Nikol Pashinyan’s critics storm the House of Government in Yerevan. November 10, 2020 (photo Stanislav Krasilnikov / TASS)

A Difficult Surrender: Chaos in Yerevan Follows Armenia’s Truce with Azerbaijan

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By Dmitri Kuznets, Translated from Russian by Kevin Rothrock

(Meduza.io) – Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to a Moscow-brokered truce in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the agreement during a live video stream late on Monday, but Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan (who announced the “painful” settlement in a Facebook post) did not attend the streamed signing. Meduza summarizes what has been agreed in the contested Karabakh region and tracks the violent reactions from angry critics in Yerevan.

Yerevan and Baku agreed to the following main points:

  • Russian peacekeepers will be deployed to the “contact line” between the two opposing sides.
  • The Armenian Karabakh does not cease to exist physically, but the unrecognized breakaway republic’s future status is mentioned nowhere in the truce.
  • Armenia must return to Azerbaijan control over the territories that were not part of the Soviet Nagorno-Karabakh Region that it seized in the early 1990s. These lands, still currently occupied by Armenian forces, must be handed over to Baku between November 15 and December 1.
  • Baku will retain control over the districts in the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic that Azerbaijani troops seized during the 2020 war. This apparently includes the strategically and symbolically significant city of Shusha, which Azerbaijani troops captured on November 9.
  • The Karabakh Republic’s capital, Stepanakert (just six miles from Shusha), effectively remains under Armenian control. The city will remain connected to Armenia by the Lachin Corridor mountain pass, which will be guarded by Russian peacekeepers.
  • In exchange, Baku obtained guarantees that Russian peacekeepers will also guard a corridor to the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, Azerbaijan’s exclave separated by Armenia.
  • The signatories also agreed to refugees’ right of return. Given that Azerbaijani territories are returning to Baku’s control, this means Azerbaijanis will have the right to return to the Armenian parts of Karabakh, where an Azeri ethnic minority lived before war broke out in the early 1990s. The United Nations will play a role in the return process.
  • There will be a “center of peacekeeping forces” that will include a role for Turkey, Azerbaijan’s main strategic ally, according to President Aliyev. Though Ankara wasn’t formally part of the trilateral truce, the first rumors about an impending settlement started circulating in Turkey, indicating President Recep Erdogan’s involvement in the negotiations.
  • The settlement’s text does not clarify what rights exactly the Armenian enclave in Karabakh will enjoy. Aliyev said he “offered them autonomy but they wanted independence.” “Well what do you say now, Pashinyan?” the Azerbaijani president said tauntingly in a national address on Monday night. “Karabakh is ours!” he declared at the end of his speech.
  • The agreement will last five years and can be extended if neither side withdraws from the settlement.

Civil unrest erupted in Yerevan after Prime Minister Pashinyan announced the “extremely painful decision” to accept the settlement’s terms. Hundreds of protesters flooded the capital’s streets, stormed the House of Government, and vandalized the building’s insides. Angry demonstrators shouted condemnations of the prime minister and marched toward his official residence, seeking an audience. An angry mob also attacked Ararat Mirzoyan, the speaker of Armenia’s Parliament, and beat him unconscious.

On Telegram, popular channels urged Armenians to join street protests against the truce with Azerbaijan. Seventeen opposition parties have also called for Pashinyan’s resignation and advocated a transfer of executive power to a temporary governing body until the end of fighting in Karabakh.

Meanwhile, President Aliyev and sources in Armenia have indicated that Pashinyan — despite his Facebook announcement — actually refused at the last moment to sign the trilateral agreement. It is unclear if the prime minister’s signature will appear in the future, given that the news of the truce has provoked widespread unrest in Yerevan against Armenia’s “capitulation” to Azerbaijan. Pashinyan later spoke in a live broadcast on Facebook where he argued that he has no alternative but to sign the settlement. He promised to report the details of his negotiations with Moscow and Baku in the coming days.

According to unverified reports, some Russian peacekeepers have already entered Karabakh.

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