Armenia's Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, at left, meets with Karabakh President Arayik Harutiunyan in Yerevan, November 3, 2021

Karabakh Leadership Rejects Pashinyan’s ‘Pro-Azeri’ Statements

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STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL) — Nagorno-Karabakh’s leadership has openly criticized Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan for making statements which his political opponents say play into Azerbaijan’s hands.

In televised remarks aired late on Friday, December 31, Pashinyan again blamed Armenia’s former leaders for last year’s war over Karabakh won by Azerbaijan. He said it was the result of their mishandling of protracted peace talks with Baku.

He reiterated his criticism of peace plans drawn up by the US, Russian and French mediators since 2016. He claimed that they envisaged the eventual restoration of Azerbaijani control over Karabakh.

Pashinyan further declared that “Artsakh (Karabakh) could not have ended up being completely Armenian. It was obvious during those negotiations that Artsakh is going to have both Armenian and Azerbaijani populations,” he said.

Opposition politicians in Armenia were quick to denounce the remarks. They claimed that Pashinyan is not only trying to dodge responsibility for the disastrous war but also preparing the ground for Karabakh’s return under Azerbaijani rule.

Ara Harutyunyan, the Karabakh president, also took issue with the remarks in rare public criticism of Pashinyan.

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“The people and authorities of Artsakh will never accept any status [of autonomy] within Azerbaijan,” Harutyunyan wrote on Facebook on Sunday. “There can be no return to the past in terms of not only status but also demography.”

He stressed that only the authorities in Stepanakert can speak for the territory’s predominantly Armenian population.

The Karabakh parliament expressed outrage at Pashinyan’s statements in a statement unanimously adopted on Monday, January 3. It accused the Armenian premier of “distorting the essence” of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict and calling into question the very “existence of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.”

The statement also insisted that peace proposals made by the US, Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group in recent years upheld the Karabakh Armenians’ right to self-determination.

Pashinyan rejected the unprecedented criticism in two lengthy Facebook posts.

Pashinyan began criticizing the mediators’ peace plans shortly after the six-week war stopped by Russia in November 2020. In a January 2021 article, he claimed that their most recent version amounted to a proposed “surrender of lands” to Azerbaijan “in return for nothing. “ The then Russian co-chair of the Minsk Group, Igor Popov, bluntly denied that.

Pashinyan and his political allies made more such claims in the following months. In particular, parliament speaker Alen Simonian last month described as pro-Azerbaijani a peace accord that was drafted by the mediators and reportedly promoted by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in 2016.

A Russian Foreign Ministry official hit back at Simonian early this month. The official argued that the proposed deal stipulated that Karabakh’s internationally recognized status would be determined through a future referendum and envisaged firm security guarantees for its population.

“Once again compare those proposals of the co-chairs with the current situation and draw conclusions,” the official added, alluding to sweeping Armenian territorial losses suffered as a result of the war.

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