about the catastrophic situation in the negotiation process in 2016, noted that there had never been a worse proposal than the document he signed. The expert refers to a trilateral statement on the cessation of hostilities in Karabakh, signed with the presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan in November 2020.
According to the political scientist, starting from 2010-2011, Azerbaijan not only armed itself, but also announced that it would try to resolve the conflict by military means. If Pashinyan understood that the military balance was upset in favor of Azerbaijan, and proposals not in favor of the Armenian side appeared in the negotiation process, then he had to do everything to avoid war:
“But it looks like our authorities did everything after 2018 to move closer to war with firm steps”.
The political scientist claims that both the Kazan and all other documents clearly state that the final status of the NK will be determined through a referendum:
“Armenians and Azerbaijanis will take part in the referendum at the same ratio as in the last census of the USSR in 1989. In this ratio, Armenians made up 75-76% of the population”.
Accordingly, according to Poghosyan, the result of the referendum would be the proclamation of the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh or its annexation to Armenia.
Political scientist Areg Kochinyan considers it undeniable that the negotiation process reflects the balance of power between the parties:
“After our victory in the first Artsakh war, the pace of change in the balance of forces accelerated in favor of Azerbaijan. This is a simple truth, it fits into the reality of realpolitik, and there is no need to prove or explain it again”.
According to Kochinyan, it is for this reason that each subsequent package or proposal for the settlement of the conflict after the victory in the first Karabakh war “was less and less in the interests of the Armenian side”.
The political scientist believes that the prime minister declassified the proposals of the mediators and violated the secrecy regime, but did not submit the documents:
“Either he represents only the part that is beneficial to his political interests at the moment, or it is a conversation that has nothing to do with the documents under discussion”.