Pashinyan on Armenia's problems and a "crisis of international law and order"
Pashinyan’s interview with La Repubblica newspaper
In an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, the Armenian Prime Minister talked about the crisis of international law and order, answering a question about the blockade of the Lachin corridor and the humanitarian crisis in the unrecognized NKR. Nikol Pashinyan believes that the corridor should have been unblocked by now, as the UN International Court of Justice has decided. In February, the court obliged Azerbaijan to ensure unimpeded traffic on the road linking the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia; in June it confirmed its decision, but it is still has not been done.
According to the Armenian Prime Minister, the humanitarian catastrophe there indicates a crisis of international law and order, as “a legally binding court ruling is not implemented and such consequences may arise”.
Pashinyan talked in the interview about the stage of negotiations with Azerbaijan on a peace agreement, about the West’s position on the situation in the region, about the crisis in Russia’s CSTO military bloc, which does not fulfill its obligations to protect Armenia’s territories. He considers it a strategic mistake that Armenia’s security architecture “was 99.999% linked to Russia, including acquiring weapons and ammunition.”
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On the blockade of the Lachin corridor
“Because of the closure of the Lachin Corridor, about 5 thousand of the population of Nagorno Karabakh cannot return there and about 30 thousand inhabitants also cannot return since December. This group includes individuals who during the war of 2020 left their settlements because they ended up under Azerbaijani control. But the problem of those people should have been resolved. De jure it is resolved, de facto it isn’t, because clause 7 of the November 9, 2020 tripartite statement stipulates that internally displaced and refugees shall return to the territory of Nagorno Karabakh and adjacent regions. This category includes almost several thousand Armenians who are de facto deprived of this opportunity.
By our assessment the purpose of Azerbaijan is to rid Nagorno Karabakh of Armenians. This is the reason why they have created an artificial humanitarian crisis by unlawfully blocking the Lachin Corridor. Essentially, the Lachin Corridor issue should have been resolved — you may know that the International Court of Justice has made a binding legal ruling imposing it upon Azerbaijan to ensure bilateral traffic from Nagorno Karabakh to Armenia and from Armenia to Nagorno Karabakh for citizens, vehicles and freight.”
On peace talks with Azerbaijan mediated by the head of the European Council
“Initially, we had good progress for the reason that we focused predominantly on items that controversies about which may not have been so large, but the more we agreed articles, the list of those not agreed upon includes the most difficult. But on the other hand, the position and approach of our government is that the peace agenda should be pushed forward, and we are trying to do everything to attain real progress towards signing a peace treaty with Azerbaijan. Here not only the process that takes place around the negotiating table, but also the process that takes place publicly.
Particularly, we reached an agreement with Azerbaijan recently in Brussels, and before that we had an agreement in Prague, which stated that Armenia and Azerbaijan by mutually recognizing each other’s territorial integrity should sign a peace treaty. We reached an agreement in Brussels that Armenia recognizes the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan with a territory of 86 thousand 600 square kilometers, and Azerbaijan recognizes the territorial integrity of Armenia with a territory of 29 thousand 800 square kilometers.
In this respect, it is significant that this agreement has not been publicly reaffirmed by the Azerbaijani leadership so far.
What I mean is that the public accompaniment of the peace treaty is also very important for the process in general.”
On Russia and the CSTO military bloc failing to fulfill its obligations
“The fact that the Armenian public is deeply disappointed and continues to be disappointed by the Collective Security Treaty Organization’s actions is obvious.
And this is also the reason why Armenia did not ratify a number of agreements during the CSTO fall summit held in Yerevan in 2022, and since decisions are made by consensus in the CSTO, no decision was adopted.”
On November 23, 2022, Nikol Pashinyan refused to sign the declaration of the CSTO Collective Security Council and the draft decision on assistance to Yerevan. The reason was the lack of a clear political position on the invasion of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces into the sovereign territory of Armenia. Representatives of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan announced that the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan is not delimited.
