"Karabakh is up for sale" - Armenian opposition on Pashinyan-Aliyev Brussels talks
Armenian opposition’s reaction to Pashinyan-Aliyev talks in Brussels
“The Armenian-Azerbaijani talks serve Azerbaijani interests”, “Nikol Pashinyan put Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh up for a geopolitical auction in order to save his office”. This is how the Armenian oppositionists assessed the Brussels talks between Nikol Pashinyan and Ilham Aliyev, which took place on May 22 with the mediation of the head of the European Council. The leaders of the parliamentary opposition and supporters of the ongoing resistance movement, who have taken to the streets of Yerevan for a month now demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister of Armenia, have once again reaffirmed their opinion that Pashinyan is “betraying the interests of the Armenian people”.
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A call from Moscow
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov received first-hand information about the next round of the Pashinyan-Aliyev talks in Brussels by talking on the phone with colleagues in Yerevan and Baku. According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, during a telephone conversation
- issues related to the establishment of a demarcation and border security commission between Armenia and Azerbaijan were discussed,
- the unblocking of economic ties and transport communications in the region was addressed,
- Minister Mirzoyan confirmed the position of Armenia regarding the establishment of regional peace and stability and the settlement process between Armenia and Azerbaijan,
- issues related to the bilateral and multilateral agenda of the Armenian-Russian cooperation were discussed, and an exchange of views took place on steps aimed at further strengthening of the allied relations.
On May 22, the third face-to-face meeting between Pashinyan and Aliyev took place with the mediation of the head of the European Council, Charles Michel. The previous Brussels talks between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan were held in December 2021 and April 2022.
Following the talks, which lasted more than five hours, the head of the European Council made a statement. It said that in the coming days, the first meeting of the joint commission on the delimitation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border would be held on the interstate border, which already took place on May 24th.
Charles Michel also said that the parties agreed to unblock communications in the region. According to him, Pashinyan and Aliyev “agreed on the principles governing transit between western Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan, as well as between various parts of Armenia through Azerbaijan, through international transportation through the communication infrastructure of both countries. In particular, they agreed on the principles of border management, security, land fees, as well as customs duties in the context of international transport”.
“Armenia’s uncertain future” – opposition’s response
According to the parliamentary opposition, which has been actively fighting in the street for almost a month demanding Pashinyan’s resignation, the results of the trilateral meeting in Brussels once again confirmed that “the negotiations are fully in line with the agenda promoted by Azerbaijan”:
“Pashinyan put Armenia and Artsakh up for a geopolitical auction to stay in his chair. Armenia has reached the threshold beyond which not only the future of Artsakh is doubtful, but also the basic sovereignty of the Republic of Armenia”.
The opposition drew attention to the fact that in Michel’s statement
- no mention is made of the right of NK residents to self-determination,
- nothing is said about the mandate of the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, on whose participation in the negotiations the Armenian side insisted all this time,
- the issue of determining the status of Nagorno-Karabakh is ignored,
- the toponym “Nagorno-Karabakh” is missing,
- instead of the term “people of Nagorno-Karabakh”, the term “ethnic Armenian population of Karabakh” is used.
“This means that the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, according to the agreement between Pashinyan and Aliyev, are considered as a national minority within Azerbaijan. The term “transit between different parts of Armenia through Azerbaijan” was even used, which entails extremely dangerous consequences – even for the sovereignty of Armenia, as well as the possibility of another unfounded territorial claims of Azerbaijan”.
The oppositionists said that Nikol Pashinyan does not have a mandate from the citizens of Armenia, because “the agreements reached with him do not express the opinion of the Armenian people, they are illegitimate.”
“The right to self-determination is not subject to concessions”: reaction from NK
The press secretary of the president of the unrecognized NKR, Lusine Avanesyan, recalled the approach of the Karabakh side to the negotiation agenda at all venues:
- “the full recognition of the right of the Armenians of NK to self-determination is not subject to reservations or concessions,
- international recognition of the independence of the Republic of Artsakh remains the benchmark,
- any status within Azerbaijan is unacceptable,
- a return to the past, not only in terms of status, but also in terms of demographics, is unacceptable,
- the Republic of Artsakh is faced with the task of restoring its territorial integrity”.
