Arayik Harutyunyan

Karabakh Officials Angrily React to Pashinyan Speech Asking for ‘Lower Bar’

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STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL) — Nagorno-Karabakh’s leadership on Thursday, April 14, criticized Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and warned him against helping Azerbaijan regain control over the Armenian-populated territory.

“Any attempt to incorporate Artsakh into Azerbaijan would lead to bloodshed and the destruction of Artsakh,” said Davit Babayan, the Karabakh foreign minister. “And after the destruction of Artsakh there would be no Republic of Armenia.”

Pashinyan said on a speech to parliament on the previous day that the international community is pressing Armenia to “’Lower your bar a bit on the question of Nagorno-Karabakh’s status and we will ensure a great international consolidation around Armenia and Artsakh.’ Or else, says the international community, please do not pin your hopes on us. Not because we do not want to help you but because we cannot help you,” he said in an hour-long speech. (Read excerpts of speech inside.)

“Today the international community is clearly telling us that being the only country in the world that does not bilaterally recognize the territorial integrity to Turkey ally Azerbaijan is very dangerous for not only Artsakh (Karabakh) but also Armenia,” Pashinyan said.

He signaled Yerevan’s intention to make such concessions to Baku, fueling more opposition objections that he has agreed to Azerbaijani control over Karabakh.

Pashinyan said he is therefore keen to sign a peace treaty with Azerbaijan “as soon as possible.” He reiterated that Baku’s proposals regarding such an accord, including a mutual recognition of each other’s territorial integrity, are acceptable to Yerevan. He again stated that a “clarification of the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh” must also be on the agenda of upcoming Armenian-Azerbaijani talks on the treaty.

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Pashinyan did not explicitly say whether his administration is also ready to formally recognize Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh. He noted only that Yerevan will put the emphasis on “security guarantees for the Armenians of Karabakh and their rights and freedoms.”

Babayan said Pashinyan’s remarks caused a “wave of discontent” in Karabakh. He said he believes that they are also unacceptable to most residents of Armenia as well as the worldwide Armenian Diaspora.

“We have no bars anymore, we have only red lines drawn by blood,” added the Karabakh official. “Our red line is that we will not be part of Azerbaijan. This is out of the question. “

Pashinyan, he went on, is wrong to claim that “the whole international community is against us.” “Even if the whole international community is against us… we will still fight till the end,” Babayan said.

The Karabakh parliament debated the implications of Pashinyan’s statement at an emergency session held later on Thursday. In a resolution adopted by it unanimously, it demanded that the Armenian authorities “abandon their current disastrous position.”

“No government has a right to lower the negotiating bar for a status acceptable to Artsakh and the internationally recognized right to self-determination under the pretext of peace,” reads the resolution.

Arayik Harutyunyan, the Karabakh president, discussed the issue with local politicians and civil society members during separate meetings held in Stepanakert on Wednesday. He stressed that the Karabakh Armenians will not give up their right to self-determination.

Meanwhile, Pashinyan defended and reaffirmed his stance when he again addressed the Armenian parliament on Thursday.

“What I’ve been saying is all about not surrendering Karabakh… If we follow a difference path we will surrender Karabakh,” the Armenian prime minister told lawmakers.

“I have the impression that there are people who dream about seeing the population leave Karabakh as soon as possible,” he said. “No, what we are saying is that the people of Karabakh must not leave Karabakh, the people of Karabakh must live in Karabakh, the people of Karabakh must have rights, freedoms and a status.”

Pashinyan again declined to specify what that status should be.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has repeatedly ruled out granting Karabakh any status of autonomy, let alone recognizing its de facto secession from Azerbaijan. Aliyev maintains that Baku put an end to the Karabakh conflict with its victory in the 2020 war.

Pashinyan and Aliyev met in Brussels on April 6 for talks on an Armenian-Azerbaijani “peace treaty” hosted by Charles Michel, the European Union’s top official. Aliyev said after the talks that “Armenia is renouncing territorial claims” to his country.

 

Armenian opposition leaders were quick to strongly condemn the remarks. Ishkhan Saghatelyan, a senior member of the main opposition Hayastan alliance, said Pashinyan openly expressed his intention to place Karabakh back under Azerbaijani control.

“This means that we would finally lose Artsakh because Artsakh will be left without Armenians if we go down that path,” he told RFE / RL’s Armenian Service. ”This is absolutely unacceptable to us.”

Saghatelyan said that regime change in Armenia is the only way to prevent such a scenario.

Hayastan and the other parliamentary opposition bloc, Pativ Unem, jointly rallied thousands of supporters in Yerevan on April 5 to warn the Armenian government against making far-reaching concessions to Baku. They signaled plans to stage more such protests in the coming weeks.

Russia, the United States and France have for decades co-headed the OSCE Minsk Group tasked with brokering a Karabakh settlement. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week that Washington and Paris have stopped cooperating with Moscow on the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute because of the war in Ukraine. US and French officials have not denied that.

Pashinyan was scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 19 during an official visit to Moscow.

 

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