“Since May 11, 2021, Azerbaijan has used armed forces three times and occupied approximately 140 square kilometers of the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia. According to UN resolution number 3314 of December 14, 1974, the above-mentioned actions of Azerbaijan are considered as aggression.
What do we expect from the CSTO? A statement of this fact in the form of a clearly formulated political assessment. To refrain from such an assessment, saying that there is no border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, means to say that the zone of responsibility of the Collective Security Treaty Organization does not exist, and if there is no zone of responsibility, there is no organization itself,” the Armenian Prime Minister said.
On normalization of relations with Turkey and limitation of Baku’s actions through Ankara
“We do not link and do not want to link Armenian-Turkish relations with Armenia-Azerbaijan relations, although it should be said that Azerbaijan and Turkey do want to, and essentially push forward continually. But generally, if we are talking about security, any country can talk about security if they have regulated relations with their immediate neighbors.
There have been many such examples in history. It seems that if any country is stronger militarily, they may no longer think about regulating their relations either with neighbors or in general. But there are also examples in history, including current history, that demonstrate that seeming military might does not mean impregnability․
Therefore, I think this is something that everyone should be interested in, all countries in the region. It’s another thing that understandably there are interests that make it difficult to attain that objective. That is exactly the difficulty in political leadership to make things possible that sometimes seem impossible.
As for Armenia-Turkey relations, we consider it important for us to regulate relations with Turkey. It’s a very important issue for Armenia and I have the impression based on the results of my recent visit to Ankara and my contacts with the president of Turkey that it is also very important for Turkey to regulate its relations with Armenia. I believe that there are opportunities here as well. There are also of course complexities, and these complexities include the current state and quality of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.”
On Armenia’s foreign policy
“Armenia is a member of the CSTO, Armenia is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union, Armenia has a strategic partnership treaty with the Russian Federation, and all these leads all western countries or experts to qualify Armenia as a pro-Russian country.
On the other hand, many circles in Russia consider Armenia or its government, and since the government was formed by the vote of the majority of the people, pro-Western.
And here the biggest problem of our current position is as follows: if being pro-Russian could have some potential benefits, or if being pro-Western could have some advantages, Armenia does not take advantage of the benefits of being pro-Russian, because in Russia they do not consider Armenia enough pro-Russian, for example for the reason that Armenia in their opinion does not provide enough assistance to them in the Ukrainian issue.
On the other hand, Armenia cannot take advantage of the potential benefits of being pro-Western, because in the West they consider Armenia not to be sufficiently pro-Western, because for example, from their perspective, Armenia does not sufficiently oppose Russia in the Ukrainian issue. This is exactly the hazard of our situation.”
About the road which Azerbaijanis call “Zangezur corridor”
“Let’s start with the following, they have no right to expect a corridor. If we are talking about the November 9, 2020 tripartite statement, the word “corridor” is used there with respect to one case, and that’s the Lachin Corridor, which is not a road…
Azerbaijanis refer to the road that is supposed to link Azerbaijan to Nakhichevan as the “Zangezur corridor”. The Armenian authorities have repeatedly stated that they are ready to provide roads through their territory, but not a corridor, as this term implies loss of sovereign control in this territory.
When I say Lachin Corridor, I have a paper to back it signed by the Azerbaijani president and myself. There is no other document in the world or history that assumes that there should be a corridor in the territory of Armenia in the logic which Azrbaijan is attempting to bring forward. The opposite it backed by a document. The lawfulness and appropriateness of this term has been affirmed and recorded by the International Court of Justice.
Azerbaijan claims there is no Nagorno Karabakh, it does not exist, but I can show a document signed by the Azerbaijani president which states that Nagorno Karabakh exists, it has its territory and there is a line of contact, that is a border. Nagorno Karabakh also has the Lachin Corridor, 5 km wide, which takes care of the communication of Nagorno Karabakh with Armenia. This is a very serious discourse, and it is very important not to use non-serious terms and vocabulary in this very important discourse.”
Pashinyan’s interview with La Repubblica newspaper