Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan

Pashinyan Confirms Rejecting Earlier Karabakh Truce Agreement

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YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has confirmed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assertion that he could have stopped the war in Nagorno-Karabakh three weeks before the Armenian-Armenian ceasefire brokered by Moscow on November 9.

In televised remarks on November 17, Putin said that the Armenian side would have suffered fewer territorial losses and, in particular, retained control of the strategic Karabakh town of Shushi had Pashinyan agreed to Azerbaijan’s terms of a ceasefire on October 20.

Shushi was captured by Azerbaijani forces two or three days before the subsequent truce agreement halted the war on November 10. Azerbaijan agreed to stop its military operations in return for an Armenian pledge to withdraw from three districts around Karabakh.

Baku regained control over four other districts, which had been occupied by Karabakh Armenian forces in the early 1990s, during the latest war. Its troops also captured Karabakh’s southern Hadrut district.

Speaking to the Rossiya-24 TV channel, Putin said: “On October 19–20, I had a series of telephone conversations with [Azerbaijani] President Aliyev and Prime Minister Pashinyan. At that time, the armed forces of Azerbaijan regained control over an insignificant part of Nagorno-Karabakh, namely, its southern section.

“On the whole, I managed to convince President Aliyev that it was possible to end hostilities, but the return of [Azerbaijani] refugees, including to Shusha, was a mandatory condition on his part. Unexpectedly for me, the position of our Armenian partners was that they perceived this as something unacceptable.”

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“At that point, the prime minister told me that his country could not agree to this, and that it will keep fighting,” added Putin.

Pashinyan essentially confirmed this on Sunday evening. In a lengthy Facebook post, he insisted that Yerevan’s acceptance of the earlier deal negotiated by Putin and the resulting return of refugees to Shushi would have also restored Azerbaijani control of the town overlooking the Karabakh capital Stepanakert.

“The problem was that in that case more than 90 percent of Shushi’s population would be Azerbaijanis who would control the road to Stepanakert … Thus the agreement did not materialize,” he wrote.

Pashinyan claimed that Putin found his arguments “logical.” Putin’s November 17 comments suggest the opposite.

“Prime Minister Pashinyan told me openly that he viewed [the return of Azerbaijanis to Shushi] as a threat to the interests of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh,” the Russian president told Rossiya-24. “I do not quite understand the essence of this hypothetical threat. I mean, it was about the return of civilians to their homes, while the Armenian side was to have retained control over this section of Nagorno-Karabakh, including Shusha.”

Pashinyan sought to justify his rejection of the October 20 ceasefire terms as he continued to defend his handling of the six-week war strongly condemned by the Armenian opposition and a growing number of other domestic critics. They hold him responsible for Azerbaijan’s military victory and demand the Armenian government’s resignation and the conduct of snap parliamentary elections.

The critics have seized upon Putin’s revelation and portrayed it as further proof of Pashinyan’s incompetence and disastrous decision-making. They say that the prime minister would have not only kept more territory under Armenian control but also saved the lives of hundreds and possibly thousands of Armenian soldiers had he agreed to the proposed ceasefire on October 20.

In addition, former Presidents Levon Ter-Petrosyan and Robert Kocharyan accused Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Monday, November 30, of blatantly lying about their offers to negotiate with Russia and try to stop the war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Pashinyan hit out at them in a series of Facebook posts that defended his handling of the war which resulted in sweeping territorial gains made by Azerbaijan.

Amid continuing opposition calls for his resignation, the embattled premier claimed on Sunday that Ter-Petrosyan, Kocharyan and another former president, Serzh Sargsyan, objected on October 19 to key terms of a ceasefire agreement which Moscow thought would stop the hostilities.

In another statement posted on Monday morning, he questioned the sincerity and seriousness of Kocharyan’s and Ter-Petrosyan’s stated readiness to fly to Moscow, as Armenia’s “special envoys,” for urgent talks with Russian leaders.

Pashinyan said they wanted him to arrange a meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin or Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. He said he suggested that they talk instead to former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and try to organize unofficial “courtesy meetings” with Putin, Lavrov or other senior Russian officials.

Pashinyan added that the two ex-presidents did not travel to Moscow even after he helped Kocharyan secure a court order allowing the latter to leave Armenia. Kocharyan has been standing trial on coup charges rejected by him as politically motivated.

Victor Soghomonyan, the head of Kocharyan’s office, swiftly denied Pashinyan’s claims. “Lies and distortions are inseparable from Nikol,” he said.

Ter-Petrosyan issued an even more scathing denial through his spokesman, Arman Musinyan.

“President Ter-Petrosyan finds it meaningless to comment on the nation-destroying scourge’s mental torments,” Musinyan wrote on his Facebook page. “Let him blurt out whatever he wants. There is no way he can make excuses.”

“The Armenian people will never forgive him,” Musinyan added, alluding to the outcome of the six-week war stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire on November 10.

Ter-Petrosyan and Kocharyan reportedly met October 20 for the first time in over two decades. They were joined by Sargsyan and two former Karabakh presidents. The meeting was noteworthy given the long history of mutual antagonism between Ter-Petrosyan on one side and Kocharyan and Sargsyan on the other.

 

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