The “corridor” logic is ruled out
In Armenia, Ilham Aliyev’s statement made during a conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was also ambiguously perceived. The President of Azerbaijan said that an agreement was reached in Brussels on the “Zangezur corridor”, referring to the construction of railways and highways through the territory of Armenia.
The Secretary of the Security Council of Armenia was forced to comment on this statement. Armen Grigoryan stressed that no road or transport route “in the logic of a corridor” can pass through the territory of Armenia, and the agreements only concern the unblocking of regional communications.
Azerbaijan, after signing a tripartite statement on the cessation of hostilities in Karabakh, has repeatedly demanded a “corridor” through the southern, Syunik region of Armenia. This refers to the road connecting Azerbaijan with its exclave Nakhichevan. The Armenian side constantly replied that it was ready to unblock the roads, but categorically rejected the use of the term “corridor”, which implies the loss of sovereignty over this territory.
The Secretary of the Security Council also addressed the point of Charles Michel’s message, which refers to transit “between different parts of Armenia through Azerbaijan”. According to him, “this may be due to the fact that a railway passes through Nakhichevan, connecting the north of Armenia with the south”:
“We are talking about the possibility for Armenian citizens to get to Meghri from Yeraskh through the territory of the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic and back on the same principles as the citizens of Azerbaijan — from Horadiz to Nakhichevan through the territory of Armenia”.
The road to Nakhichevan: is Armenia surrendering its territories to Azerbaijan or emerging from blockade?
What is known at this time, what roads people used during the Soviet years, what do the residents of Meghri think about the construction of new transport communications, what they fear and what are they waiting for
Political scientist Tigran Grigoryan argues that the composition of the Armenian commission on border delimitation and demarcation was determined long ago, so the publication of the names of those who are included in it has nothing to do with the Brussels meeting.
He also took note of Russia’s special attitude to the talks between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan mediated by European partners. The political scientist believes that Moscow “wants to keep abreast”, which is also evident from telephone conversations with Yerevan and Baku after the Pashinyan-Aliyev meeting in Brussels:
“There is some jealousy about the EU’s active mediating role. Moscow is trying to show that all this is agreed with them, they are coordinating the process”.
According to the political scientist, Aliyev’s statement on the agreement on the “Zangezur corridor” is primarily intended for an internal audience. On the other hand, he notes that the parallels with the so-called “corridor” can have positive consequences for the Armenian side:
“The Zangezur corridor, according to the Azerbaijani wording (which does not explain how it can be a corridor), is placed on the same plane with the Yeraskh-Ordubad-Julfa-Meghri railway through the territory of Nakhichevan. This means that the same regulations should work, communications should be opened according to the same principle. As far as the railroad is concerned, at least it eliminates the logic of a corridor”.
Referring to the principles of international transportation through the communication infrastructure of both countries, Tigran Grigoryan recalls that in December last year in Brussels, the parties already agreed on the construction of a transit railway communication on the principle of reciprocity, while respecting the sovereignty of the countries through which the roads will pass.
He considers the issue of the road route to be more problematic: specifically, of where exactly will the road connecting Azerbaijan with Nakhichevan pass:
“There are serious disagreements here, there is no agreement on basic principles, which is why there are no meaningful, practical steps in this process”.
The political scientist refused to comment on the statement of the Armenian opposition, but said that the use of the term “ethnic Armenian population of Karabakh” is indeed problematic.
According to Grigoryan, if Nagorno-Karabakh is an administrative-territorial unit adopted in the negotiation process, then the concept of Karabakh is wider:
“For example, in Azerbaijan there is the Karabakh economic zone, which includes not only the settlements that were part of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region, but also a number of settlements outside it. Baku also includes the Terter region of Azerbaijan in the Karabakh economic zone. In this sense, the wording of Michel’s statement is indeed problematic. By the same logic, one could say “the rights and security of the Armenian population of Azerbaijan”, and in principle nothing would have changed”.
The political scientist notes that the rights and security of the NK population are mentioned in addition to the clause on the peace agreement with Azerbaijan. From this it becomes clear that we are talking about “the security and rights of Armenians in Azerbaijan”, which, according to Tigran Grigoryan, is unacceptable.
Reaction to Pashinyan-Aliyev talks in Brussels