Dr. Arshavir Gundjian

What Should Follow PM Pashinyan’s Catastrophic Confessions?

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By Dr. Arshavir Gundjian C.M.

On April 13, Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan delivered a stunning speech for over an hour at the National Assembly in Yerevan. It was a compilation of self-criticism and criticism of previous administrations, as well as an enumeration of events related to Artsakh since the independence of Armenia in 1990. It concluded in an awkward capitulation summarized by his defeatist formulation of the status of Artsakh. In other words, on April 13, Pashinyan finally dropped the bomb that had been suspected to be in the works since the tragic end of the disastrous 44-day-war of Artsakh.

Pashinyan’s long excursion filled with emotional ups and downs basically informed Armenians around the globe that it was now time to stop dreaming and wake up: “Fellow Armenians, just accept that Artsakh is part of Azerbaidjan!” This after thirty years of demagogically shouting from the roofs the exact contrary.

Our short answer to that long speech is: Mr. Pashinyan, you are entirely wrong!

As might be expected, this speech has unleashed an uproar of strong disagreement and protest from across the entire Armenian world. First and foremost, the rejection came from the Artsakh authorities and its parliament. Similar rejections and condemnations have been pouring in from the varied but utterly shocked political circles and personalities of Armenia and the diaspora.

The present article intends to make a well documented case for such rebuttals. A quick reminder of the internationally accepted irrefutable legal basis for Artsakh’s claim to sovereignty will be followed by the harsh demand for the Armenian authorities to shake up their current half-hearted diplomatic “modesty” when presenting the Artsakh and Armenian case to the international community. Indeed, Artsakh’s case is solid, but it requires equally capable politicians to successfully prosecute that case in the court of the international public opinion. So far, the contrary has taken place. Certainly after Mr. Pashinyan’s own public admission of failure in his fundamental duty for the protection and promotion of the highest and legitimate interests of the Armenian nation, it is inevitable that he must step aside in order to let better qualified leadership pick up the duty of confronting successfully that crucial challenge.

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The modesty mentioned above is in fact a too kind qualifier. It must be elevated to the level of complete incapacity. It is painful to recall that his failure in the brutal fields of diplomacy and international opinion allowed the international media to qualify the brutal Turkish-Azerbaijani attack of the 44 days war, as the “liberation by Azeris of Armenian-occupied Azeri territories” instead of the exact opposite.

Artsakh’s claim to independence is solidly based on two distinct and internationally accepted arguments.

The first of these arguments is based on a succession of events that took place in the period of 1990 to 1991, right around the time of the dismantling of the old USSR. Artsakh has indeed complied at that time with internationally accepted legal requirements, and de jure irrefutably secured its claim to independence. The sequence of events is the following: On April 3, 1990, the USSR passed law No. 1409 prescribing the right for any of its regions to secede from the Union by holding a referendum to that effect. Artsakh, at the time an autonomous region within Azerbaidjan, which itself was still part of the USSR, held such a referendum successfully on December 10, 1991, and thus became de jure independent as of that date. Following the latter event, the USSR itself stopped existing and Azerbaidjan held its own referendum for independence, respectively on December 26 and 29, 1991, when Artsakh was already independent and not any longer part of Azerbaidjan.

The details of this rather eventful period for the USSR and its composing entities are of course available from many sources in the international literature. A proper presentation of the specific events concerning Artsakh proper was given in an article in the Armenian Mirror Spectator’s April 25, 2021 issue, entitled “On the Legal-Political Status of Nagorno-Karabakh” and authored by the young political geography expert Dr. Vahagn Vardanyan.

Thus, Artsakh has been an independent Armenian country, since December 10, 1991. Period.

Artsakh’s second equally valid argument for its independence is in addition to, and totally separate from, the previous one. It is based on the internationally recognized right for independence of a minority when the latter is subjected to a credible threat to its survival – exactly the same argument that led currently independent Kosovo to separate from Serbia in 2008. Indeed, Azerbaidjan, which ironically now dares to “offer Armenians of Artsakh, some autonomous status within its borders,” is notorious for its consistency in its almost daily actions of suppression and annihilation of ethnic Armenians. To suggest today that Armenians should live under Azerbaijani rule is an outright insult to anyone’s intelligence. Thus, on the grounds of its right for survival, Artsakh has internationally as much right as Kosovo for its independence.

Given the above two solid arguments that establish the right of Artsakh Armenians for their independence from Azerbaidjan, the only possible reason why 30 years after 1991 Artsakh still faces controversy on this issue, and that Pashinyan goes so far as to confess publicly that Artsakh has no choice but to remain within Azerbaijan, is the diplomatic impotency of his administration along with the equal incapacity of the previous administrations. The latter failed to resolve this issue over several decades.

In pronouncing this verdict, one has to make sure to recognize that in retrospect, the first president of Armenia, Levon Der Bedrossian, is given credit for his more realistic approach. In 1998 he insisted that Artsakh had to negotiate and permanently settle its independent status by giving up those territories that were occupied just for strategic security but did not belong in fact to modern Armenian Karabakh. Indeed, in retrospect, Der Bedrossian was right. The administrations that followed ought to have pursued a pragmatic diplomatic policy. Armenia should not only have consolidated its legitimate territorial gains but also should have quietly built a strong and modern army as the solid guarantor of its independence. Instead, there has been singing, dancing and celebrating Artsakh with hollow “genats”s, drinking alcohol while the army was in disarray.

In conclusion, Armenians all over the world rightly condemn the weakness and incapacity of the current prime minister and of his administration to defend the legitimate rights of the heroic people of Artsakh.

Armenia and Artsakh need today a leadership capable of conducting intelligently and aggressively the existential – and legally well-justified – diplomatic war for Artsakh. The two legal arguments enumerated above must be voiced loudly and clearly in every relevant forum in the world. It is better late than never. It must start certainly from the National Assembly of Armenia, as well as in the international media. Pashinyan’s speech must be declared null and invalid.

To defend our rights, we need the Armenian equivalent of the Ukrainian Zelenskyy who, day and night, loudly demands the support of every nation on the planet in his fight for the legitimate independence of his country, instead of capitulating like Armenia’s leader. He does this even though he is facing the overwhelming brutal force of a world power. If such leadership will not manifest itself promptly in Armenia, then it will need to be created by mobilizing all Armenians, from Artsakh to Armenia and the diaspora.

Armenians must defend their rights and win. Any weakness and failure in this Artsakh war will certainly lead to a next phase, to nibbling at the present territories of Armenia itself, until that too will disappear. Aliyev has announced more than once that Yerevan belongs to him. So far, he has certainly obtained what he asked for, because we allowed him to do so.

Fellow Armenians, yes indeed, “Artsakh is Armenian, Արցախը մերն է.” The patriotic spirit of the 1988 “Artsakhyan Sharjoum” must be revived again, now!

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