Nikol Pashinyan

Pashinyan Expects Karabakh Armenians to Negotiate With Azerbaijan

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By Nane Sahakian

YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Thursday, March 30, encouraged Nagorno-Karabakh’s leadership to negotiate with Azerbaijan while accusing Baku of planning to commit genocide in Karabakh.

Pashinyan said that Azerbaijani forces are tightening the nearly four-month blockade of the Lachin corridor, blocking energy supplies from Armenia to Karabakh and systematically shooting at Karabakh farmers.

“Azerbaijan is making obvious preparations to subject the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh to genocide,” he charged during a weekly session of his cabinet.

Pashinyan went on to declare that “contrary to all difficulties” his administration remains committed to its “peace agenda.”

“We hope that in the near future there will be concrete progress in both the Stepanakert-Baku and Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiation formats,” he said. “The Republic of Armenia is ready for such work, and we hope that in the Stepanakert-Baku format there will be a similar attitude from both Baku and Stepanakert.”

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“It is clear, of course, that the activation of appropriate international mechanisms and safeguards is extremely important in this context,” added the Armenian premier.

Pashinyan similarly pledged last week to negotiate a peace treaty with Azerbaijan despite what he called Azerbaijani preparations for a fresh military aggression against Armenia and Karabakh.

Baku was quick to reject Pashinyan’s latest “provocative” allegations about his genocidal intentions. An Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman also defended Azerbaijani military movements inside the Lachin corridor that further complicated Karabakh’s land communication with Armenia.

On Monday, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s office again invited Karabakh’s representatives to Baku for talks on the Armenian-populated region’s “reintegration” into Azerbaijan. The authorities in Stepanakert dismissed the offer. They reiterated that Azerbaijani and Karabakh officials should continue to meet at the Karabakh headquarters of Russian peacekeepers and primarily discuss the reopening of the Lachin corridor.

There has been a significant increase in ceasefire violations reported from the Karabakh “line of contact” in the last few weeks. On Thursday, Stepanakert accused Azerbaijani troops of continuing to fire at Karabakh Armenian villagers cultivating land in their communities. The Karabakh interior ministry registered two such incidents near the villages of Berdashen and Taghavard.

Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry claimed on March 25 that its troops opened fire to stop Karabakh forces from digging trenches “under the guise of agricultural work.”

Earlier this year, Pashinyan said that despite the Azerbaijani blockade, the Karabakh leaders must exercise “restraint” and not undercut his “peace agenda.” Over the past year, he has refrained from championing the Karabakh Armenians’ right to self-determination and spoke instead of the need to ensure their “rights and security.”

The major policy change has fueled speculation in Yerevan and Stepanakert that the current Armenian government is ready to recognize Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh. In a joint statement issued on March 13, Karabakh’s five leading political groups demanded that Yerevan avoid calling into question “the Artsakh people’s right to self-determination.”

 

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