Hayk Khanumyan

By Artak Khulian

STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL) — Armenia has not only stopped being the guarantor of Nagorno-Karabakh’s security but is also not providing the Armenian-populated territory with adequate diplomatic support, a senior official in Stepanakert complained on Monday, April 4.

Hayk Khanumyan, the Karabakh minister for local government and public infrastructures, said this is what is fueling calls by some Karabakh Armenians for a referendum on becoming part of Russia.

“The Republic of Armenia used to be the guarantor of our security, and in essence it cannot perform that function anymore,” Khanumyan told RFE / RL’s Armenian Service in an interview. “The Russian peacekeeping contingent does not have a mandate to ensure such protection. So people are just trying to raise security issues. They want to be protected.”

“Defense is not just about weapons and ammunition,” he said. “It’s a whole set of measures. Diplomacy, diplomatic service is an important part of that, and it is quite dire straits these days. I’m talking about Armenia.

“Often times not only does it not carry out tasks but also does not receive tasks. The bodies formulating [Armenia’s] foreign policy, whose orders the diplomatic service is supposed to execute, are confused or do not operate normally on the issue of Artsakh and defense.”

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Khanumyan spoke two days before Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s scheduled talks with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev that will be hosted by European Council President Charles Michel. The talks are expected to focus on an Armenian-Azerbaijani “peace treaty” sought by Azerbaijan.

Baku wants the treaty to be based on five elements, including a mutual recognition of each other’s territorial integrity. Pashinyan publicly stated on March 31 that Yerevan is ready to negotiate a deal along these lines.

Pashinyan did not explicitly mention the question of Karabakh’s status, speaking instead of the need to protect “the rights of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenians.” His remarks were construed by Armenian opposition leaders and other critics as a further indication that the Armenian government is ready to recognize Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh.

Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan insisted on April 1 that Yerevan will seek to include the issue of the status on the agenda of negotiations on the peace accord.

On March 26, Karabakh’s leadership appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to deploy more Russian soldiers in Karabakh. It said that Russia 2,000-strong peacekeeping contingent is too small to carry out its mission.

The appeal came two days after Azerbaijani forces seized a village in eastern Karabakh and surrounding territory before engaging in deadly fighting with Karabakh Armenian troops. The fighting stopped following the peacekeepers’ intervention.

Khanumyan said that the current situation in the conflict zone leaves the Karabakh Armenians with no choice but to primarily rely on their military and other security forces.

The Russian peacekeepers were deployed in Karabakh under the terms of a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement that stopped the Armenian-Azerbaijani war in November 2020.

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